TODAY PRIDE MONTH COMES TO A CLOSE, BUT PRIDE IN THE MOUNTAINS LIVES FOREVER.
Across the ranging landscape of snow sports, diversity and inclusion have long played an important, if not overshadowed role. This is a fact that Jack Hessler knows well. While pursuing a career as a professional snowboarder, Jack learned to embrace his true self and advocate for inclusivity in the mountains.
An East Coast original, the mountains of New England set the stage for Jack’s snowboarding passion. The rugged terrain provided a backdrop where his family could spend time together, connecting on the slopes while finding fun on the snow. Growing up as a skateboarder, Jack was a natural on the board, quickly progressing from cuts to kickers, terrain parks, and steep deeps.
As luck would have it, Jack’s family moved to Jackson Hole while he was in high school, introducing him to the awe-inspiring landscapes, powder-rich runs, and the allure of big mountain riding. It was through this move that Jack knew his life was forever changed. Inspired by the snowboarding community in his new hometown, Jack’s dream of turning his passion into a career began to take shape.
”It became pretty clear that [snowboarding] was the best job you could have [...] traveling to contests, exploring and filming in the backcountry, and just riding amazing mountains. I couldn’t imagine anything better.
However, every journey to success and acceptance is not without its obstacles. There’s no way to sugarcoat it – the outdoor sports industry has had its share of homophobia. This history adds layers of complexity for riders like Jack, who undertake a journey of coming out while also embracing their passion for the snow sports they love. Looking back, Jack remembers how the coming out of professional skateboarder Brian Anderson was one of the most meaningful moments of his life, as Anderson was the first professional male skateboarder be open about his queerness. Jack was inspired to accept his sexuality and realized how vital representation is as a change agent in this snow-covered world.
By celebrating Pride, Jack believes that the misconception that queer individuals are not part of the outdoor sports world can be rewritten. Jack’s presence in the sport, along with other LGBTQ+ athletes, challenges stereotypes and paves the way for a more diverse and accepting community where everyone feels welcome.
”I hope my story can be a small piece in the puzzle that is inclusivity in the outdoors.
Looking ahead, Jack holds a vision of a more inclusive future for LGBTQ+ athletes and hopes to see more grants that support diverse groups and events that center around embracing and integrating the queer community into the outdoor sports community.
“Imagine walking into a snowboard shop and seeing a pride flag. Opening a magazine and seeing two girls kissing next to a photo of one of them doing a hand plant. Picture companies dropping queer-themed merch in November and marketing queer athletes. I want all of that to be normal,” Jack says, “and hopefully, one day, it will be.”