Diversity in Skiing02/23/2021 12:00PM ● By Rachel Miller
Quincy Shannon, president of Ski Noir, skis in Steamboat Springs.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – A conversation with Quincy Shannon, president of Ski Noir and member of the National Brotherhood of Skiers.
Steamboat Magazine: What is Ski Noir, and how did it get started?
Quincy Shannon: Ski Noir is a Black ski club that I formed with a group of five other creatives. We were meeting in my living room and we asked the question, “What would it mean to start an organization that cultivates a social experience in the mountains even for people who don’t normally give a damn about skiing?” The generation who started groups like the National Brotherhood of Skiers is dying out, and we saw the next generation hasn’t taken that up, so we asked, “What are ways we can cultivate that change?”
SM: What does Ski Noir look like these days? What goals does the group have moving forward?
QS: On our books currently, we have 47 members. We have members in their 50s, 60s and 70s, and one that’s 82. So we’re able to have the wisdom of what the older members have done, while also saying we have ideas from the younger members that have never been tried before. The goal is creating a club that is social for young professionals, while also being able to give back to the community and help Black kids get into skiing. It’s about wanting my daughter to, when she’s 11, be able to say, “I have great memories of going to the mountains with my dad,” as opposed to being scared and not knowing what it’s like up there. We’re hoping that others will understand the need for this.
SM: Have you seen much change in the sport of skiing during your lifetime in terms of diversity? What do you think is needed to gain more diversity in the sport?
QS: I haven’t seen much change. I’m 35, and it’s still very much a white sport. A big piece is the socioeconomics attached to it, so if you don’t make enough money you can’t participate. The cost is a hurdle and it won’t go away anytime soon – it’s not a cheap sport. We’re hoping to create a relationship with a company or group so we can provide ski gear, clothing and transportation to kids who can’t afford it. I’m a teacher, and if a student’s not doing well in school but wants to go ski on the weekend, this would give us another resource to say, “I need you to bring that grade up,” or, “I need you to not get into fights at school” so they can actually go ski.
SM: What does your skiing background look like? When did you start?
QS: I’ve been skiing all my life. My mother skied with the Eskimo Ski Club growing up and was part of a Black ski club called the Slippers-N-Sliders, who’ve been around since the ‘70s. As I became an adult, I realized a lot of my friends in my demographic weren’t going to the mountain. I tried to invite more people and people and afterward they would be like, “Q, this is really dope, can we go again next week?” Growing up, I was always excited about the big yearly event, the National Brotherhood of Skiers summit – it made the mountains a safe place for me. Those events were the only kind in the mountains where I’d see other people who looked like me. People would come up and ask us what was going on, and we’d just tell them, “Family reunion, don’t worry about it.”
SM: What are some of your favorite memories so far with Ski Noir?
QS: On the way up to the Black Ski Summit that was in Steamboat a couple of years ago, there was a big avalanche and we got caught in traffic on I-70. We had just formed Ski Noir that season and we weren’t part of the NBS yet – still just getting our feet wet. We got caught there for three or four hours, four cars full of members who all knew each other. One person turned the music on, another car had brought a grill they fired up, and we had a party on I-70. We made the best of the situation. People around us were saying they were so glad they were stuck with us, because otherwise they would have been bored out of their minds.
SM: What are your favorite aspects of skiing?
QS: I talk with friends all the time who are like, “I don’t get it.” My love of skiing fits into two areas: first, the views are so peaceful for my spirit. The way the light hits the snow on the trees, it makes me at peace with myself, grounded, thankful. But there’s also the personal athletic perseverance aspect. No matter how many people you ski with, ultimately it’s you who has to get yourself down the hill – as social it is, you have to push yourself to get better and progress. I love skiing for that, because it’s a social yet isolated experience. There’s always a next level in terms of ways to get down the mountain.