23/24 BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship Recipients

23/24 BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship Recipients

In Giveaways, Voile History by Voile Mfg.

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We couldn’t be more excited to share the essays of the 23/24 Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship recipients, but first, we want to start by expressing our gratitude to everyone involved in making this scholarship happen. From the people who helped spread the word to those who applied and everyone in between. Your efforts bring this together and we’re incredibly grateful.

Thank you for trusting us in this space as we work toward promoting diversity in the industry. We know this scholarship is not a solution, but we have seen over the past few years what a positive impact it can have.

Now, it’s time we announce the recipients of the 23/24 Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship. Congratulations to Angeli Feri (Grand Prize), and Caroline Weaver (Runner-Up)!

Continue below to read the 23/24 Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship recipient essays.

Grand Prize: Angeli Feri (She/They)

My introduction into winter sports is not uncommon today. I come from an immigrant family background, who settled into a low-income corner of the greater NYC area and recreating outdoors was not a priority growing up. Let alone, recreating outdoors during the winter time which is a notoriously miserable affair in the coastal Northeast. Being from a low-income neighborhood during the 90’s also went hand-in-hand with crime rates in neighborhoods, so I also was not allowed to even play outside.

These facts are important for two reasons: I have early recollections (like during the Blizzard of 1993) plopping into a snow mound and being enamoured with the sensations of outside. The world was safer, because the cold, crystalline specks that melted on my cheeks also drove most people indoors and I could finally exist outdoors. The other reason an introduction to my background is warranted is that there were many barriers to entry into the snowboarding (financial, cultural, access).

My first snowboarding lesson happened when I was 23. By then, I was college-graduated, working full-time and could save up for the trip out to the Poconos, the cost of rental, a lesson. I had an idea I would always love standing sideways on a board, but needed to experience this myself. I wouldn’t say that I truly learned until two years later at 25, which is considered a lifetime compared to others on the mountain that took trips “out West” growing up. We see them all the time on the mountain – the families who use “holiday” as a verb and the children that follow like pizza and french-fry ducklings after their families who have been skiing so long, they knew Corbet personally.

My experience into these spaces and my ever-growing love for snow sports is what led me to how I choose to recreate today. The beauty of the outdoors has myriads of physiological and psychological benefits and I know there are many pockets of the population that continue to lack awareness and access to winter sport. I spend almost half the year coaching as an AASI-PSIA certified instructor and I volunteer coach for several NYC-based board sports non-profits. We are fortunate to have Big Snow, and indoor ski complex that gives year-round access to on-snow lessons. It has been immensely rewarding to have worked with hundreds of students from communities like mine and show them that there’s room outside for everybody.

Having been involved with this work for several years and seeing the progression of my students, it has become clear that in order to keep raising the glass ceiling for their experience in this sport, I would also need to progress myself. Many East Coast riders are what we call “park rats” who prioritize the street-style of snowboarding that’s very similar to skateboarding. As someone whose joy outdoors are more exploratory in nature, I knew that I wanted to take the route of expanding my snowboarding acumen to backcountry-style riding.

There is a different level of access that opens up when one is not within the bounds of a resort and the accompanying barrier to entry. This scholarship will assist me in making my pursuit as a backcountry professional far more accessible. Moreover, upon becoming more knowledgeable in backcountry gear, I can share that information with my communities. I believe by equipping myself with the knowledge and skillset that pursuing backcountry certifications provide, I can be a pioneer within my community and in the future guide them in their own future endeavours outdoors.

Runner-Up: Caroline Weaver (She/Her)

I love the intersection of sports, art and identity. The relationships between them reflect the depths of our human experience and mark the changing times of society. Through film and photography, my goal is to capture the stories of people of color in the outdoors that resonate these relationships, and the Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship will help expand my access to those narratives. As an Asian American woman, it is empowering to see someone who looks like me accomplishing feats I could not have imagined for myself. Representation matters and is the foundation of my creative pursuits in film and photography in outdoor spaces.

Since moving to Oregon three years ago, I’ve been able to find a beautiful and blossoming community within BIPOC recreation groups for a variety of PNW hobbies– biking, climbing, surfing, hiking, skiing, etc. Most of the groups are grassroots organizations run by locals who simply want to share their passion for outdoor recreation. I admired their initiative to create safe, encouraging, and energizing environments for people of color, and quickly found immense gratification in capturing BIPOC joy and connection to the outdoors through photos and film. Of these groups, I’ve found a sense of belonging and enriching connection within a QTBIPOC snowsports group, Open Slopes, who create a community through social events, mutual aid, scholarships, transportation and gear for BIPOC folks to experience snow sports for the first time. Utilizing my creative eye and professional background in film and photography, I’ve found an incredibly rewarding role in capturing and preserving the moments of black and brown folks with joy plastered across their faces, linking their first turns, and the passionate leadership of BIPOC instructors increasing racial equity in snowports. Documenting these experiences is imperative to building community and representation- it allows participants to see themselves, and most importantly other people who look like them, embodying the tenacity and diligence they possess to learn in these new experiences.

The most challenging and meaningful project I’ve taken on is a ski film called Narpski. The short documentary (available for free on youtube) discusses barriers that people of color experience within the ski industry, told through the lens of myself and close friend, Kayla, as we navigate a season of learning how to ski and snowboard. Earlier this year, we hosted a grand premiere highlighting other BIPOC snowsports films, and hosted various BIPOC recreation orgs to table and promote their mission to the audience. The combination of premiering Narpski, witnessing the emotional reactions to the film by people of color in the audience, and fostering representation through film became one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. The positive effects of this film continue to fuel my momentum and passion for storytelling as months later, I am running into multiple people who were inspired to take ski lessons for the first time because of Narpski. The power of representation has never been more clear to me now that I’ve been on the creator side of media that moves and unites people of color. This is only the beginning of my film pursuits. The Voile Backcountry Scholarship would allow me to expand my creative exploration of ski culture and share stories of BIPOC folks tackling incredible expeditions in the backcountry, while elevating both my ski skills and film and photography craft.

As a kid who grew up in the suburbs of Houston, surrounded by eight lane highways, man made retention ponds and cookie cutter suburb lawns, I cherish Portland for its vast access to nature. With Mt. Hood, the Oregon coast and the Columbia River Gorge all close by, my world of opportunity exploded. Playing in the outdoors has given me an incredible amount of appreciation for our ever changing natural environment, introduced me to BIPOC communities who have helped me connect to myself, and create a safe home within the PNW. Through film and photography, I hope my work serves as an invitation to BIPOC folks to pursue the play and adventure that I had the privilege of experiencing, and strengthen their connection to self and our community. The Voile Backcountry Scholarship would amplify my creative craft while increasing access to backcountry skiing and new film pursuits. Given how exclusive and inaccessible resort skiing is to people of color, I see even fewer BIPOC folks in the backcountry on social media. I envision a world where we see an abundance of people of color experiencing joy outdoors, especially in the backcountry, and I intend to fulfill this vision through sharing stories and experiences of the BIPOC community through my work, with the ultimate hope of threading outdoor expedition dreams into reality for my community.

The Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship Recipients were selected by the sum scores from the volunteer judge panel. The Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship Recipients consent to sharing their stories on the V Team blog and @voilemfg Instagram and Facebook. This scholarship is not endorsed or affiliated with Instagram.

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