As human beings we have basic needs. This concept is best captured in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow presents a pyramid with the most fundamental (physiological) need to be met first forming the base, progressing up through social and emotional needs (safety and security, then sense of belonging, and self-esteem) until a person can achieve self-actualization.
Experiencing belonging in snows sports in complex. Suffice it to say that I have been weaving through largely male dominated cross sections throughout my entire life--from early schooling (I went to an all-boys school in Pakistan), to the study of science, recreation (mountaineering), work (electric sector) to teaching skiing/snowboarding and to designing & building a house. Even more, as a woman of color, the representation and inclusion in any of the above fields is generally rare. While the intersectionality of gender, race, and immigration status is complicated, I’m acutely aware as a woman of color in snow sports that security and safety are congestion points in my Maslow’s hierarchy of learning.
It was evident that people like me: a dark brown woman with an accent, where English was the third language, an immigrant who didn't dress the part were ever intended to be included in snow sports. I came to skiing late in adulthood. I was mocked and heckled as I used skis that were 20 years too old with boots that barely fit and since I was unable to afford a lift ticket, I hauled my tawny body up a snow-covered golf course hill lugging the weight of antique skis on my shoulder just so I could practice a few downhill runs. Since I didn't have appropriate ski clothing, I would wear my newspaper delivery waterproof yellow jersey that said "New York Newsday" with sweatpants tucked in my ski boots. This was my introduction to skiing.
When the snow sports community fosters healthy levels of risk taking, where I can feel psychological and emotional safety absent judgment, it’s only then can I truly leap from the experience of a trust-based relationship to an experience of belonging. When we belong, we thrive.
I was determined to experience the magic of snow. The stillness of winter and the quiet of snow-covered forests are there for me too as a civil right. While security and safety remain a congestion point in my hierarchy of learning, I’m striving within my snow sports community to leap and grow and bring others like me along. Grit would be my middle name. While representation and diversity are valuable, it is inclusion we are all striving for. A place to belong without the shadow of unconscious bias, micro aggressions, verbal assaults, heckling, and hate crimes. My goal is to help the snow sports industry culture become more inclusive—where ALL feel a sense of belonging where a mountain space becomes a mountain home.
Humaira is a PSIA Level 1 instructor at Mt. Hood, the Principal of JEDI Outdoors, has served as the Vice Chair of She Jumps Board of Directors and was just elected to the PSIA Northwest Board of Directors - the first woman of color to serve on the Board in its history. Her motto is “When you invest in me, I invest in others.