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Ski resorts urged to diversify

Brief by Central Staff

Recreation – March 2005 – Colorado Central Magazine

The American ski industry has been flat for the past two decades, averaging about 54 million visits a year after it grew rapidly in the 1960s and ’70s, thanks to Baby Boomers taking up the sport.

But many Boomer knees are no longer up to the challenge, and today’s youth are a more diverse lot than the mostly-white Boomers. One resort, Mountain High in southern California, was on the skids until it started marketing to African-American, Hispanic, and Asian kids in Los Angeles, 75 minutes away.

Business has tripled, to 500,000 skier-days, since the program began in 1997. Now, about 40% of the skiers are minorities – who are in fact in a majority of youths in Los Angeles – as well as many other American cities, Denver among them.

Robert Moreno of Denver, who was once the “only minority ski patroller in the entire state of Colorado,” has founded Alpino, a non-profit organization to promote the new demographics to the ski industry, and he’s having some success, although it was a hard sell at first.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, “executives at ski companies initially ‘looked at me puzzled and rejected the notion that we should become more diverse,'” which he attributed “to the fact that many ski-industry people live in the mountains, out of touch with changes sweeping through urban America.”

At an industry convention last year, he asked “How white do you think your resort can be in 35 years and still be in business?”

Moreno hopes to get 10,000 minority youths onto Colorado slopes by 2006. Vail Resorts, Aspen Skiing Co., and Crested Butte Mountain Resort have all pledged assistance.