Meet the Brotherhood
VAIL – When he skis, Herman L. Jackson wear a train conductor’s hat instead of a winter cap or helmet.”It’s a habit I have and I like it,” said Jackson, a 62-year-old black man from Stone Mountain, Ga., who has been skiing for more than 30 years. Jackson started to ski soon after visiting Lake Tahoe with his wife. “I saw the outfits in the ski lodge and we decided that the next trip we would take ski lessons and we have been skiing ever since,” said Jackson, who is among the 2,000 black people attending the 2005 National Brotherhood of Skiers summit in Vail this week.Wearing a cowboy hat with her yellow-and-black ski club jacket, Kim Barksdale, president of a 122-member club called the Texas Ski Rangers that belongs to the National Brotherhood of Skiers, was preparing Wednesday to go to a picnic at Golden Peak.
“I chose the sport because of the friends,” said Barksdale, 46, of Dallas, who has been skiing for nine years and skis about 20 days every winter. “I met them in the summer. They were so nice and they loved skiing, so I got hooked, too. “Where do we ski? Wherever we can find snow,” Barksdale said.Diversifying the sportMaurice Mansion, 40, a member of a ski club from Cleveland, Ohio, started skiing when he moved to Ohio 10 years ago. Skiing helped him handle the cold Ohio winters, said Mansion, who grew up in Southern California. “Believe it or not there are three ski mountains in Cleveland,” he said. “It takes three seconds to get down the hill but you have somewhere to ski.”
Eddie Robinson, 52, of the Alamo Ski Club of San Antonio, said if he had to choose between skiing and other sports such as football or basketball he would choose skiing.”I like skiing because I’m from the city,” said Robinson, who has been skiing since 1985. “I knew nothing of getting in the woods. This was something totally different. Most of us come from cities where smog is a problem.” While basketball is perceived as a sport dominated by blacks, the idea that black people don’t ski is both reality and perception, Mansion said.”A lot of it has to do with economics,” he said. “(Skiing) was something that had never been introduced to the African American community. It’s almost like golf with Tiger Woods. As we see another African American at a high level of skiing, you’ll see more African Americans turned towards the sport.”To Barksdale, the number of black skiers is growing because there are more opportunities.
“It initially started off as an economic thing,” she said. “Basketball, you can do it in your backyard.”Access and economicsSchone Malliet, executive vice president of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, said he doesn’t believe it has to do with ethnicity.
“Look at golf and tennis,” Malliet said. “The Williams sisters and Tiger Woods. I don’t thinks it’s about ethnicity. It’s about access. It’s a matter of economics. Golf has had more access than skiing.”On Wednesday, hundreds of black people gathered at Golden Peak for a ski race, a picnic and some dancing. The slope was littered with bright-colored jackets and National Brotherhood of Skiers members were grooving to music played by a deejay.”I had the best time today,” said a smiling Calvin Browne as he sat on one of the picnic tables after finishing his run. Browne, 53, who skis with the Jim Dandy Ski Club of Detroit, said he’s been skiing since 1986.”I needed to do something for the winter time,” he said. “I loved it the first time. There was no skiing in Alabama where I grew up, so I couldn’t have selected this sport.”Of the top 50 ski resorts in the country, Browne said he’s skied all but five.
“I love to watch the winter Olympics,” he added. “It’s as important as watching a Super Bowl.”Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Vail, Colorado