Four leading snow sports industry executives convened recently in a Zoom call organized by the North American Snow Sports Journalists Association (NASJA). The hour-long conference call on June 25 spanned many topics including encouraging diversity among participants, a topic that has seemingly eluded the industry for years but has seen renewed interest perhaps as a result of current events. A previous post covered “predictions” the four leaders from SnowSports Industries America (SIA), National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), Vail Resorts and Ski Area Management (SAM) made about the 2020-21 season.
Alpine skiing has long been a male-dominated sport and, more specifically, a white male dominated sport. Snowboarding also skews toward males although the gender gap for both skiers and snowboarders has narrowed a bit in recent years. Of approximately 9.2 million skiers and snowboarders, approximately 72 % are white, according to an article in Powder magazine, while the U.S. white population in general is more like 64%.
During the call, SIA President Nick Sargent echoed that the industry is primarily white and male and spoke in depth about the issue of diversity and inclusion as it is being explored by the association. He said that the SIA board has declared is priority to “make things more diverse” so they “brought in more board members of color, gender, sexual orientation”. According to Sargent, the board, headed up by Serius Innovations CEO Wendy Carey is taking a “deep dive” regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and the SIA web site includes a “anti-racist statement” and dedicated diversity page.
The statement reads: “Silence in the face of racism is a statement. Racism has made the world, the workplace and our industry unequal and unsafe for far too long. We stand in solidarity with the peaceful protestors who are speaking out against the systemic injustices and racism that have plagued our nation for years to come”.
And, according to Sargent, SIA is conducting a series of Town Hall gatherings with a strong focus on diversity, equality and inclusion. He said that SIA and NSAA have formed a partnership to help define what DEI will look like perhaps including Asian Americans, Seniors, Hispanics and other groups. NSAA’s Kelly Pawlak indicated that that association’s “Growth Committee” is looking at a variety of ways to increase participation.
NSAA also has information regarding diversity on its web site and SIA has a robust page for Covid-19 that is designed to help its members deal with the pandemic that has reeked havoc on many communities and especially African-Americans and Hispanics. .
Meanwhile, one organization not mentioned by those on the call is the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), a non-profit group of primarily African=American skiers and snowboarders founded in 1973. It represents 55 individual clubs throughout the U.S. with a combined membership of 3,500 skiers and snowboarders. NBS hosts its annual Summit at different destination resort locations each year that hundreds of avid skiers and snowboarders. According to its web site, “the NBS is recognized by the ski industry as one of the largest ski organizations and its Summit as the largest gathering of skiers and riders, more than any other ski convention in the United States”.
Neither SIA nor NSAA gives the NBS much visibility although that latter does list NBS on its DEI page along with other non-profits dedicated to a more diverse snow sports population including SOS Outreach, Youth Enrichment Services, Chill Foundation and Share Winter. Another group not on the NSAA site is WimterKids.
One call attendee opined that these groups “should get more visibility”. That might be a good starting place.
More on diversity and growing the sports coming soon.