Show-Me Skiers of St. Louis

By Outdoor Afro Contributor Danielle N. Lee
My first time skiing was an experience. I’m from the south, so frolicking in the cold or snow wasn’t a bog part of my childhood experience.  However, I love the outdoors and I love trying new things, so I joined a group of friends who introduced me to the basics of the slopes.

Preparing for my winter time Outdoor Afro adventure with Show Me Skiiers

It was an adventure!  I was far from great at it.  But I wasn’t deterred. So when I was invited to a Beginners Ski Trip with the Show-Me Skiers of St. Louis, the verr first African-American Ski club of St. Louis, Missouri, I decided to go for it.  Since 1983, this group of winter outdoor recreationists have been planning ski and snow boarding outings for adults and families.
It’s a rather popular outing because there were two busloads of skiers of all ages headed to Sundown Mountain Resort of Dubuque, Iowa.  One reason was the affordability.  The group negotiated a package that cost less $200 person (on average) for the weekend.  Related to skiing, the cost of lessons, equipment rental, lift and access to the slopes for two days of skiing or snowboarding was $60 for the whole weekend!  I know, super affordable and a great incentive to attract anyone interested in skiing or snowboarding.

Fellow Outdoor Afros taking a break from the slopes

I decided to give snowboarding a try.  I was no better at snowboarding than I was at skiing.  Both require muscles that I obviously have no command over! LOL!
It was a fun time and I recommend Show-Me Skiers, skiing or the Sundown Ski Mountain to anyone, especially to a newbie.  Here are more photos from the Ski Trip.

Sister Snowboarders!

Snowboarding is not just for the fellas. Outdoor Afro caught up with Tomar Brown (30) and Karen Anderson (36), of Washington D.C. who have found excitement and fun on the slopes.

Tomar and Karen

When asked how they each got involved with snowboarding together they said it started with rugby, which they have played competitively for the past ten years, and is where the two met and became a couple. “Rugby seems to have started a lot of things for us,” said Brown with a laugh. In the off-season she explained that some members of their rugby team take their sporting camaraderie to the slopes, so they had a ready-made community of support to get started. Even though some years ago, Karen took her young son out on the slopes to snowboard for the first time for the both of them, she found she enjoyed the sport more than he did. So she was delighted to meet Tomar years later, who re-ignited her interest in the slopes — something they enjoyed doing together.
When asked if the two ever felt uncomfortable or experienced stares while snowboarding, especially in settings where there are few people of color, the two shrugged it off and said that the slopes can actually feel anonymous as people are hidden behind layers of protective clothing and accessories. And the  journey down the mountain feels quite personal and solitary, where Tomar admits she might bump hip-hop or Kirk Franklin to get her snow groove on!
For the beginning snowboarder, Karen says, “forget the big trips and go instead to small towns.” Her favorites include North Conway, New Hampshire or when with a group, Steamboat Springs, Colorado.” She says that March is a great month to find deals in small towns, and when snowboarding away from the crowds, the experience feels more personal, and lodge bartenders remember your name! Both agreed that the most important thing is simply to learn how to snowboard, and along the way expect the sport to “beat you up, and take you down.” But once you gain control, finding that personal zone of fun and exhilarating release makes it all worthwhile.
What are your experiences skiing and snowboarding? If you have never tried, what holds you back?

Matthew Reese: Snowboarder

Matthew Reese of Seattle, Washington might have gone his entire life without laying a foot on a snowboard. In a recent phone interview, Reese said he used to think: black people don’t ski, snow is too cold, and snow sports conflict with basketball season! But earlier this year, at age 30, his snowboarding co-workers finally convinced him to trek up to the slopes with them on a trip that changed his perspective regarding what was possible through the experience of snowboarding.

Sitting down at mammoth: Matthew Reese

Sitting down at Mammoth: Matthew Reese

As a long time athlete, he felt confident he could take on a challenging run his first time out, but the mountain humbled him. Reese frankly calls that first time as “pretty horrible” and he even called it quits early in the day to tend to his battered limbs. However Reese was undeterred by the initial bruises, and was determined to try again a couple weeks later with an Urban League group for a Valentine’s Day event. The trip had a good mix people with varying skill levels and was where he found his snow groove that launched a new obsession for the rush, challenge, and excitement of snowboarding.
As an African-American male, I asked if he ever felt discriminated against while participating in the sport: “not at all,” says Reese. He finds that snowboarders are passionate about the sport and welcoming to anyone who feels the same way. The slopes are a great equalizer, however he does admit that it’s hard to be taken seriously in the board stores. Reese humorously recalls shop visits where employees learn after he starts talking, how knowledgeable he is about the sport and quickly change their customer service tune!
Reese is not playing around when it comes to snowboarding — in just this year, he has traveled to five different mountains and now skis every weekend. A favorite is his local Stevens Pass, but he also enjoys traveling to surrounding states to experience new challenges. For Reese, snowboarding has opened up a whole new path of fun, travel, and networking and he hopes others give snow sports a try as one way to discover new things about themselves, and the world around them.

Matthew Reese

Matthew Reese

Matthew Reese’s tips for Outdoor Afros who want to get started snowboarding:

  • If you are not certain about the sport, renting gear initially is fine
  • As soon as you know you want to continue with the sport, buy your gear as you’ll save money over time
  • It may be a big initial investment, but if you shop around, you’ll find many deals

Still not convinced black people and the snow mix? Do you have other ideas and tips to share? Comment about it!