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Friday, October 13, 2023

The British skiing group promoting inclusivity and community on the slopes

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A one-of-a-kind British skiing and snowboarding group is on a mission to bring black led entertainment to the slopes and build a community where people of colour can discover a new passion.

Off Piste was formed in late 2022, co-founded by a group of six Britons who were inspired by a trip to Bansko, Bulgaria , where they found that skiing with people from their community helped them to feel more welcome on the slopes.

“Being the only black and brown faces meant we had many shared experiences which led to the start of close friendships,” 28-year-old Londoner Savannah Botombia, who is one of the co-founders, told the PA news agency.

“It highlighted the importance of unity and togetherness.”

The experience led to the group collectively wanting to “change and challenge the narrative of what it means to be outdoors”, with a social media callout gaining lots of interest and the first large scale trip taking place in February 2023.

Ms Botombia said that many members have not skied before, so the trips make use of both snowboarding and skiing instructors, including Jay Robinson, who has been skiing since he was 13.

Mr Robinson’s parents were in the military and he grew up in Germany , close to many skiing resorts, which led to his interest in the sport developing.

The 30-year-old Londoner told PA he would often see people staring at him when he removed his helmet and goggles and wanted to teach fellow people of colour how to ski, so they can show that “black people are also out here and we can ski as well”.

He said teaching others provides a “sense of achievement”.

“I guarantee you that before [members] came out here, they did not think that in 100 years they would be out here skiing and then you can see the joy in their faces,” he said.

“It makes me feel so proud as I was in the same position and I want them to feel like they are seen and they belong here because we all do.”

He said it is “very, very expensive” to become a ski instructor, but he was able to complete a ski instructor course through the military, who were happy to help facilitate his interest in the sport.

He has also taken part in competitions, including the Nordic Games from November to December last year, where he won a bronze medal.

“This was as the only black guy out there as well, out of 250 people,” he added.

“For me, it’s knowing where I come from.

“To be there taking part in something like that was something that was just always seen as not something for people of colour and so being a part of that and this group is an amazing experience.”

The group’s next trip takes place in February 2024 in Bansko, Bulgaria and sold out within 24 hours.

The February trip is to kick off with a welcome event, four-days of skiing or snowboarding, as well as access to apres-ski parties, club nights, games night and ends with a thermal pool party.

Ms Botombia said: “I’m really looking forward to going bigger and better this year.

“For our trip last year, we brought a couple of DJs with us and we managed to take over one on the nightclubs there, so I’m excited to expose [those on the slopes] to our new itinerary for our upcoming trip next year, which does not exist to be honest.”

Michael Maren
Michael Maren
Former marine biologist who likes to spend as much time in the tropics as possible, due to a horrible time I once had in Alaska. Brrrr.

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