Fans of costly winter sports try to level the playing field

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Just after learning how to strap on a snowboard, 11-year-old Jamiah Jenkins was flying across the fresh snow. “Bend your knees!” a group of instructors yelled as the first-time snowboarder sailed down the hill without falling, the mitten-clad coaches cheering with muffled claps. “It’s like skiing, but with a board; it’s actually easier,” she said proudly.

Jenkins was part of a group of north Minneapolis students trying out snowboarding for the first time this week thanks to a new program making the pricey winter sport more accessible to all. Two Twin Cities pro snowboarders, Joe Sexton and Jake Olson-Elm, teamed up with Anthony Taylor of the Loppet Foundation to launch Cool Meets Cause this month at the new snowboard park at Theodore Wirth Regional Park to introduce the sport to more women and girls, people of color and families who may not be able to afford the hundreds of dollars in gear and lift tickets.

In a state known for its snowy, cold months, more Twin Cities nonprofits are stepping up to diversify winter activities and make them more accessible to people who wouldn’t normally try them. “I think diversifying snowboarding is something we can do,” said Taylor, the adventures director for the foundation who’s been teaching snowboarding to north Minneapolis students for a few years. “Equity in the outdoors is really critically important. We’re really trying to break that barrier, that perception of who does this and who this is for.”

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