Vancouver Outdoor Community Spotlight: Judy Kasiama of Colour the Trails

Judy Kasiama of Colour the Trails on the Stawamus Chief. Photo: Pavel Boiko

Judy Kasiama of Colour the Trails on the Stawamus Chief. Photo: Pavel Boiko

With our proximity to nature, Vancouver has a thriving community of outdoor lovers who help make nature accessible. Judy Kasiama is working to expand that community through the organization she founded, Colour the Trails. They host outdoor events and workshops for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC).

Judy explains that “Colour the Trails is a collective where Black, Indigenous, and racialized folks can come and learn all things outdoors [and] try various activities. A lot of it is subsidized so that there is less of a financial barrier. [We want] them to have the confidence and have the knowledge to engage with nature in a safe, inclusive space where all of us are taking mountain biking, hiking, or skiing lessons together [and there isn’t] that fear element of being older and learning this thing, but rather having a safe space where you can kind of come and try the activity, and then take that activity and that knowledge and see if that’s something that [you want] to continue with.”

Colour the Trails ice climbing event

A Colour the Trails ice climbing event. Photo: Pavel Boiko

After finishing university Judy discovered that spending time in nature and hiking with friends was a great way to get active. But she noticed that “Vancouver has a very low demographic of Black people… So for me, it was an interesting perspective where a lot of people didn’t think race was an issue in terms of accessing nature. But then as I begin to venture out into other sports [like mountain biking and skiing], and it has really helped me gain the confidence to be able to try new things and not be so afraid. And… to bring other people into that space as well. If I can do it, you can do it too.”

Many people do not realize that race can be a barrier to getting into outdoor sports. Judy says, “A lot of it has to do with representation… When you’re not seeing yourself reflected in those spaces, it makes it really hard to get into [them]. For me when I’m… on a chair lift, there will be those ‘I didn’t know Black people ski’ kind of comments. And I will just be like ‘I didn’t know there was a criteria for skiing. I just thought it was a sport. I didn’t know you had to be a specific race in order to ski.'”

Unfortunately, racism can also impact BIPOC’s safety in the outdoors. Judy explains “For a lot of Black people it is safe to be a city setting where there are a lot more eyes in terms of if something were to happen to you. Whereas in the backcountry, it’s just you and nature and whoever you come across. And if something were to happen there aren’t a lot of people there to step in or support you. And the level of violence can escalate in terms of being called names on trails.”

July Kasiama of Colour the Trails

Judy Kasiama of Colour the Trails. Photo: Pavel Boiko

Judy started Colour the Trails because while there are many hiking groups in Vancouver, she found them intimidating to navigate as a Black woman and a beginner. She says “I wanted it to be a safe space where diversity and the lived experience of what it means to be Black or Indigenous or racialized to be the center in terms of how we are connecting but also how we relate and see ourselves in the outdoors in terms of how we are represented.” She started with group hikes but now Colour the Trails has branched out into mountain biking mentorship, backcountry ski camps, kayaking, backpacking, and other outdoor sports like canyoneering and rock climbing.

 

How to Get Involved with Colour the Trails

Visit the Color the Trails website and Instagram to become a member or sign-up for events.

Colour the Trails also welcomes outdoor guides and businesses to partner with them to sponsor events and help get gear into the hands of BIPOC people who want to get outdoors.

They also offer an Ally membership with a monthly contribution that goes towards subsidizing events and backend expenses associated with Colour the Trails.

Colour the Trails Mountain Biking Event

A Colour the Trails Mountain Biking Event. Photo Pavel Boiko

 

Judy’s Vancouver Favourites

We also asked Judy to give us her recommendations for outdoor adventures around Vancouver.

Judy’s Favourite Vancouver Area Trail: “Old Buck Trail is a multi-use trail on Mount Seymour for walking, biking, and running. It’s really beautiful. Especially right now when it’s raining it’s really green and lush in there.”

 

Judy’s Favourite Spots for Apres: “On my way back from Mount Seymour I always stop at United Strangers Coffee on Mount Seymour Highway to grab a coffee or a snack. I also love sushi. My favourite place is called Sushi Umi on Lonsdale. They have amazing sushi and amazing rolls. If I’m coming from Whistler or Cypress after skiing I make a pit stop there.”

 

Judy’s Outdoor Advice for Beginners: “A lot of times beginners see something and think I’m going to do it. But before you go, do the proper research to make sure it’s within your comfort level and you have the proper gear for your activity. It’s also important to leave a trip plan and let people know where you are going. Our forest is beautiful but it is really scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. So do the research before you go.”

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