Ski Utah is on a mission to change the stats related to Black and Brown youth and young adults participating in winter sports. Committed to making skiing and snowboarding more inclusive, the organization launched its Discover Winter program in 2021 to work toward this goal.

Skiing and snowboarding have long been considered sports enjoyed primarily by white people, with minorities only participating in very small numbers. According to data from the National Ski Areas Association, over 88% of the skiers who visited resorts in 2021-2022 were white; only 1.5% of participants were Black. 

“In concert with its partner resorts, Discover Winter aims to foster a life-long love of skiing and snowboarding amongst Utah's ethnically diverse and LGBTQ+ community,” explains Alison Palmintere, Ski Utah’s Director of Communications.

With funding from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation, Morgan Stanley, and Gregory Mountain Products, 150 individuals from various organizations were invited to discover the world of winter sports on the slopes of Utah resorts. In addition to Utah natives, minorities from all over the world participated, including people from countries in Africa, South America, Central America and more.

An instructor teaching a Discover Winter participant how to snowboard at Snowbird. Image: Sean Ryan.

Black and Brown youth from Future Scholars of Africa, Weber State University's Diversity Clubs, Morgan Stanley, Outdoor Afro, Embark and more received four skiing or snowboarding lessons, rental equipment, all the clothing needed to stay warm on the slopes, and transportation to and from the ski resorts. At the end of the program, each participant received a Yeti Pass, good for one day of skiing at each of Utah's 15 ski resorts so that they may continue to hone their skills.

By removing barriers that have prevented people belonging to these minority communities from enjoying winter sports, Discover Winter helps make skiing more accessible for them. 

“Learning to ski and snowboard can be intimidating for people who did not grow up doing it. There are so many things to consider when you first commit to the sport," says Palmintere. "Which resort should I go to? Which season pass should I buy? Where should I park? Where is the best place to get gear? How should the gear fit? How many layers and what kind should I wear?”

The program answers all of those questions, providing everything participants need to succeed on the slopes. From supplying all the gear and showing how it should be worn to arranging transportation and lessons, the program provides all the resources so that participants can just focus on having fun and learning to ski and snowboard.

“It's important to Ski Utah that everyone feels at home in the mountains, so we hope this program will help to accomplish that,” adds Palmintere. “Ski Utah also recognizes that representation matters, and people need to see people who look like themselves out on the slopes.” 

Participants of Discover Winter at Snowbird. Image: Sean Ryan.

The reaction from people who have participated in the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Last season, over 70% of participants who went through the program indicated that they were planning to buy a season pass for this season. 

“We also have a number of participants from last year volunteering to lead the groups this year. Many of the participants have expressed that despite growing up in Utah surrounded by mountains and skiing, they didn't think they'd ever have the opportunity to experience it themselves and are thrilled to be learning to ski and snowboard,” says Palmintere.

With its ideal location and snow quality, Utah is one of the best places for skiing and snowboarding.

“Utah has 10 ski resorts within an hour and a half of the Salt Lake City International Airport, making getting up to the mountains a breeze," she explains. "Utah also has 'The Greatest Snow on Earth' due to a phenomenon called ‘Lake Effect Snow,’ meaning the snow is light and fluffy, making it ideal for skiing.”

Alta Ski Area, Brighton Ski Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Snowbird, Snowbasin, Solitude Mountain Resort, and Sundance Mountain Resort are just a few of the many resorts in the area.