This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and true trail voices around the country, and how trails have impacted the lives of Americans during COVID-19. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media.
I’ll be honest with you: I “fan” out. That is, when I’m in the presence of someone I greatly respect and admire, I get hyped-up. At concerts, I would nearly always lose my voice … when I saw a player from my favorite hockey team out walking the dog, I turned red and froze … I even get jittery when I hear the voices of personal heroes on podcasts. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with someone in the outdoor world of whom I’m a huge fan, and I am excited to share that experience with you.
On Nov. 30, 2020, I interviewed Vasu Sojitra, a professional athlete, and a diversity, equity and inclusion strategist. It was an awesome and eye-opening conversation about his time on the trail—his favorite #TrailMoments—and how we can all make outdoor spaces more inclusive and accessible. Check it out!
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*Note: Syren Nagakyrie, founder of Disabled Hikers, pronouns are they/them.
As a professional athlete, Vasu has been spotlighted in magazines, short films and other places for skiing, skating, running and other athletic pursuits. As a lifelong skier myself, seeing Vasu’s expert descents down slopes boasting perfect powder and intense verticals quickly earned my astonishment and my follow on social media!
But it wasn’t only his epic adventures that had me hooked. Through is platforms, his work with the In Solidarity Network and the Inclusive Outdoors Project, and his other projects and associations, Vasu is promoting a more welcoming outdoors while sharing his experiences and his love for getting outside. He is also the first adaptive athlete for The North Face.
Along with the black-diamond skiing, kick-flips and picturesque trails, Vasu’s Instagram page features resources and information, personal stories, helpful tips and his motto: “ninjasticking through the woods to bring intersectionality to the outdoors.”
RTC asked Vasu to partner with us on our Trail Moments initiative, which encourages everyone to share their experiences and stories about how trails have played a role in their lives during the pandemic. We love following his adventures, and we’re fans of his work on and off the trail.
In addition to chatting with me, Vasu also shared a series of #TrailMoments that show how he’s getting out on his local Montana trails these days. They also tell the story of how he got his start in trail running using those same pathways, plus the system (the Spoon Rating System, which was designed by Syren Nagakyrie, Disabled Hikers) he uses to contextualize how accessible these spaces are to use.
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And since Vasu is a pro skier with roots in colder-weather states, we invited him to join our online discussion about how people can continue to use trails safely and responsibly as the country navigates winter during the COVID-19 pandemic. To sum up that great discussion: If you’re able to get outside, get out there! Whether you walk, ride or simply sit and enjoy nature, you’ll be happy you did it—but come prepared, and layer up if it’s cold.
Have you recently discovered trails, or are you a long-time trail enthusiast? Either way, we hope you’ll share your “Trail Moments”—and the stories of how trails have impacted your life during COVID-19. Take the survey below, or share using #TrailMoments on social media.