Words and Photos By Emily Sullivan

Colour The Trails is reclaiming outdoor spaces for Black, Indigenous & People of Colour – with an emphasis on joy.

On a temperate May morning near Vancouver, ten students are fitted for loaner bikes, familiarizing themselves with the braking power and suspensions on the new-to-them equipment.

There’s a light sense of apprehension in the air as most of the riders are about to try mountain biking for the first time, but it doesn’t take long to break the ice in the group of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour.

After a brief parking lot lesson and trail-based skills drills, the group splits into three smaller cohorts and heads out for their first rides on dirt trails, smiles multiplying with each pedal stroke.

This Intro to Mountain Biking clinic, introduced in 2018, is one of many offerings from Canadian affinity group Colour the Trails. Students progress from practicing turns around cones in the parking lot to riding flowy green circle trails in half a day, led by professional coaches from Essential Cycles and assisted by Colour the Trails’ own mountain biking mentees-turned-mentors. 

First-time rider Areej Siddiqui admittedly started the day feeling a bit scared, but built significant confidence by the clinic’s end, exclaiming “I feel like such a badass!” after tackling an intimidating downhill.

Areej says the thoughtful design of the clinic keeps the students riding “right at the growing edge” – a level of difficulty just right for skill development. 

When Judy Kasiama created a ‘Colour the Trails’ Facebook group more than five years ago, she was determined to create lasting change in the outdoor industry.

In the years that followed, what began as casual group activities for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in Vancouver grew into nationwide affinity courses and mentorship programs.

The organization now has eight chapter leads across five chapters in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Southern Ontario, and Montreal, and hosted almost one thousand participants across 75 events in 2023. 

Colour the Trails aims to reclaim space in the outdoors through community building, with an emphasis on joy.

Their theory of change is beautifully simple – as Judy puts it, “community starts with an invitation.” If folks are invited to try new forms of recreation or further develop existing skills in a safe space, they will inevitably bring others along.

These learners can then progress into mentors, guides, and instructors, fundamentally changing the makeup of who is welcome in historically white-dominated outdoor spaces.

Judy and her staff take a community-first approach to organizing that holds accountability at the forefront of the work.

Colour the Trails operates as a for-profit, investing wealth in its staff and members through professional development opportunities for outdoor certifications and by hiring Black, Indigenous, and racialized creatives to tell their stories and create content for brand partnerships. The group thoroughly vets all partnerships, ensuring that their branded work benefits their community.

CTT founder Judy Kasiama rides at the group’s rear, where she can share pointers and laugh with clinic participants. 

CTT founder Judy Kasiama rides at the group’s rear, where she can share pointers and laugh with clinic participants. 

"Community starts with an invitation."
Judy Kasiama, Founder of Colour the Trails

Colour the Trails’ offerings vary from a multi-day Intro to Mountaineering course to an annual “Colour the Slopes” ski and snowboard summit, a summer mountain mentorship program, and single-day programs that introduce beginners to windsurfing, ice climbing, trail running, and everything in between.

The organization’s Strategic Partnerships Lead, Priya Moraes, says that developing such skills in an affinity space is important for the psychological safety of participants, who may feel othered or unwelcomed in white-dominated spaces.

By removing barriers for their members, she says the organization is “building pathways for individuals to progress beyond introduction,” creating a lasting investment in both community and sport.

Priya also emphasizes that “it's not like there are no people of colour doing these activities. The challenge is that they're usually the exception, or they’re one of a few.”

By investing in the true diversity of the outdoors, Colour the Trails is creating a reality in which Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour are not seen as exceptions in adventure recreation. Instead, they are leading community spaces, mentoring, guiding, and teaching outdoor curriculum to their peers.

Their steady growth from a community Facebook group to the organization it is today exemplifies a highly effective theory of change: a community that started with an invitation is forever transforming the face of recreation in Canada.

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Hilary Ta, a CTT mountain bike mentee turned mentor, shares encouragement with new rider

Hilary Ta, a CTT mountain bike mentee turned mentor, shares encouragement with new rider

About Emily Sullivan

Emily Sullivan (she/they) is a writer and photographer focused on outdoor recreation, community and environmental wellness, and the human experience. She is a backcountry ski athlete and an advocate for climate justice and Arctic land issues in Alaska. You can find Emily on Instagram at @emelex or on the web at

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