From painfully expensive gear and lift tickets to the need for winter-proof vehicles, one thing is clear: skiing and snowboarding are not the most accessible activities.

The high cost of entry has given these snow sports a longstanding elitist edge, excluding many along income lines. But what makes skiing and snowboarding unapproachable isn’t the price point alone—it’s the culture, shaped by generations of overwhelmingly white and majority male participants.

All Access Adventures crewAll Access Adventures

According to the Canadian Ski Council, only 16 per cent of skiers and riders were Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) during the 2021-2022 winter season. And while men made up just under 60 per cent of skiers and snowboarders five years ago, the split is now closer to 50-50—a positive sign for women, but a stat that appears to entirely exclude gender-diverse people from the count.

Yet there’s a shift taking place in British Columbia, thanks to many grassroots organizations—like Colour the Trails and Indigenous Women Outdoors—working to eliminate the barriers that prevent people from getting into the mountains, while making outdoor sports more welcoming and inclusive.

All Access Adventures, a Vancouver-based boardsport rental business, is one of them.

Events to promote adventure for everyoneAll Access Adventures

Founded by Sarah Edmilao, a queer Filipino woman who uses she/they pronouns, the family-run organization delivers affordable splitboard and avalanche safety gear right to customers’ homes, opening the door to backcountry touring in the winter, while also offering surfboard and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rentals year-round.

“In a small way, I think we’re making a difference by providing access to folks who can’t afford to go splitboarding regularly, or to buy a full gear package right away,” says Edmilao.

The company’s purpose, however, extends far beyond gear loans. Through guided backcountry tours and community splitboard and SUP meet-ups for beginners, All Access Adventures is creating the kind of community that remains rare in the outdoor scene—one that uplifts underprivileged youth, BIPOC women and 2SLGBTQI+ board enthusiasts in particular.

“It’s my dream to help people get out there and enjoy nature without having to navigate bro culture, or the big egos and gatekeeping that are so common in outdoor industries,” says Edmilao. “We just want to create a welcoming vibe in a newcomer space.”

Sarah splitboardingAll Access Adventures

The mission is personal for Edmilao, who started snowboarding at the age of 13 under the tutelage of an older sister who says she may have been the first person of colour in the local Mount Seymour backcountry—a claim that, while difficult to confirm, points to the very white nature of ski and snowboard culture, both in the backcountry and at resorts.

“You’re in the lift line and people are just kind of staring at you,” says Edmilao of their experience.

Despite these microaggressions, the siblings’ love of the sport eclipsed any feelings of sticking out on the mountain during their teenage years. And later in their twenties, finding a group of like-minded riders would become Edmilao’s saving grace.

“I was in a depression during university, not feeling like I had a clear direction in life, compounded by the fact that I wasn’t out yet,” says Edmilao. “Snowboarding with my little queer adventure crew and feeling like part of a community was a very crucial part of giving my life meaning again.”

The transformative weight of those experiences became seeds of inspiration for All Access Adventures, motivating Edmilao to ensure that underrepresented riders saw themselves reflected in boardsport communities and felt a sense of belonging within them.

“The first time I saw an ad featuring [Colour the Trails founder] Judith Kasiama in the backcountry, I was so happy, but in a sad way,” says Edmilao. “I’d never seen that representation before, and it’s not like I’m a newcomer to the outdoor space. I felt like things were finally shifting.”

Founder Sarah Edmilao profile shotAll Access Adventures

And while All Access Adventures has influenced part of that positive shift, the journey hasn’t been without its struggles. According to Edmilao, obtaining wholesale accounts or sponsorships to source gear has been difficult, as many boardsport brands doubted their legitimacy as an Asian woman running a business without a brick-and-mortar store.

“Being a female in the industry, I felt questioned, as if because I wasn’t a straight white cis[gender] man, how on earth could I possibly start up a rental business for extreme sports in Vancouver?” they say.

Though buying gear at higher costs has posed budgetary challenges for the business, Edmilao remains undeterred, adamant about not pricing their customers out in order to turn a profit.

“I’m proud of the fact that we haven’t increased our prices in the last three years and honestly, I think that’s one of the values that sets us apart,” they say. “Over the pandemic, we had COVID compassion rates, and we also offer discounts for people who can’t afford gear. It hasn’t been easy, especially with inflation and gas prices, but we’re very committed to that value.” 

Team member and Sarah's partner, KatAll Access Adventures

As a newer company founded in 2019, Edmilao is humbly proud of the impact All Access Adventures has already made, and excited by the still untapped potential to continue growing supportive boardsport communities in future.

“Through our collaborations with youth organizations and our Thursday splitboarding meet-ups for newcomers, usually women and queers, we’ve helped create an inclusive environment,” says Edmilao.

“And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.”


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