Colour the Trails Hiking Mentorship Program: Calgary

The Cause

Colour the Trails Advocacy Inc. is a Canada-wide Black woman owned business, focused on improving access to outdoor activities for BIPoC and QTBIPoC adventurers. We are community engagement experts who connect our community to subject matter experts to create access to spaces and activities from which we have been excluded. Our events are small in order to minimize impact on land and water, protect the integrity of the trail and the environment, and to be considerate of other people in those spaces. We encourage collaboration, sharing of resources and transportation, and minimal consumerism. In 2023, the Calgary and Edmonton chapters ran a series of seven hiking/backpacking events ranging from day hikes to advanced multi-day backpacking trips. While participants really enjoyed these trips, as a leadership team we concluded that building a mentorship program will be the most effective and sustainable way to help people level up their skills.

The mentorship program will be a series of hikes that participants can participate in sequentially to advance their skills with each trip: day hikes to build mentees capacity, intro to front-country camping to learn the basics and safety of camping, followed by backcountry camping with various difficulty levels where mentees will apply all the skills they’ve learned in the duration of the program.

The trips will take place in national and provincial parks around Calgary. Individuals who prefer to can pass on registering for the next level of hike, while now having the skills and confidence to hike on their own or alongside the community they have built through Colour the Trails. This will open spots for new registration along the way.

The program will foster a safe learning opportunity for mentees to progress and acquire skills such as situational awareness, navigation, meal prepping, packing, teamwork and wildlife safety. Our chapter leaders will also ensure participants receive a program timeline, community guidelines and expectations of the program, along with resources and tools to better equip them to be successful. We will also work along with our community partners to provide discounts and access to gear. The mentorship program would end with a mentee and the Calgary chapter leader going through the ACMG Apprentice Hike Guide certification, bringing professional outdoors industry qualifications into the BIPoC community and creating representation for community members to look to and learn from.

Who Will it Benefit?

The application will be open to all BIPoC and QTBIPoC in the Alberta chapter, aged 18+. We find that 78% of our participants are women and non-binary individuals. 51% are between ages 25-34 and 30% are 35-44. As demand for this programming is high, we will run the program on an application basis to prioritize the participation of Black and Indigenous folks. Many of our participants are Muslim women, immigrants, and other equity-deserving groups. These individuals can learn new skills and be vulnerable without being subject to racism, microaggressions, or Othering. Muslims for example know that they can take space and time to pray without being questioned. The application will also allow us to prioritize those who are invested in building community, rather than simply looking for a discount service.

These events also have proactive and preventative health care benefits, as they promote physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being. Participants in mentorship programs receive guidance on best practices around nutrition, training, and conditioning over the 6 months of the mentorship program, and can build strong, healthy foundations. For many of our participants, our programming becomes the first step towards pursuing a higher level of fitness.
The mentorship program will also benefit those with financial barriers to accessing the outdoors; with this funding, we will also be able to offer scholarships as well as to subsidize overall costs. Participants also gain access to a mentorship cohort with whom to coordinate carpools and resource sharing, which is critical for those individuals who don’t drive or have a car to access the parks.

Colour the Trails leaders will also be compensated for their time. We believe the only way forward is being equitable by paying our team for the time spent organizing, facilitating and ensuring our community experience and fun safe space.

Finally, the two individuals who will complete ACMG certification will be able to afford to do so; the cost and difficulty of getting paid time off for the 12 days are typically prohibitive to participation. Having the course fees taken care of will alleviate at least one of these barriers and create more leadership for future iterations of the mentorship program.