Open Letter on Diversity in Our Sport

Tricia

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Far West Skiing has published a letter which was written to Tiger Shaw, U.S. Ski & Snowboard CEO and President, by race coach Chuck Harris.

This is not only a 'must read', but its something we should share and improve upon.
Please share on your social media outlets.

Please do not respond to this thread until you take the time to read the Open Letter
This is an important topic for ski racing, so please keep it on track as it relates to skiing.

Letter:

TItle: Open Letter on Diversity in Our Sport

Mr. Shaw,

First I am a African American Alpine Ski Coach.

I read your post on the USSA website regarding diversity. I must say you have a lot of work to do. I have been in and around the sport of ski racing for a great many years. I wonder if you actually realize how hard it is going to be to change the culture of our sport and the cities and towns where it resides. It will NOT be easy and it will be resisted. A lot of that resistance will not be overt but it will be there.

First let me address what you and the leadership of USSA know or don’t know. Do you know how many athletes of color are members of USSA? Do you know how many coaches of color are in USSA? How many alpine officials of color are members of USSA? How many people of color are in leadership positions in member clubs? If you have to scramble to find the answer or call over to membership, that is part of the problem. If membership doesn’t know that is an even bigger problem. Because that means it wasn’t important for you to know. In the time I have been here in the Far West (since 1994) I never once have seen the CEO at a divisional race. I would hope at some time the leader of US Ski and Snowboard would head out and see what goes on in this sport. If you want to change things you and the leadership need to get out to where things are happening at the ground level and listen without reservation. Yes you (USSA) did do the survey regarding women in the sport and yes women in this sport get treated very poorly by many of the men. I have often told some of my female colleagues “female is the new black.” You can take most of the negative comments regarding black people from 40 years ago, remove the slur for black and insert female or other slur. It’s the same degrading comment. The only thing that changed was the gender. Yet that same survey left me feeling that I and people that look like me in this sport are not important.

My involvement in Alpine Ski racing and the ski industry has given me some of the greatest moments of my life. There is something magical about alpine racing. Something pure. Athlete, mountain, clock. No judges it is fair down to its core. No judges no opinion, fastest time wins. Skiing has taken me to Europe and South America. It has made me not only bi-lingual but given me an extended family outside the US. My Grandmother was born in S. Carolina in 1885. 20 years after the Civil War. A woman with more grace and dignity despite what she faced in the world than I will ever have. For her skiing was like travelling to the moon. It was not even in the realm of the possible. Black people simply did not ski. For me 3 generations later to be a professional alpine coach speaks to my family's journey. One of the greatest moments for my family my mom and my aunts and cousins was seeing me march in opening ceremonies at the Olympic games. For my mother that was the culmination of a dream that took over 100 years of hard work. I wish my dad had been still alive to see it. But then it leads to the other question why am I the only one? Why after all these years are there so few that look like me?

Skiing has also produced moments of blinding rage. Rage that I have to choke down because reacting would only have negative repercussions for me in the long run. I can’t afford to be mad. I can’t allow myself to react. I ask you this. Have you ever been afraid of travelling to any community for a ski event? I have. Have you ever worried that you might reserve a hotel room and when you arrive it suddenly magically wouldn’t be available? That has happened to me. There are places I have had to go to in this industry where I order take out and stay in my room because I don’t feel safe in that community. In many cases if I do go out I only go in groups of other coaches that I know. Getting into an altercation with the locals or the local police would only serve to damage myself, my program and my athletes. In order for me to be able to move forward in my career I cannot fight back. Have you ever been pulled over by the police, had your truck searched, emptied onto the sidewalk and then been left there? The phrase “I have rights” never comes out of my mouth. That would in most cases result in a night in jail and me not being on the hill the next day to do my job. How do you think I felt when I purchased a hot chocolate and coffee at a ski resort during a FIS race and looked at my receipt and it said “Ghetto Mocha”. After getting the Olympic coaching job from the Argentine Federation I had a parent say to me ”How did you luck into that job?” I just bit my tongue and replied ”I did the work”. All the work, study and years I put in to be awarded no earn that level of trust, taken down to “He must be lucky” You have to wonder why it is that at times I have felt more respected and welcome in Argentina than in my birth country. The same feeling my father had upon returning from Europe after World War 2.

There are many challenges facing people of color in our sport. For most of us professional involvement means that we will not be living and working in a location where there are many people that look like us. In some cases the Resort or club can be a warm welcoming place but the community not so much. Add to that factor that most ski towns do not have large populations of color to draw employees from. We are also in an arms race in this and other sports. There are parents with the “Country Club” mentality who will spend large sums of money on their child. That gives the impression that someone of modest means cannot afford to compete and that drives away talent. Because talent and inclusion is not what they want in the sport.

