Snowboarding for change: CCA alum hosts fundraiser for Black Lives Matter

Michael McDaniel catches air at the Barrer to Entry event he organized in Utah.
(Chris Beresford)

Canyon Crest Academy alum Michael McDaniel recently put on a charity snowboarding event in Salt Lake City, Utah that united the snowboard community in the fight against racism. The June 12 “Barrier to Entry” event raised $6,000 to support the Black Lives Matter movement and promoted equality and inclusivity in snowboarding.

McDaniel moved to Salt Lake City six years ago but still feels a strong connection to Del Mar where he grew up, attending Del Mar Heights and Earl Warren Middle School. He learned to snowboard when he was 9 years old with Blue Angels Youth Ski and Snowboard Camp, an organization founded by Del Mar residents to give Southern California children and teens the opportunity to experience the local mountains. Thanks to Blue Angels, he learned to snowboard on trips to Mountain High Ski Resort in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Michael McDaniel

McDaniel has been chasing the snow ever since—after graduating high school he headed for the mountains and Salt Lake City. He ended up going to college for a couple years and is now doing marketing and social media for a snowboard company.

The Barrier to Entry idea started out as just a series of text messages with friends Jeff Holce and Laura Rogoski that continued to well, snowball into a big event. The group had no experience planning such an event but were determined to forge ahead, gathering sponsor support along the way.

The friends went out to scout for some snow in the Alta Ski area. In Salt Lake City, they can still get snow in May and June and they were lucky to find a shady spot in Little Cottonwood Canyon with 6 to 8 feet of snow. With a handful of friends over the course of two days, they dug and hand-built a mini-snowboard park with obstacles to ride.

They then spread the word through flyers and social media about how to hike up to the spot and pitch in a donation of $5 to ride for a good cause. With the pandemic, face masks and social distancing were encouraged—the state of Utah eased COVID-19 restrictions on large group gatherings in June, allowing up to 6,000 people at an outdoor gathering.

To see the stream of people hiking to their mini-park was an amazing sight to see.

“I was expecting about 20 to 30 people but about 110 showed up, it was wild,” McDaniel.

In addition to the entry fee, they also raised money through proceeds from food sales, a raffle and art auction. McDaniel was also contacted by someone who wanted to match the amount raised that day with a donation to The Dillon Ojo Lifeline Foundation, a non-profit in memory of a talented Black snowboarder who passed away in 2018. The donor was able to give $6,000 to the organization that provides underprivileged youth with opportunities to participate in sports, camps and other activities—a cause that perfectly matches McDaniel’s mission.

Part of McDaniel’s idea of making snowboarding more inclusive is to get more people outside and exposed to nature, the mountains and snow sports that he was so fortunate to experience as a kid and then to make his life and work.

As a Black snowboarder, there have times when McDaniel was unsure of his place in the snowboarding community, but that day felt like magic—it was inspiring to see people from such a niche group, from so many different walks of life, all come together to support a cause and to make sure theirs is an open and welcoming sport.

“I’ve been buzzing about it for weeks. I’m so happy to see how loving and inclusive the snowboarding community is. It’s such a hard time for everybody, everyone wants to do the right thing and we’re all doing our best,” McDaniel said. “It’s really unique to be alive in a time like this and to have a voice and to put something together like this. It’s very surreal and I’m thankful for all of it.”