Black Skiers Celebrate 50 Years of ‘Soul on Snow’


More than 2,000 people have gathered in Vail, Colorado, to mark a half-century of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, an organisation created by black ski and snowboard enthusiasts. NEW

The 2023 Summit of the NBS was attended by the two founders, Ben Finley and Art Clay, now both in their mid-80s.

They got together to set up the Brotherhood in 1972 but its first summit, attended by 350 people, was held a year later, so the 50th anniversary is being marked this month.

PlanetSKI interviewed Ben and Art in 2022 when they were officially inducted into the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Ben told us that the Brotherhood had: ” introduced snow sports to the African American community, creating a huge family and squashing the idea that black folks don’t ski.”

Both Ben and Art fell into skiing by chance.

Art Clay & Ben Finley, US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame – photo c/o National Brotherhood of Skiers

“Some friends talked me into going on a ski trip.  I saw all the pretty girls out there and decided that was for me,” Art told us.

Eventually he got hooked and went skiing every weekend at slopes nearest to his home in Chicago.

“Each time we would go we might see one other black on the slopes.  By the time we left the slopes that person was a friend of ours and we would communicate.”

The founders of the NBS on the slopes – photo c/o National Brotherhood of Skiers

The annual NBS summit brings together more than 50 member clubs and thousands of supporters from across the USA for a week of winter sports, races, parties and concerts.

The main purpose is to raise money to support the NBS Olympic Scholarship Fund.

The fund is use to help identify, develop and support athletes of colour who will win Olympic and International winter sports competitions for the USA and increase participation in winter sports.

It also works to introduce snowsports to young people and adults with grassroots programmes and to increase diversity and inclusion in the winter sports industry.

“We’ll always be a minority but, yes, I think the creation of the NBS and the tens of thousands of people that we have managed to bring to the ski slopes has generally and dramatically increased the number of people skiing,” Ben told PlanetSKI.

NBS 50th Summit. Image c/o National Brotherhood of Skiers

Read more of our interview with Ben and Art and read the full story behind the National Brotherhood of Skiers:

And watch the coverage of the 50th anniversary event by Rocky Mountain PBS:

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