I would suggest you first find out who, and where we people of color are in this sport. Maybe reach out to Forrest Kingshaw, Schone Malliot, Eric Smith, Andre Horton, or myself. You will never know or maybe even understand what it’s like to be us. But at least you might get some guidance and perspective. The change we need in our country, society, and our sport will not be brought about by people of color. It can’t. We have been waiting for that change after how many repeated injustices. It will only happen when the rest of you say enough, we will not do this, we will not allow this anymore.

We have come to a crossroads here in the US. A fire is raging, a fire that was started by over 200 years of kindling. A few years ago after another incident of a police stop gone horribly wrong, one of my athletes asked me a question. This child looked at me and said “Stuff like that doesn’t happen to you coach?” I could see the look in his eyes when I told him “yes it has happened to me.” It gave me hope for our futures. I could see that he saw the injustice in it. I could see that that type of injustice just touched home for him. A child KNEW it was wrong. And it broke my heart that I had to be the one to reveal that fact of life to him.

Respectfully,

Charles A. Harris

Coach lvl 400, TD 4, Ref 4, CO 4, Instructor National de Argentina (4)

Head Mens Speed Coach Argentina Olympic Team 2002

USSA Clinic Leader
 
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Tricia

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PLEASE READ BEFORE REPLYING

Community,

We feel this thread should be reopened because of the importance of this topic as it relates to the ski racing community, not global discussions about race relations in the country. We understand that the conversation could potentially turn into a heated debate, but we are counting on the good members of Pugski to keep it on track and treat one another with respect.

As in all posting, if you feel you have to say, "This will probably be deleted, but..." or "If moderators feel a need to edit my post, ..." then it is obvious that it will not add anything constructive to the conversation. If we need to, each post will be approved before it goes public.

It was necessary to close the thread for a short time after it was started due to some controversial posts. If it appears that this thread is going in a direction that will have adverse negative effects on the community as a whole, we can and will lock it indefinitely. If you see someone going against these guidelines, please do not interact; use the "Report" button and we will deal with the situation. Phil and I will be the sole arbiters in this discussion.

Thank you,
Tricia & Phil
 
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Tricia

Tricia

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This post is a placeholder for webinar recordings
The video from US Ski and Snowboard Team

SIA's webinar (Not sure if you'll have to register to view it)
 
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karlo

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Wondering if anyone has seen or experienced systemic racism in skiing, recreational businesses and institutions, racing programs, from junior development to professional racing.

Me, I’m Asian, skiing since 1972. I was introduced to skiing by a friend who invited me to join him and his family for a ski holiday, a friend and family from Birmingham, Alabama (never stereotype :) ). Four seasons ago, I started instructing. So, I’ve been skiing for decades recreationally and for a few years professionally. I personally have not experienced any racism as a skiing customer or client, nor in my endeavors to instruct. That said, I’ve not had to pursue a career path. What I do observe is that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Asian, much less a African American, working at a ski establishment or organization, in a management role, and there are a lot of Asian American skiers. Why is that?

I’m sure it’s somewhat of a vicious cycle. There aren’t any minority role models showing that there are career paths. So, minorities don’t consider and pursue those paths, which results in no role models. Yet, it seems to me that it is in the broader interests of the industry to break that cycle; it would expand the size of the market.

Then, where are the role models? I recall when Mikaela Shiffrin was 17. She was getting a hell of a lot more press than Chloe Kim. What are the sponsorship opportunities, how do they compare? What about publicity opportunities? When was the last time we saw a minority featured in a Warren Miller or MSP or TGR film?

But, let’s say someone, like Chloe, can get past the absence of role models, what is the possibility for a minority getting into and thriving in a ski racing program, local mountain our boarding?

I’m interested in hearing what your opinions are and your personal experiences. If you’re white, do you sense something is missing, do you have a personal sense of bias? Like if you are seeking a Level 3 instructor ( I’m only Level 2), and knew that one instructor were white and one was a minority, would you have an unconscious bias? If you are a minority, what’s your personal experience or observation? Do you wish you had pursued a career in skiing, or for your children, and simply didn’t see a path?

Me, I think I should encourage my children to invite an African American friend, or another minority, but not Asian, to join us for our next ski vacation.
 

François Pugh

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I've seen one universal discriminator in our sport, and that is wealth. No kid is going to join the race team at their local hill unless their parents have several extra grand a year of disposable income. Sure there may be exceptions, but it's the exception that proves the rule. Downhill skiing is a rich man's sport. Has been for a long time, at least in North America, and I don't expect that to change any time soon.
 
