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Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

Before Breckenridge was chosen, a bidding process was held and then the ski clubs voted on where they wanted to go.

The Summit, which is held in odd years, is NBS’s biennial fundraiser, which brings together well over 5000 people from all across the country for a week of winter sports fun. The primary purpose of this fundraiser is to support the NBS Olympic Scholarship Fund, designed to provide financial support for exceptional athletes of color who excel in winter sports.

Note* (At the time of this printing, the location of 2009’s main Summit had not been decided.)

A veteran skier and a diehard NBS participant, as well as the president, Pickrum takes her job seriously.

“The way our process works is, we send out bids to 77 clubs, the clubs decide where we’ll go that following year,” said Pickrum. “We use the bidding process to find out who is interested in hosting us. We want resorts to make us an offer on lodging, the kids camp, reduced rates on event facilities like ballrooms and meeting space, as well as hosting a number of other things. The success of our event is dependent on membership participation.  We chose Colorado this year because it has premiere skiing. It also sits in the middle of the country. For people all over the country, the middle is appealing.” 

Most resorts admittedly look forward to working with the NBS, which has a fabulous reputation for bringing in big numbers.

“We’d love to host them again,” said Stinson. “ Without a doubt they are the best club out there. The good naturedness and obvious deep pockets they have is tremendous. NBS spends money and has fun. But, they’re so large, it’s hard to find a room block.”

At the 1999 Black Summit, the Bureau of Economic and Business Research’s study on (i)The Impact on the Salt Lake Regional Economy of Spending by Participants in the Black Summit 1999 of the National Brotherhood of Skiers(ei), done by

the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, found that an average of $1,226.93 was spent on the trip by skiers (not including airfare). An average of $187.09 was spent per day. Some skiers were in Salt Lake City for 10 days. About 5,000 persons attended the 2000 summit in Salt Lake City. That computes out to more than $6 million plus air transportation. The University hasn’t done a more recent study.

Skiing is not for the faint of wallet!

For those that don’t know, the NBS has economic clout!  As evidence to the dollar power it has, the NBS pointedly reminds industry reps that during their 1993 Black Summit at Vail, which was attended by about 6,000 skiers, they pumped more than $10 million into the local economy in one week!  Local NBS chapters sponsor 400 ski trips per year, with a total spending about $35 million.

Do that math!

With those kinds of numbers some African-Americans wonder if it’s too much to ask of a resort to include diverse images in its promotional material, spend advertising dollars at Black-owned media outlets and occasionally see people like themselves in managerial positions, or as ski instructors and ski lift operators, for example.

The NBS is only interested in the placement of an African-American at the executive level if they are a qualified professional. They’re not interested in resorts hiring Blacks for the sake of how it looks, especially if it doesn’t yield any real power.

When it comes to hiring, it’s true that ski towns are different from most. There are very few African-Americans concentrated in the towns, and, therefore, they may not generate a lot of job applications.

However, some ski industry executives admit that recruitment can still be done at African-American colleges, and promotional material and advertising can still be targeted to this market.

Over the years the NBS has spoken to ski resorts about that very thing.  The resorts are aware of what they need to do. However, it’s been a slow process.

“But this is not a sad story,” said Pickrum. “Things are definitely improving.”

Diversity has become a buzz word as of late. And, when it comes to the ski industry, all claim to practice it – even though African-American and other ethnic group representation is few and far between. 

“We follow national regulations when it comes to the racial makeup.” said Stinson. “We haven’t tracked our efforts, though. We will hire whoever fits the bill and is ideal. Right now, I don’t know if we have any African-Americans working here. We may have a few.”

Stinson points out that there are very few African-American’s working the ski slopes in Utah, because there are very few African-Americans in the state.

“We’re pigeonholed as white bread community, but we’re anything but,” said Stinson.  “About 77 percent of the community is White. We have a lot of Pacific Islanders – Blacks are 1.3 percent. Hispanics 15.3 percent and Asian is three percent.  We have a strong gay/lesbian community as well. We have the second largest pride parade behind San Francisco. People who give Salt Lake a chance, I think when it’s said and done, they’ll probably walk away with a different feeling and opportunity.”

According to the 1999-2000 Utah Skier Survey, Blacks made up only one percent of all skiers in the area. Asians made up three percent, others were one percent and Whites made up 95 percent.

