A week ago Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz sent a letter to employees saying “we are part of the problem” in reference to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the week of protests and racial unrest across the nation, acknowledging that the employees of his company, and the people that participate in the sport we all love, are overwhelmingly white.
- Related: Rob Katz, Vail Resorts CEO Addresses Current Racial Unrest | Admits Personal Failings in Addressing ‘Overwhelmingly White’ Sport
Having been around our industry for close to 30 years and CEO of Vail Resorts for the past 14 years, I must also confront that I have not done enough to make progress. I see this as a personal failing.
– Rob Katz, Vail Resorts CEO
On the back of that, the US Ski and Snowboard Team President Tiger Shaw yesterday wrote an open letter to address his organization’s stance on racial diversity and inclusion. He admitted that previous efforts to improve the reach and inclusitivity of skiing and snowboarding have all fallen short and that now is the time to make the issue a priority, using this moment as a catalyst.
“It is no secret that U.S. Ski & Snowboard and our sports are historically white and despite many great programs in place, we could use more widespread initiatives for marginalized communities to participate. We could attempt to justify this with excuses, but when you drill down, the core issue is that there has been a lack of broad responsibility to do so. We can start by improving our organization, and better engage with and support those around us. We will lead by action and use our influence to help others.”
– US Ski and Snowboard Team President Tiger Shaw
The full letter is below:
I have been wrestling with what the right response is from us and me, as our country is rocked by unrest following the unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. What can our organization do as a member of the bigger snow sports industry? The current state of affairs has necessitated much introspection. I want to share with you our initial reaction and plans.
As a lifelong member of the ski industry, I admit that it is easy to feel isolated from discrimination, racism, and inequality. The mountains are our safe haven and provide a convenient block from the broader pain and suffering of our world. I regret my lack of attention. As an industry, much work remains in creating wider access to the mountains.
It is no secret that U.S. Ski & Snowboard and our sports are historically white and despite many great programs in place, we could use more widespread initiatives for marginalized communities to participate. We could attempt to justify this with excuses, but when you drill down, the core issue is that there has been a lack of broad responsibility to do so. We can start by improving our organization, and better engage with and support those around us. We will lead by action and use our influence to help others.
This effort will not come without its challenges. Frankly, we have a long way to go to ensuring progress and creating more diversity across our industry. In 2017, U.S. Ski & Snowboard created the Diversity and Inclusion Committee which was tasked with assessing the state of diversity and inclusion in the organization and to make recommendations moving forward. In 2018, we committed to creating and executing a plan to develop a more diverse and inclusive community within U.S. Ski & Snowboard in line with our Mission and Vision, and our Diversity and Inclusion Statement.
We have so far made progress in the area of gender equality, specifically creating more opportunities for women in coaching, as well as incorporating diversity and inclusion initiatives as part of our club certification process beginning FY20. But we need to make more headway in creating a real connection between the sports we love and underrepresented communities.
Moving forward, we will not make promises we cannot keep, but will commit to tangible actions as an organization.
- We will host an Athlete Town Hall on June 18 focused on increasing diversity in our sport. We will discuss this topic and bring forth honest conversation creating awareness, and offering realistic steps towards making positive change.
- Locally, we will open the lines of communication with Park City and Salt Lake City-based non-profits to introduce underrepresented youth to winter sports and support the fight for racial justice.
- Nationally, we will work with our member clubs to promote inclusivity at the grassroots level. Many clubs are extraordinary in this aspect but many also need our leadership.
- Additionally, nationally, we will open the lines of communication with organizations that work to promote the sports of skiing and snowboarding to underrepresented youth to understand how we can affect change.
- Internally, we will open new and replacement staff positions for longer amounts of time and use different advertising avenues than normal.
- We will engage experts to better guide and train us and our employees, on tolerance and diversity.
- We will step up our effort to better diversify our boards in all respects.
The sadness and confusion that has resulted from the tragic events have created a sense of unrest for many around the nation. We will use this moment as a catalyst. We hope to increase and celebrate diversity within the organization, our athletes, members, donors, and our fans across the world.
If you have thoughts, suggestions or ideas on how we can better ourselves and strengthen this organization by creating true inclusivity, please reach out.