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Philpug

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I've seen one universal discriminator in our sport, and that is wealth.
It's very similar to golf. It's mostly economic barriers.
Yes, there is an economic barrier, but please reread this paragraph and tell me it is economic...
Skiing has also produced moments of blinding rage. Rage that I have to choke down because reacting would only have negative repercussions for me in the long run. I can’t afford to be mad. I can’t allow myself to react. I ask you this. Have you ever been afraid of travelling to any community for a ski event? I have. Have you ever worried that you might reserve a hotel room and when you arrive it suddenly magically wouldn’t be available? That has happened to me. There are places I have had to go to in this industry where I order take out and stay in my room because I don’t feel safe in that community. In many cases if I do go out I only go in groups of other coaches that I know. Getting into an altercation with the locals or the local police would only serve to damage myself, my program and my athletes. In order for me to be able to move forward in my career I cannot fight back. Have you ever been pulled over by the police, had your truck searched, emptied onto the sidewalk and then been left there? The phrase “I have rights” never comes out of my mouth. That would in most cases result in a night in jail and me not being on the hill the next day to do my job. How do you think I felt when I purchased a hot chocolate and coffee at a ski resort during a FIS race and looked at my receipt and it said “Ghetto Mocha”. After getting the Olympic coaching job from the Argentine Federation I had a parent say to me ”How did you luck into that job?” I just bit my tongue and replied ”I did the work”. All the work, study and years I put in to be awarded no earn that level of trust, taken down to “He must be lucky” You have to wonder why it is that at times I have felt more respected and welcome in Argentina than in my birth country. The same feeling my father had upon returning from Europe after World War 2.
 

François Pugh

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Just so you know, my post was in response to Karlo's post, which at the time I did not know was part of this thread. So I spoke about my experience. I have no doubt that others have experienced racism and discrimination based on race. I have experienced being that ill-equipped person who didn't belong at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it was not fun.
 

wooglin

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A snide comment in the base lodge is rude and uncalled for. But that is all it is.
Depends on how often it happens.I suspect a lot more to people of color simply because they are people of color rather than someone who looks like me. Also, the writer implies that beyond the lodge, out in whatever town, is of particular concern.
 
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Tricia

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This thread is temporarily locked while moderators discuss moderation that already had to take place in less than 8 posts.

I can almost hear my mom's voice saying "this is why we can't have nice things."
 
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Tricia

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*PLEASE READ BEFORE REPLYING*

Community,

We feel the thread should be reopened because of the importance of this topic as it relates to the ski racing community, not global discussions about race relations in the country. We understand the potential of the conversation turning into a heated debate, but are counting on the good members of Pugski to keep it on track and treat one another with respect.

As in all posting, if you feel you have to say, "This will probably be deleted, but..." or "If moderators feel a need to edit my post, ..." then it is obvious that it will not add anything constructive to the conversation. If we need to, each post will be approved before it goes public.

It was necessary to close the thread for a short time after it was started due to some controversial posts. If it appears that this thread is going in a direction that will have adverse negative affects on the community as a whole, we can and will lock it indefinitely. If you see someone going against these guidelines, please do not interact, use the "Report" button and we will deal with the situation. Phil and I will be the sole arbiters in this discussion.

Thank you,
Tricia & Phil
We have reopened this thread. Please read post #2
 

S.H.

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I am not nearly as accomplished as Charles Harris. I have been involved in this sport for a while (though I'm definitely on the younger side of the PugSki age spectrum), from a weekend athlete, to a domestic FIS athlete, to college/grad school in both D1 programs and USCSA programs, and after that as a coach (in full-time and weekend programs), and in a few different regions. I love ski racing, probably way more than anyone who never really had a chance at actually "doing anything" in it should, but linking a few "perfect" arcs around some plastic (or watching some athletes do it) brings a smile to my face like nothing else (except maybe a perfectly struck iron). It's my favorite thing to do.

I'm not black, I'm not white. I've spent my entire life in white-dominated spaces, and ski racing is definitely no exception. Of course there is racism, discrimination, and and inequality in this sport; the sport is at the end, made up of people. Racism and discrimination aren't going anywhere.

Have I experienced racial (and other) discrimination in this sport? Yes. From fellow athletes, from coaches, from officials, from volunteers. To my face, being told I don't belong here (at the start, in the TCM, at check-in to collect my bib, to get a coaches' lift ticket), that I'm in the wrong place (i.e., a race arena), or that people like me have no place in this sport. I've been told "jokingly", more than once, by more than one person, that a screwdriver, tuning bench, or scraper is "whites only" before somebody handed over the item with a smile. Were they joking? Yes, I believe so. Was it meant maliciously? I sincerely don't think so. Did it still shock and hurt? Absolutely it did. Did anyone else who heard say anything? No. IMO, that's a problem.

