VAIL, Colo. — Representation matters.
And when it comes to people of color participating in and sharing predominately white spaces, there are few examples better than the 2023 National Brotherhood of Skiers' summit in which thousands of Black ski and snowboard enthusiasts, including professionals, ventured to the mountains of Vail to celebrate their love for winter sports.
“It’s only when we are able to see people who look like us doing these sports, that we get somewhere in the back of our mind, ‘Maybe I’d like to try that,’” said Ben Finley, who is in his 80s and cofounded the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS). “And so that’s why it’s important organizations like this exist.”
Finley and his friend Art Clay founded NBS in 1972. Finley said he and Clay did not have a clue of what they were getting into, describing the early days of the organization as “rolling a packed up little snowball on to top of Aspen Mountain and rolling it down the hill with no plan.”
In 1973, NBS held its first summit. What started out as a gathering of just over 300 participants has now, half a century later, turned into an annual event that attracts over 2,000 skiers each year.
This year, the NBS gathered in Vail to celebrate “50 years of Soul on Snow.” This year's festivities are taking place from Feb. 4-11.