I have a confession. I’m black and I love outdoor sports – mountain biking, kayaking, snowboarding, skiing, backpacking etc. You name it, I’ve probably tried or plan to try it. I’m not really good at any of them, but I have a great time trying. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of black people who like to do this kind of stuff. I get quizzical looks from friends or accused of “acting white.” It’s unfortunate that so many of us put ourselves in boxes. There are so many rich life experiences waiting for you outdoors.
This year my adventures include snowboarding and backpacking. I’m taking you along for the ride. Hopefully I’ll inspire you to go outside and play.
My snowboarding adventure:
I stood on my snowboard at Appalachain Ski resort willing the board to turn right as I glided gingerly down the bunny slope. Sometimes it turned right, sometimes it turned left, but mostly it sent me tumbling – again.
It was like that in my four-day tour of North Carolina ski resorts. Experts say it takes three-days to learn how to ski or snowboard. I tried snowboarding a decade ago and it didn’t end well. Let’s just say, I wiped out a little kid as I flew down the slope out of control.
This time I was determined to learn how to snowboard.
As I worked on my skills at the three resorts, I noticed that two things hadn’t changed since I tried snowboarding years ago – I’m not a good snowboarder and blacks don’t do snowsports. In my days on the North Carolina slopes, I saw a black young lady learning to snowboard, a group of black snowboarding teens and one black family.
Every other year the National Brotherhood of Skiers organizes the Black Ski Summit bringing thousands to ski resorts in towns such as Lake Tahoe, Calif.; and, Aspen, Colo. The next summit is in 2017, which give you the remainder of this ski season and next winter to get ready.
The mountains are getting a fresh batch of snow this weekend so go play!
Skiing While Black
1. Little Kid Learning To SkiSource:Sam Dean 1 of 16
2. Little Kid Learning To SkiSource:Sam Dean 2 of 16
3. SkiingSource:Sam Dean 3 of 16
4. Skybar at Beech MountainSource:Sam Dean 4 of 16
5. Kid learning to skiSource:Sam Dean 5 of 16
6. Skiing at Beech MountainSource:Biran Gomsak 6 of 16
7. Snowboard lessonsSource:Brian Gomsak 7 of 16
8. SkiingSource:Sam Dean 8 of 16
9. Tonya SnowboardingSource:Craig Distl 9 of 16
10. Tonya SnowboardingSource:Craig Distl 10 of 16
11. Tonya SnowboardingSource:Craig Distl 11 of 16
12. Shrimp and Grits at Beech MountainSource:Craig Distl 12 of 16
13. Tonya SnowboardingSource:Craig Distl 13 of 16
14. Tonya SnowboardingSource:Craig Distl 14 of 16
15. Tonya SnowboardingSource:Craig Distl 15 of 16
16. Snowboarding at Hawks NestSource:Craig Distl 16 of 16
If you are in the Carolinas: (All of the resorts offer lessons and equipment rentals.)
This is the closest resort to Charlotte and it makes skiing simple for newcomers. Not only does Appalachian rent ski and snowboards, but the resort also rents ski pants and jackets. This was my favorite place to learn. I got comfortable on the really small bunny slow. Then I graduated to the larger bunny slope. It gave me a chance to get comfortable going faster. It’s a great transition to get you ready for real slopes. Once you get good, Appalachian has a terrain park area. Think of it like a skatepark for snowboarders. Come hungry, the food is pretty good. It’s not the typical burgers and fries. I had a delicious Shepherd’s Pie.
Scared to try skiing? Sugar Mountain has ice skating, but even cooler it has snowshoe trails. Snowshoeing is a great workout and a beautiful way to see the mountain without zooming down a giant slope at breakneck speed. We walked up the easy trail and still had to take a break for a couple of the people in our group. If you’re looking for a workout and don’t want to do face-plants all day, try snowshoeing. Be sure to wear snow boots or some type of waterproof shoe and wool socks. You wear your shoes in the snowshoe so your feet will get wet and cold quickly trudging through the snow.
If you like sledding, you’ll love tubing at Hawks Nest. There are 27 trails and you can get some good speed gliding down the hills. Link tubes with a friend and you’ll go even faster. We had the most epic crash, which was frowned upon by the managers. But boy was it fun. Also, be sure to wear snows boots or waterproof shoes because your feet will be cold and wet quickly. Don’t forget the wool socks to keep your feet dry and warm.
Ever wanted to go to a Swiss Alp style ski resort? Beech Mountain is your place. It’s a ski village complete with shops, an onsite brewery, an ice skating rink and tubing. It’s not the best place for beginners. The bunny slope is too small to feel comfortable with speed, but they do have cones to practice control. Other than the bunny slope, Beech is awesome. There’s a bonfire in the middle of the village. The onsite restaurant had the yummiest shrimp and grits. Head to the top of the mountain to the 5506 Skybar that overlooks the slopes. You can watch all of the people ski down the mountain while you drink some liquid courage to help you soar back down the slopes.