I've heard parents tell their kids not to listen to me because I'm [ethnicity] and therefore don't know about skiing. I've had my opinions, thoughts, philosophies etc. talked over and dismissed on the hill (and in classrooms) in USSA clinics, PSIA clinics, and other group settings, until another (white) coach/athlete/etc. repeats the same ideas and they are praised. Often, yes, talent, skill, and money are the biggest discriminators. I've "won" people over and had many more people respect my thoughts and accept me into their group once they see me ski or seen the returns after watching me work with their kids , while (white) others are accepted implicitly (and had people tell me so, which is even more mind-boggling). As a coach, I've never had a problem with one of my athletes; I have had issues with parents, coaches in other programs, officials, and volunteers. Those are just to my face that I (an admittedly oblivious person in general) noticed.

Of course this is a problem. Is it worse in skiing than in society at large? I don't know, but I don't think so. By and large, the ski racing community is fantastic, and I'm extremely proud to be part of it. I've had fewer of these incidents within skiing than out in "the real world"; in general, I think ski racing lends itself to generally incredible individuals - but no group of people is monolithic. Is there a systemic problem specific to ski racing? I'm not qualified to say, but my intuition is that this is reflective of (American) society at large rather than something skiing-specific. But to say there's absolutely no problem in skiing or that it isn't something that we should be aware of and work on is IMO naive. I don't talk about these things often (or ever). But it exists. It happens. IME, at all levels of the sport, at academies, at small weekend programs, from volunteers, coaches, officials, parents, and, occasionally, athletes.
 

fatbob

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There are an awful lot of assumptions made about "people like us" in snowsports (and while in no way wishing to draw comparisons with the black experience, I offer you the reactions to snowboarding) . I can see how the sport looks and feels whiter than white to most - it's almost the definition of WASPiness in some ways - the hokey knitwear and the "fashion" for example -and how that excludes people from the off. It always strikes me that the Hispanic population who is so widely represented off the slopes in the West is just not as prevalent on the slopes (& OT but I always thought the Mexican ski team was a bit of an insult to Mexicans).

I'm pretty sure there are no easy answers not least because of the significant economic barriers the sport throws up around participation. But we should all be accountable for our actions and recognise where we fall short on inclusiveness or prejudice. And because we're human we all fall short but let that not be a barrier to good and decent.
 
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crgildart

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It's an important discussion how we can be good ambassadors to welcome and embrace diversity when we see it on the mountain. Even with the financial resources and other access obstacles overcome, it still takes a lot of courage to step out of their comfort zones, often by themselves or with a few family members into the world many of us have lived our entire lives in or around. It can be a tightrope walk of being nice and friendly but not overly patronizing and making a big deal when the person simply wants to be treated like everyone else.
 

Sibhusky

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Actually traffic always declines in the summer. I think the main reason people are posting so MUCH is the COVID threads and boredom. Although truth be told, I'm on less than normal this summer because there's only so much COVID I can take.

The diversity topic interests me, but I really wish there were some way to restrict the postings to only non-whites so we could really learn instead of a lot of white people speculating. The fact that there is less participation lately in the National Brotherhood of Skiers was a surprise to me (not that I've been following the topic, but I think for some it's important to have more support). I'm certainly interested in the reasons for the dropoff and for general lack of participation. And I've heard plenty of theories already from white folks and have my own, of course. But I would like to hear from non white people themselves, not some filtered version of things. Especially, I'd like to hear why young, fit, active types don't ski. Thinking back, none of my black friends were big on sports, they were into books, so they aren't representative of folks you'd expect to see anyway. There was one guy in grad school I bicycled with, and I think we talked about skiing at the time, and he made the standard crack about cold weather, but I don't know if that was a way of not having a serious discussion or the real reason.
 

Philpug

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Hey, I've just encountered racist discrimination on a ski site! :geek:
Thankfully it's only wishful thinking and not active discrimination that I can see.
IMHO, the question is not racisit discrimination at all but asking if we could see the views of the people that have actually are affected by this verses people who think they understand what it is like experience it. She specifically points out...
so we could really learn instead of a lot of white people speculating.
 

François Pugh

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The motives are great, but restricting something to people not of a particular race is racist.

That's an interesting thing about racism. Many people are racist and don't even know that they are; it's not deliberate; it's culture. People I've encountered (in an environment with few minority individuals) who do not consider themselves racist will often use language that is hurtful to minorities out of naivety, not even realizing what they are doing. However, you don't want to hear from me, so I'll say no more.
 
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