Out & Back with Alison Mariella Désir

Out & Back with Alison Mariella Désir

Alison Mariella Désir explores the Pacific Northwest with the change-makers who are reclaiming space, creating awareness and delivering access for the health and well-being of BIPOC communities in the region.

Alison Mariella Désir hits the slopes at Stevens Pass

Alison digs into skiing’s segregated history, and instructor Annette Diggs shares her experience carving a path for BIPOC youth in the winter sport.

When you think about skiing, who do you picture making their way down the mountain? Alison Mariella Desir pictures white people, and sadly, she’s not wrong.

Historically, skiers have been almost exclusively white and affluent. According to a recent survey, only 1.5% of ski-resort visitors were Black, while 89% were white. What accounts for that? Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many public facilities in the United States were segregated, including ski lodges and resorts, meaning that for decades Black people were legally prohibited from and made to feel unwelcome in settings where they could ski.

On top of that, the necessity of expensive equipment and travel to remote locations with costly accommodations to get time on the slopes only compounded the obstacles for Black people in this country. Yet they still found ways to enjoy the sport. For example, in 1972, Joe Jones started Four Seasons NorthWest, a Seattle-based organization that provides African American youth and other young people of color with access to skiing.

In this episode, Alison gets out on the snow for her first ski lesson with Annette Diggs, a microbiologist on weekdays and ski instructor and paraglider on weekends. Annette guides Alison on how to ease into downhill skiing on the beautiful slopes of Stevens Pass. As the edges of their skis cut through powdered snow, Annette shares her experience carving a path for BIPOC youth in this winter sport.