The Denver City Council's push to infuse ethnic diversity into Intrawest's contract for the operation of Winter Park ski area could force the hand of a largely white industry.
"There's a clear need for resorts to offer programs that are targeted toward that specific segment of the marketplace, and it's a segment that has gone virtually untapped in light of its growing population," said Rob Perlman, president of Colorado Ski Country.
Untapped? More like ignored, says Charles Smith.
Smith has spent the past 30 years ferrying Denver's inner-city kids up to the snowy slopes. As a two-term president of Slippers-N-Sliders Ski Club, Smith, a ski instructor at Loveland, has taught thousands of city kids how to ski. Then he's watched them forget all about it.
"We have been very unsuccessful in soliciting sponsors at our fundraising events," says Smith, whose program takes city kids camping, skiing and hiking. "It's like we are being ignored."
The Denver City Council is hoping to end that. By forcing Intrawest to include affirmative-action language in its contract to operate Winter Park, the council could help nudge a resort industry that has slowly recognized the potential business found in minority skiers.
"For me, this is smart business. Every other part of corporate America has realized the growth potential in terms of revenue of working with a diverse population," says Denver City Councilwoman Deborah Ortega, who is spearheading an effort to install diversity-awareness language in the pending contract with Intrawest.
Nationwide, 89 percent of skiers and snowboarders in 2000-2001 were white. In the Rocky Mountains, 91 percent of skiers were white, according to the first-ever ethnic analysis of skiers in the annual demographic study of 2000-2001 wintertime resort visitors by the National Ski Areas Association.
The country's minority population is 25 percent, and in metro Denver, the minority population is almost 30 percent.
A quick glance through any ski-related magazine reveals a dearth of minority faces. Sunburned is about as colored as skin gets in the ski mags.
Resort industry leaders have long recognized the potential of minority guests and have spent at least five years widening the welcome mat. But the recognition has yet to take the form of action, and minority skiers remain absent at most ski hills, according to the NSAA study.
"Talk to a lot of people in the Hispanic community and there's a feeling that there is a smugness in the ski industry that says to the Hispanic community and other communities of color, `You're not welcome here.'" said Sal Gomez, chairman of the Denver Hispanic Chamber.
That may change soon, with Derek Parra, Vonetta Flowers and Jennifer Rodriguez filling much-needed roles as minority snow-sport heroes. All three grabbed medals at the 2002 Winter Games.
"That was great. So great," says Audrey Taylor, executive secretary of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, which represents 15,000 skiers and rallies as many as 6,000 skiers for annual meetings. "I think there is a degree to which we've been ignored. There are thousands of minority skiers out there who I don't think the resorts are recognizing and trying to get their business."
Vail Resorts, which has hosted the National Brotherhood of Skiers at Vail and Keystone, is negotiating a partnership with the group to host future rallies. The company's 21st annual Ski Fiesta this spring at Breckenridge was the country's largest fundraising ski event for Hispanics.
Most Popular Stories
- SEO Traffic Lab Celebrate Wins at Digital Marketing Event 'Internet World 2013' in London
- Social Media Initiatives Should Follow Customers' Lead
- Apple CEO: Offshore Units Not a 'Tax Gimmick'
- U.S. Senate Accuses Apple of Large-scale Tax Avoidance
- UTEP Water Recycling Project Wins Venture Titles
- Marketo Makes a Mint in IPO: Stock Shoots Up More than 50 Percent
- Bieber Booed at Billboard Awards
- Crude Oil Up, Gasoline Down
- Austin Startup Compare Metrics Raises $3.5 Million for Expansion
- Why So Many Top 'Car Guys' Are Actually Women