Colouring Trails & Sharing Stories
Judith Kasiama On Diversifying The Outdoors
Advocate, mentor, leader, founder—Judith (Judy) Kasiama has held many titles during her work with Colour The Trails (CTT), and now has a new one: Trailbreaker. We’re sponsoring Judy and CTT (operating in Vancouver, BC) through our Breaking Trail initiative to help make the outdoors more inclusive. From hosting introductory experiences and mentorship programs to creating space for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ adventure-seekers on the ground and in the digital world, CTT is working toward a more inclusive outdoor community.
What does a better backcountry look like to you?
A better backcountry is a place where we all can go and find a piece of ourselves—a safe space where we can hike, ski, and camp without fearing who might be there to cause me harm simply because of skin tone. A better backcountry means supporting communities that have been left out to see the beauty of Turtle Island and create and foster relationships with nature so that we can advocate and protect this beautiful planet.
You list the Native Territories you work from—why is that important?
Land acknowledgments are an honest and historically accurate way to recognize the traditional and ancestral land of Indigenous peoples. As settlers, Colour The Trails operates on unceded lands and territories, and we want to respectfully recreate as we work towards reconciliation.
Land acknowledgments have one goal: They commemorate Indigenous peoples’ principal kinship to the land—and the fact that they cannot be erased from their land and history of what we call present-day Canada.
What does it take for you and your participants to feel physically, emotionally, and socially safe during outdoor pursuits?
I always ask, “Was this event, or space was created with me in mind?” Or was I an afterthought? There’s a difference between spaces created with you in mind, than those created as an afterthought. For many of us to feel safe, we need to see these spaces creating community trust. I want to attend or be in spaces where I am not the only Black person, nor do I speak for all Black people. I want a space that allows me to be myself without fear or intimidation.
Tell us about an unforgettable experience you’ve had with Colour The Trails.
Intro To Mountain Biking—it was a day filled with joy, laughter, and the community coming together to learn something many of us never even knew existed. Essential Cycles welcomed us for four hours and taught us how to mountain bike safely, leading seven women of colour to sign up for the Colour The Trails mentorship program.
Another event was our Intro To Backcountry Ski Camp, where we learned about avalanche safety and how to ski pow. It was designed for the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community to learn, fall, laugh, and encourage one another. These two experiences showed me there’s a lot of work to be done and that these spaces are so needed.
Which projects are on your radar for now or in the future?
We are currently running two mentorship programs: Mountain Biking and Trail Running—trying our best to support mentees with gear, learning clinics, and group meetups.
CTT is in the process of bringing back our Colour The Slopes program (paused due to the pandemic) to allow more Black, Indigenous, and Racialized folx to learn skiing/snowboarding this upcoming season—aiming for 50-100 participants depending on support from ski resorts.
We’re also producing the first short documentary about a member of our community. “Iron Self” is about a person who had a traumatic experience during their first backpacking trip, and is revisiting that hike years later with the support of the community.
Have the events of 2020 forward changed anything for Colour The Trails?
While I started my activism and work with the community in 2017 and was consistent through the years, I was mostly dismissed. It took the events of 2020 for the outdoor industry and individuals to support Colour The Trails. I am thankful for everyone who stepped in—volunteers, mentors, sponsors.
Challenges have not stopped there, but we are here to stay and take up space. If we can do our work with very limited resources—imagine how much we can achieve with your help.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
📍 Photographed on Simpcw, Sinixt, Secwepemc, Ktunaxa, and Sylix First Nations, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), Treaty 6, 7, and 8 territories, and the Blackfoot Confederacy: Kainai, Piikani, Siksika, Tsuut’ina Nation, Métis People of Alberta, Ktunaxa, and Secwépemc land