Utah is known for its fabulous skiing!  However, it’s not well known for having a heavy African-American population.   Of the 9,000 residents in Park City, Malone says there are about 25 Blacks.

“I have a hard time recalling getting any African-American applicant candidates,” said Malone.

Although the area does not have a public conference facility, they do have 4,500 sets of accommodations and have the ability to house 23,000.

The slopes are open from Thanksgiving weekend through April 13, 2008.

Robert Levine, general manager of Antlers at Vail is high on Colorado.  However, he also admits that no efforts are being made to target the African-American skier.

“I think it’s because our marketing efforts are meant to attract everybody, of all colors,” said Levine, who added his company hasn’t attended any African-American conferences, seminars or exhibits in about three years. “If we focus on a segment, like insurance agents, there’s a lot of group biz, meetings, from insurance industry. If you focus just on them to the exclusion of others, like women, gays, any other market segment that you want to define, it would be counter productive. I don’t claim that this is correct, it may be wrong, but the fact is we try to be all things to all people. We send our market out to everybody.”

When told African-Americans aren’t necessarily looking to be the focus to the exclusion of others, Levine said he understood.

“We do look hard at the African-American skier,” said Levine. “But not as targeted as we might. We do it through our regular marketing channels, like when we do our direct mail piece. It doesn’t necessarily target any segment of the market.  It may not be the best approach. If we truly want to attract the Black community, we should target that. Same with the medical community. But we tend not to.”

Levine said Antlers at Vail doesn’t “formally” practice diversity, although they love to hire folks of different backgrounds – and have an African-American helming the front desk.

Vail Mountain, considered the largest ski area in North America, usually hosts about 1.5 million skiers annually. The destination boasts 16,000 rooms, 150 ski days and is open from mid-November to Mid-April. They are expecting 4,000 guest stays this year, which is considered a record.

In a 2006/2007 national demographic study prepared by RRC Associates in Boulder, Colorado for the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), it noted a number of statistics.

When it comes to race/ethnicity, consistent with historic patterns, most skiers and snowboarders surveyed recently were White (89 percent). As measured by the survey this season, 4.1 percent of participants were Asian, 2.8 percent were Hispanic/Spanish/Latino, 1.1 percent were African-American, 0.9 percent were Native American, and 2.0 percent reported another/mixed race/ethnicity.

There is moderate variability in ethnicity by region. The Southeast has the greatest diversity (19 percent racial/ethnic minority, based on 2000/01-2006/07 average). It has the highest concentration of African-Americans (3.1 percent). Ethnic minorities as a whole are much more likely than non-Hispanic  Whites to be on snowboards (47 percent, vs. 30 percent White).

Ethnic/racial minority groups remain an important potential growth segment for the industry. Minorities are still significantly underrepresented in skiing/snowboarding (13 percent of visits, based on multi-season average) relative to their share of the U.S. population (34 percent, per 2006 Census estimates). Moreover, the proportion of minorities in the U.S. population is projected to increase significantly in the future, and therefore minority representation.

International ski survey figures show that only .7 percent of the world’s skiers are Black, 4.9 percent are other, 5.9 percent are Asian and 88.5 percent are White.

With more and more African-Americans discovering the thrill of skiing and the NBS at the helm, that .7 percent is sure to rise.

“I’m committed and so is NBS in getting more African-Americans on the slopes,” said Pickrum. “Every year we see more. Our mission is strong and so is our commitment. The industry is starting to take notice.”

“It’s noted that the NBS has a voice in this industry,” said Stinson.  “Believe me, we’re listening.”

Slowly, but surely, NBS is being recognized as a power. Gaining power without getting its “due” is not something the organization is willing to settle for. The organization is always seeking a higher level in all areas of its operation. From improvement in its youth program, to the organizations’ growth, to seeing ethnic images in a resort’s promotional material and advertising – the NBS vows to push on until the battle is won.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Pickrum. “We’re passionate about our cause. We will see our mission through to the end.”

GETTING IN TOUCH

  • National Brotherhood of Skiers —  (773) 955-4100
  • Antlers at Vail — (800) 843-8245
  • Mammoth Ski Area —  (760) 934-2571
  • Park City Area CVB —  (800) 453-1360
  • Salt Lake City CVB —  (800) 541-4955
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