October 28, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Theo Ollier | Photo by Katherine Beard
Colorado College’s Athletics and Recreation Website Overview claims the CC community has “easy access” to outdoor places like skiing in Vail or Aspen.
In reality, not all CC students have equal access to outdoor opportunities due to cost barriers. Although the culture of various outdoor clubs may be open to beginners, in some cases the price of participation is simply not realistic for some students.
The vast majority of CC students come from high-income households, as the median family income for a CC student for the Class of 2013 was $277,500 and 78% of students fell into the top 20% income bracket. Joining new outdoor clubs is not a problem for many students, as these students can pay for the necessary equipment to pursue activities such as skiing and mountain biking.
However, 14% of CC students are considered low-income due to their Pell Grant state grant status, and only 2% of students have household incomes in the bottom 20% category. This statistic shows how little economic diversity CC has and this alienates students in the economic minority.
Colorado College’s Freeriders Union Instagram page has a link to ski passes attached in the bio where you can see that the basic Ikon Pass is currently $489 and the upgraded Ikon Pass is $689. Additionally, renting ski equipment can cost $200 to $400 per week, and buying ski equipment can cost at least $600, not counting the cost of warm winter gear. Some of these items of clothing can be found at the Ahlberg Gear House on campus, where puffed jackets, windbreakers, goggles, sticks, gloves, and other items of clothing are free or incredibly cheap to borrow.
However, for a low-income student, the prices for a ski pass and certain equipment are prohibitive, and students are unlikely to have the opportunity to learn to ski, let alone progress at it.
In an attempt to make skiing more accessible to students who couldn’t otherwise afford it, Colorado College’s Freerider’s Union created several grants in a lottery format that included an Ikon Pass and free rides on the FUCC bus, as well as heavily discounted fares Prices offer ski rental.
Sammy Ries ’23, FUCC Co-President, notes that although the FUCC scholarships will enable approximately 13 students to immerse themselves in skiing at a very low cost, many students still face economic obstacles when attempting to get into this activity. Ries has made it one of their goals to increase inclusion at BIPOC and low-income students this year, and in addition to the FUCC scholarships, the Freerider’s Union will host a “Snow Day” later in the ski season.
According to Ian Catto ’23, another co-president of the club, this is a day when about 100 students can enjoy a day’s skiing with all expenses covered and more experienced skiers volunteer to teach new skiers. This event will introduce a far larger portion of the CC community to the sport, but it’s difficult for low-income students to make additional trips to ski resorts when the prices of passes and gear are such a major barrier.
The average CC student can afford the cost of ski passes and equipment since so many are in the top 20%, but CC’s lack of economic diversity segregates middle- and low-income students who cannot afford expensive outdoor sports .
While this is a step in the right direction in making the outdoors accessible to students, a free pass will not change the economic hurdle many students face when hoping to explore new recreational activities.
Along with skiing, mountain biking is another outdoor activity that presents economic barriers to participation. There are several places to start mountain biking near campus, notably Red Rock Canyon Open Space and Cheyenne Mountain State Park, but acquiring a mountain bike is a difficult task when even used mountain bikes are expensive. According to bikeperfect.com, the cheapest used mountain bikes of decent quality cost at least $600, with prices rising to the $1,000-$1,500 mark if you’re interested in a bike with some quality parts.
While the Outdoor Education program offers bikes for rent at Gear House, the option is a fat-tire bike, which costs $12 for the first day and $8 for each additional day. Renting an Outdoor Education bike for a week would cost $60, and this isn’t a bike that can handle advanced rides. Getting into the sport of mountain biking at CC seems like a daunting challenge unless you have to shell out thousands of dollars on used or new mountain bikes.
Another great range of outdoor activities at CC are hiking, camping and backpacking. For day hikes in the Colorado Springs area, you can take the PikeRide or bus to the aforementioned sites like the Red Rock Canyon Open Space, but also to the Garden of the Gods, the Manitou Incline, and various other trails.
Regarding backpacking and camping, using trips led by Outdoor Education makes these activities accessible, as trips are typically in the $10-$25 range, with minimal expense for gear, ride-sharing, and full planning of the trip ahead of time . If you want a more strenuous trip, there are Outdoor Education trips that climb Fourteenths like Pike’s Peak this Friday and Saturday that you can sign up for on Summit.
The cost barrier is a relevant issue for middle- and low-income CC students trying to engage in outdoor activities. This issue is not a priority for many CC students themselves, probably because the vast majority of them are not affected by cost considerations, but more students need to have accessible opportunities for outdoor experiences. Currently, advances in skiing and mountain biking at the CC are essentially inaccessible to some students due to the extreme cost of just attending or taking a few excursions.
On the other hand, backpacking and camping trips have been made widely available to most students as the outdoor educational program offers planned trips at low cost.
Overall, Colorado College offers its students a mixed approach to outdoor activities, and discussions need to take place between students, outdoor clubs, and the Outdoor Education Program to make the outdoors more accessible to students of all economic backgrounds.