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Diversity key to snowsports’ survival

Roberto L. Moreno

As a person of color who has been skiing Vail for 36 years, I’m saddened to see the racially negative image that has been cast on Vail Valley because of the insensitivity of the Vail Symposium and its ludicrous decision to provide a forum for race-baiting Dick Lamm and his simplistic solutions to racial mobility and academic success.Ex-Governor’s Dick Lamm’s gibberish that Latinos and African Americans don’t have the “Jewish or Japanese love of learning and upward mobility” has started a firestorm in Denver and is rekindling a basic belief here along the Front Range that mountain communities like Vail are simply exclusionary white enclaves where racist rhetoric by curmudgeon old white men – who portend to know what is best for people of color – are thriving.Since ALPINO brought over 2,600 mostly multicultural urban kids to the Vail Resorts during the 2005-2006 season, I find myself defending the politics of Vail. It’s a battle I shouldn’t be fighting because the snowsports experiences that Vail Resorts provided our kids last year were positively life-changing for our kids and opened their eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. Those trips created “educational options” for those kids because it showed them a place that might be better than the place they were born into. Dick Lamm should have been required to sit on our buses and view the astonishment on the faces of our children as they hit the top of the Genesee grade on I-70 and savored their first unobstructed views of the Colorado Rockies. That’s the kind of inspiration they need, not foolish ill-informed criticisms of their family infrastructure.Ironically, as America moves to a minority majority by 2035 or earlier, the most immediate enemy of our national forests is minorities and the millions of U.S. kids today who are growing up with no relationship to the mountains and so are ambivalent about protecting the legacy of America’s national parks and forests and less likely to recreate responsibly when and if they ever get to those mountains. According to Mary Lou Miller, executive director of the Colorado Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 75-80 percent of Colorado kids never ever get to the mountains during their entire life. That’s right. Never! In fact, while Colorado represents the highest percentage use of U.S. forest land in the operation of its ski areas and mountain recreation activities, it reflects the lowest minority participation rate in the U.S. at less than 10 percent adjusted, according to the National Ski Areas Association 2006 Demographic Study. So why is that a big deal? Simply put, if you’re not exposed to mountains you’re not going to care about mountains!So what’s the best solution? Take a kid to the mountains! Your kid. Any kid, the irritating kid down the street with the backwards baseball cap whose vocabulary is limited to the discourse markers “dude” and “like.””Creating meaningful mountain recreation experiences for kids is a practical way of heading off the large scale sale of our forests,” said U.S. Congressman Mark Udall. Congressman Udall and a few enlightened lawmakers now understand a reality threatening to turn the legacy of our forests into strip malls, oil shale digs and more pricey enclaves where increasingly few Coloradans can afford to live or play. Sadly, the selling of our forests would represent an unprecedented national tragedy indeed for future generations of Americans – not just because we are destroying the legacy but because it contributes to our geopolitically insane addiction to fossil fuels. Oil from shale is the same as oil from the Saudi Royal family: It exacerbates global warming and redirects the commitment America should be making to alternative energy technologies. However, to a generation of Americans raised with no affinity for our mountains, how big a loss can it be if it means the Smith family from Highlands Ranch or “la familia” Gonzalez from North Denver can fill up their gas guzzling SUV for a couple of bucks a gallon? The fact that national forest visits are growing just means the historical demographic of mountain recreation is visiting our forests more often and still represents a small percentage of the actual voting public. That’s why there’s no escalated buy-in to support our under-funded forests and national parks. Although the smartest people in the mountain recreation industry have made dramatic strides recently to embrace diversity and inclusivity and increase youth outreach, most of the mountain recreation industry is still not reaching out to the country’s multicultural economic future or its middle class (what’s left of it). “I believe that breaking down the perception of snow sports as an exclusive, segregated sport is a cause worthy of long-term commitment,” said Sen. Ken Salazar. “Organizations such as ALPINO help reduce that perception and solidify a passion for snow sports in another generation of Colorado youth.”Roberto Lopez Moreno is Founder and President of the Colorado based snowsports diversity initiative ALPINO and now writing the nation’s first “Guide to Snowsports Diversity Best Practices,” a project of the National Ski Areas Association and ALPINO. He may be reached at: roberto@alpino.org .


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