I'm heading to Aspen Snowmass in February to join in with around 3000 African American skiers from all over the States so look out for a great follow up article in March!
Here's the unedited version of my article:
Challenging the notion that black people don’t ski, around 3,000 African Americans will be descending on Snowmass this February to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Brotherhood of Skiers.
This signature ski Summit – the biggest in North America - will snag around $1million for Aspen/Snowmass businesses, attracting hordes of holidaymakers and locals to its exuberant events. These include an Olympic-style opening ceremony with thousands of members in Technicolor team jackets and banners. As well as fiercely-fought races, there’s a popular “picnic on the hill” with daytime dancing and celebrated DJ’s, like Doug E. Fresh, are expected to host “happy hours”.
“Last year at Sun Valley, people stopped us on the street and thanked us for coming,” says skier Lawanda Joseph from Florida. “Restaurants were packed, clubs were packed. It had an incredible financial impact on the resort and city.”
Founders Art Clay and Ben Finley who launched the NBS at the 1973 Summit in Aspen will be attending along with club members from all over America, including the Texas Ski Rangers. Skiing celebs such as actor Dorien Wilson and comedian Mark Curry have graced previous summits. “We’ve also had Malcolm Jamal Warner from the Cosby Show before and Sinbad, the comedian,” says Joseph. “TV Judge Joe Brown, who has a property in Aspen, has also been very supportive. He gave one of our opening speeches the last time we were in Snowmass”.
Honoring its Aspen origins, the NBS chose Snowmass largely because of its diverse terrain. “It is suitable for all levels of skiers,” says Joseph. “We have a fair amount of beginners coming in especially from the snowboard perspective but we also have intermediate to advanced skiers and, because the organization has been around so long, many experts.” Last season the Obama family chose the area for a ski visit.
The Summit is not only about skiing and après-ski antics: “We party but we party with a purpose,” says Joseph who volunteers as public relations director for the Brotherhood. The NBS’s mission is to introduce African Americans to wintersports with the goal of training black athletes for both Olympic and Paralympic Games. And this year there is a fundraising focus for the new National Winter Sports Education Foundation to introduce 100,000 underprivileged inner city youth to wintersports.
Despite regular regional ski trips and annual national events, the NBS is still under the radar in terms of awareness. “Everytime we go to these resorts they want a photo session and they ask us for models but we hardly ever see them doing anything with the pictures,” Joseph laments. When she travels in her South Florida club jacket, people always comment and ask where she skis in Florida! “It’s just a lack of education,” she says. “Skiers are different in real life from what you see in print and TV. The whole perception needs to be changed.”