Since 1978, I have been involved in various capacities with the snow sports industry. My observation is that the industry always has struggled to create a more “inclusive” community in the U.S. aside from whites. Maybe the “whiteness” has to do with skiing’s origins in countries like Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and even Germany (Bavaria).
California’s Mountain High has an incredibly diverse clientele but it is only about 1.5 hours from Los Angeles. On the East Coast, locations like Whitetail and Liberty near Washington, DC or Camelback, an easy drive from New York City also cater to a more diverse clientele. So, maybe the issue is proximity to a ski/snowboard resort?
Or, is the issue cost? With about three percent of the U.S. population snow sports enthusiasts, and that an even more limited number will purchase season passes, the issue of the “non-white” population takes on multiple dimensions. The high cost of one day tickets at some resorts is probably not helping either.
Or, maybe the issue is little visualization of non-whites, leading leading “people of color” to think they may not be welcome. How may photos does one see of non-whites on the slopes? It’s a rhetorical question! And, how diverse is the employee base in the ski/snowboard industry, anyway.
The industry and some groups are trying to expand the scope of those who are interested and why they should be interested. The product-oriented trade association SnowSports Industries America (SIA) is running a series of monthly town hall sessions targeting “inclusivity” for its members right now. Many sessions and recaps are open to the public. Dr. Gerlyn Davis of Inclusion on the slopes is moderating the series. The November session was entitled Growth and Participation: How to Create Inclusion. SIA even has a statement regarding inclusion on its web site as does the National Ski Areas Association.
Just a few days after the latest SIA workshop, the North American Snow Sports Journalists Association hosted a webinar for its members entitled Awaken Unconscious Bias in Your Snow Sports Coverage. Laura Moriarty, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, president of Tahoe Training Partners, discussed inclusion from a variety of perspectives including how to help create a sense of belonging for snow sports enthusiasts of all ability levels and identities.
For a long time, a number of organizations and groups have played an active role encouraging more diversity in the snow sports community. Among others, there are the Nubian Ski Club in Vermont, Black Ski out of D.C., Black Girls and Snowboarders, the National Brotherhood of Skiers.
Seemingly, the snow sports industry is taking the “diversity/inclusion” issue more seriously. At the very least, it would be a good business decision. With many concerned about how expensive lift ticket prices have become (See related story), it is hard enough to keep current participants involved much less pull new people into the sports. But, operating with tight marketing budgets, it may be wishful thinking that resorts and product suppliers can figure out a way – fast – to address the issue effectively.
A snow sports colleague recently posted on Facebook an antidote about his son’s high school swim team’s performance that earned them free lift tickets at a major Colorado resort. The announcement to the team was made with great aplomb only to be met with silence save for one team member who posed the question: “Skiing? Isn’t that something old white people do…?
Is that the perception?
Comments on this topic are welcome.