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Elegance, entertainment and economics

Scott Cunningham

For the third year in a row, Black Enterprise Magazine is bringing its annual Ski Challenge event to Vail’s Cascade Resort and Spa this coming President’s Day Weekend.The five-day networking and recreation extravaganza typically brings around 700 of the country’s leading African-American entrepreneurs and business professionals, according to Ski Challenge program manager Ingrid E. Banks.”We’re coming to take this place by storm, in a good way,” says Banks.The five-day influx of participants typically nets more than $1 million in local revenue, according to Black Enterprise communications director Donna Dick, as well as top-of-the-line performers in music and comedy, major celebrities and representatives of major corporate sponsors such as Polo, Moet and Chandon, Coors Light, Pepsi, AT&T, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.”We anticipate seeing Jaguars and Land Rovers in the ballroom,” assures Desmond Cadogan of Black Enterprise’s corporate communications department.Headlining the entertainment this year will be R&B singer Angie Stone, winner of two Lady Soul Awards and a platinum-selling recording artist for J Records.On the funnier side of things will be comedians Michael Coylar, a former host of Black Entertainment Television’s (BET) Live from LA and Comic View, as well as up-and-comer Beth Payne, who has been featured on the Jamie Fox Show and Damon Wayon’s sitcom My Wife and Kids. The comedy night will be hosted by inimitable hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh.Past celebrity attendees of the event have been actress Pam Grier, lawyer Johnny Cochran and the Rev. Al Sharpton. While Black Enterprise has not yet released the A-list for this year, Banks mentions that New Orleans Saints football player Eric Brooks will among the participants this year.The point of the event, says Cadogan, is to bring together African-American business professionals for ” a little bit of networking and a lot of recreation.” The event fits in nicely with the purpose of Black Enterprise Magazine, says Dick, because it brings to life the culture the magazine espouses on its pages.Formed in 1970 by Kennedy administration veteran Earl G. Graves, Black Enterprise is a niche magazine that functions as a forum for the concerns and ideas of the black business community. To that end, title sponsor AXA Advisors will be hosting several financial seminars during the five-day event. The balance between business and pleasure at the Ski Challenge reflects Graves himself, who, according to Dick, is one of the leading black businessmen in the world and “a very accomplished skier.”When not on the mountain, challenging each other to Nastar races sponsored by Vail Resorts, the participants will be indulging in spa treatments, pilates and yoga classes, and exploring Vail Village. And as two of the sponsors are Grand Marnier and Hennessy, the aprs ski receptions will be comfortable to say the least.The Ski Challenge comes to Vail Feb. 12 and runs through Feb. 17.”We’re (Vail Resorts) looking forward to welcoming for the third consecutive year the Black Enterprise Ski Challenge,” says Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga. “It’s been a tremendously successful partnership, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to continue hosting this event through 2009 and beyond.”


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