Richard Ward (back row, third from left) stands with officials from Pats Peak Ski Area in Henniker, N.H., and members of the Boston Ski Party Youth Program, which gives inner-city young people an opportunity to experience the sport of skiing. (Tony Irving photo)
|Five-year-old Jaden Tran, one of the members of the Boston Ski Party Youth Program, stops short on the slopes. The youngsters are trained on the slopes, as well as on dry land. (Photo courtesy of Boston Ski Party)
|For the last four years, the Boston Ski Party, a member organization of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, has brought young local athletes of color like Nygel Jones (top left) and 8-year-old Lane Ward (above) to Pats Peak Ski Area in Henniker, N.H., as part of its efforts to spread the sport of skiing to inner-city youth. While conventional wisdom might dictate that young people from the city would be unlikely to take to competitive ski racing, Will Morales of the Boston-based nonprofit organization Youth Enrichment Services says the group has “witnessed the opposite among our winter youth participants.” Overall, more than 100 local young people have participated in the youth ski outreach program and received training in snowboarding and skiing. (Photos courtesy of Boston Ski Party)|
He’s only 6 years old, but Luis Barbosa already has visions of gold medals in his head.
Barbosa has been skiing since he was 3 years old in a youth racing program operated by the Boston Ski Party at Pats Peak Ski Area in Henniker, N.H.
“I like to go fast,” says Barbosa.
For the last four years, the Boston Ski Party, a member organization of the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), has brought young athletes of color to Pats Peak Ski Area in Henniker as part of its efforts to spread the sport of skiing.
Launched with 12 youth members in 2006, today more than 40 young skiers make the hour and a half trek to Pats Peak each week to receive ski and snowboard lessons, race coaching, and the support and mentoring of the programs many volunteers. Overall, more than 100 youths have participated in the program.
“For years, there has been an attitude that youth from the inner city would never gravitate towards competitive ski racing,” said Will Morales of Youth Enrichment Services (YES) Inc. “ … [We] have witnessed the opposite among our winter youth participants.”
YES is a Boston-based nonprofit organization that has served more than 100,000 low- and moderate-income children since its creation in 1968. One of the group’s missions is to expose children to the great outdoors.
In this particular case, YES and Boston Ski Party are building a year-round training and education program that will help prepare promising skiers for race competition.
“… [I]t’s a natural calling for both organizations to join forces … and remove the obstacles that have prevented inner city kids from fully participating in this wonderful sport,” Morales said.
Nationally, NBS clubs are moving African American skiers ahead. At the age of 28, Paralympic skier Ralph Green became the first African American to ski an alpine event at the 2006 Paralympics Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Lauren Samuels of the NBS club Thrillseekers was just named to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association Alpine Development Team for the 2009-2010 seasons.
The Boston Ski Party is doing its part. During the offseason, members participate in “dry land training” sessions aimed at improving conditioning and building racing skills.
The training couldn’t come too soon. In 2010, the club hopes to work with the NBS’ Eastern Region to host the first “YouthFest” event that may draw approximately 100 young racers for a weekend of intense training at Pats Peak.
“Creating the first African American Olympic medalist will take a lot of effort,” said Richard Ward, the Boston Ski Party’s youth director. “It is an expensive sport, which makes it difficult for many children to break into. We have a long way to go, but the first step is getting youth out there.”
Georgia Bell, 11, is one such young skier. She turned heads last season with wins at the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, the YES Mass Snow Challenge and the NBS’ annual “Winterfest.”
“As parents, we are very encouraged by Georgia’s success on the mountain this past season,” said Hank Bell, Georgia’s father. “She’s gained a tremendous amount of maturity and confidence both on and off the slopes.”
Naturally, Ward points out, none of their efforts could be possible without the owners of Pats Peak.
“They … truly understand the importance of creating greater access and diversity on the slopes” Ward explained.
For their part, Pats Peak spokesman Jim Wall said they have been trying to diversify their slopes for the last eight years.
“Supporting cultural diversity on the ski slopes is not a new thing at Pats Peak,” Wall said. “It is natural for us to do this.”
One of New England’s premier snow-sports destinations, Pats Peak has 22 trails, two terrain parks, a snowtubing park and nine high-capacity lifts and 100 percent snowmaking capacity.
“The collaboration between Youth Enrichment Services and the Boston Ski Party is a natural union between two organizations who use the outdoor experiential education of skiing and snowboarding for the youth to develop confidence, believe in themselves, and achieve at their highest levels,” said YES Executive Director Bryan Van Dorpe.