Ski clubs aren’t as hip as they used to be, but they are key to diversifying Colorado’s slopes |

Ski clubs aren’t as hip as they used to be, but they are key to diversifying Colorado’s slopes

Ski clubs that anchor the National Brotherhood of Skiers are a popular way to attract more diverse skiers and snowboarders to mountains

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
Philip Scott, right, with Anu KMT, far right, with his son, Ansar, in back, of Washington, D.C., ride together at Vail ski area on Feb. 7, 2023.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

Ski clubs were a huge deal in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Those groups introduced countless new skiers to the sport with discounted trips, lift tickets, gear and transportation. Today, as the resort industry focuses on discounted season passes as a way to increase participation, those clubs have lost their economic allure. While resorts still offer group discounts, the number of clubs is declining and membership is waning. 

Ski clubs “are not as necessary as they used to be,” said Zeffie Bruce, the former president of the San Jose, California-based Fire and Ice ski club. “Younger people typically decide on the spur of the moment to go skiing and they don’t really need a club anymore. It’s just a different model now.”

The National Brotherhood of Skiers, which is rallying for its 50th annual summit this week in Vail with more than 2,000 attendees, fosters the most vibrant collection of ski clubs in the country. The NBS held its first summit in 1973 in Aspen and its success is driven by more than 57 ski clubs across the country. 

The main focus of the National Brotherhood of Skiers and its many clubs is to support Black athletes as they pursue the upper echelons of winter sports. The group has assisted X Games athletes — like gold-medal snowboarder Zeb Powell — and several elite skating and bobsledding Olympians, but skiing and snowboarding remain a very white endeavor. 

The most recent surveys of resort skiers collected by the National Ski Areas Association shows 89% of skiers identifying as white, 5.7% as Asian, 5.5% as Latino and 1.5% as Black. Those percentages have not shifted much in the past decade, though the association’s surveys show a slight decrease in resort visits by nonwhite skiers in the 2020-21 season.

A bit of promise for more diversity on the slopes can be found in Generation Z, defined as people 25 and younger. That generation makes up the largest share of the U.S. population and it is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the history of the country. And Gen Zers like to ski. They accounted for 35% of the highest-ever 60.7 million visits in 2021-22

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