X Games gold medalist Zeb Powell is on a mission to make the mountains more ‘colorful,’ inclusive
The Red Bull Slide-In Tour will be at Copper Mountain through Sunday
When one hits the slopes for a day of skiing or snowboarding it is common to encounter a demographic that can best be described as monochromatic. North Carolina professional snowboarder Zeb Powell noticed this and has been on a mission to not only make the slopes more “colorful,” but more accessible.
Powell says he started to put in a concentrated effort to make the mountains more colorful after he won X Games gold in the 2020 men’s snowboard knuckle huck competition in Aspen.
“Before (the winning gold at the X Games) I had never really noticed the color of my skin,” Powell said. “I grew up in a pretty colorful family. I never really saw color like that growing up and I never dealt with any struggles.”
However, Powell says that when he won X Games he got so many responses and direct messages on social media of people being inspired by an person of color winning a highly publicized and sought after snowboarding and skiing event.
“People were reaching out saying that they didn’t even realize Black people could snowboard or was a thing,” Powell said. “I was so mind blown by that. Winning X Games was like winning the video game. You beat the video game.”
After the awe of winning a gold medal at the X Games dissipated, Powell asked himself what he wanted to now accomplish in the sport. With tons of direct messages and heartfelt messages, Powell felt inspired to give back to his fanbase and other people of color.
“I didn’t really know how to, but I kind of started talking to my sponsors,” Powell said. “I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I figured if I started talking to my sponsors — especially Red Bull — we could figure something out.”
With the help of Red Bull, Powell started the Red Bull Slide-In Tour in 2020.
The tour aims to bring people of all colors together through boarding and good times on the mountain. The tour has continued to expand each year, with the 2023 tour stopping at three separate mountains in the U.S. and featuring a laundry list of other professional snowboarders.
The Slide-In Tour is making its first stop of 2023 at Copper Mountain Resort from Friday, March 3, to Sunday, March 5, with the mission of making sure people of color know that they too can participate in the sport of snowboarding.
“There are a lot of people that don’t know they can snowboard who can possibly be the best snowboarders or the best spokespersons for snowboarding,” Powell said. “If they don’t even know they can do it or can access it easily, how will the sport grow in a healthy way?”
For Powell and fellow Slide-In Tour rider Maggie Leon, the biggest hurdle that needs to be jumped in order to help diversify the sport is making it more accessible.
Nowadays, there are a lot of hoops that need to be jumped through in order to enjoy a day on the slopes.
Powell pointed out that most people have to make a long drive to a mountain and once they arrive they deal with rentals, a pricey lift ticket and a fall-heavy day of learning a new sport.
He thinks the best way to overcome these obstacles is through building more indoor skiing and snowboarding snow domes throughout the United States.
Powell expanded by saying that snow domes — like those located on the East Coast — usually allow skiers and riders to comfortably experience the sport at a cheaper rate, get a taste of it and learn in a less intimidating environment.
“You can drop 40 bucks, you get all your gear, people help fit it,” Powell said. “It is kind of going through a Chipotle line and getting food. It is so much easier than having to find a rental shop, having to find where to get a ticket and possibly going up the biggest trail and not knowing how to get down. Also if it’s a snow dome it can also be next to your house in a city.”
Leon also thinks that a major part of diversifying the sport also involves representation.
“I feel like just not accessibility but representation too,” Leon said. “Especially since seeing that the amount of women in snowboarding has grown tenfold over the past 5 to 10 years. It is cool to see once people see other people like them doing it, it grows and grows and grows.”
Powell, Leon, Luke Winkelmann, Brantley Mullins, Brolin Mawejje and Alex Caccamo have focused on bringing an energy that welcomes people onto the mountain in order to engage in the sport throughout their stop at Copper.
“Teaching what we preach.” Powell said. “I am down to teach people how to snowboard and I am down to show people a good time and I think for them to see that we are so down to do that, hopefully they will be inspired to do the same with their friends.”
Powell wants to see the Slide-In Tour organically expand over the next few years and hopes to continue to make the sport more colorful.
“Hanging out, talking to the community, being open to them, it’s a really simple formula,” Powell said. “It is kind of a snowball effect with Red Bull seeing how well it does.It’s like okay we are just going to support it more. We are just going to keep growing, bigger and better every year, snowball effect.
The Red Bull Slide-In Tour will be at Copper through Sunday, March 5. Sunday will feature two freerides with Red Bull athletes and an athlete meet and greet. For a full schedule of events, visit RedBull.com.
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