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Community Event Connects Alaska Native Youth To Ski And Snowboard Opportunities

Partnership between local organizations and volunteers leads to snow sports celebration, connecting families with community resources.

An evening of winter sports festivities on Jan. 6 will kick off a partnership offering unique opportunities for Alaska Native children and teens to access low-cost and free ski and snowboard rentals, lessons and passes to Eaglecrest Ski Area. The event, which will run from 6-9 p.m. at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, is made possible through the collaborative efforts of Indigenous skiers and snowboarders working in conjunction with the Douglas Indian Association, the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Eaglecrest Ski Area, the Sitka Conservation Society and Sealaska. Additional donations were made by snow sports retailers Lib Tech, Smartwool and Vans.

Ellen Bradley, a skier, climate scientist and Indigenous outdoor advocate, serves as one of the group’s organizers. For her, skiing offers a unique connection to culture and demonstrates the importance of Indigenous-led stewardship on climate change.

“Growing up, skiing was a way for me to connect with the land,” said Bradley. “Building that sacred relationship with our environment and learning traditional values of respect, reciprocity and balance — that came to me through many hours spent in the mountains, surrounded by snow and sky. But opportunities like that aren’t always accessible to Indigenous kids. We’re hoping, through this partnership, we can help young people strengthen these critically important connections to place and culture and really reinforce the importance of action on climate change to the activists of the future.”

The Jan. 6 event will serve as a community gathering place to provide more information to Alaska Native parents and families about the snow sports options available to their children, connecting interested families to available resources. The kickoff event will feature a live performance by special music guests Ya Tseen, screenings of Indigenous-led ski films and door prizes including gift cards to outdoor retailer Patagonia, Smartwool gear, items from the Vans collaboration with Tlingit artist (and event organizer) James Johnson and a Lib Tech snowboard raffle.

“This is the second year that Douglas Indian Association will be running our snow sports program, which is aimed at increasing the number of Indigenous youth on our mountains,” said organizer Benson Bullock of the Douglas Indian Association. “We are excited to collaborate with our partners to expand access to these outdoor spaces and provide more resources to help support the next generation of Indigenous outdoor enthusiasts!”

Families are invited to join sponsors and volunteers at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Friday, Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. to learn more about the opportunities available for Alaska Native youth interested in snow sports.