Aspen ski instructors of color may prove key to diversifying sport |

Aspen ski instructors of color may prove key to diversifying sport

Tatiana Flowers
The Colorado Sun
Aspen-Snowmass ski instructor Kevin McDonald, right, teaches a client, Joe Kanzangu, during a ski lesson last week in Aspen. “What holds us back is, we limit ourselves a lot by the color of our skin, and that’s self-imposed, not to say that there’s not systemic racism, there is," McDonald said of being in a predominantly white ski industry. "But we as an ethnic group, we have to take responsible for our own shortcomings and lack of self-confidence and address those fears and not ignore that.”
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

About a decade ago, snowsports leaders began meeting in small circles to discuss the importance of diversifying participants, and a few years later, they began launching public campaigns to bring more women, more people of color and more people with disabilities to the mountain.

The goal is to promote inclusion, and increase vitality in an industry where demographic data doesn’t come close to mirroring the makeup of the state or U.S. population.

While industry leaders have worked slowly to attract newer and more underrepresented skiers and snowboarders in recent years, little attention has focused on diversifying the frontline staff teaching snowports, even though they could be a key component in speeding up diversity efforts and signaling who gets to participate, said Darnell Rose, a Black ski instructor in Aspen for more than 30 years.

Rose said he’s “breaking down walls and stereotypes,” by continuing to work as an instructor, even when he’s face-to-face with people who make problematic comments or when he has to answer awkward questions from others on the slopes. When executives at Aspen Skiing Company lead diversity efforts, Rose shares his viewpoints and gives constructive criticism, even if the conversations are uncomfortable, he said.

Aspen-Snowmass ski instructor Darnell Rose has been teaching for 30 years, 23 of them at Aspen-Snowmass. With the four Aspen mountains combined, there are currently eight Black ski instructors of the approximately 1,600 instructors total.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

These efforts haven’t always gone smoothly, and at times, Rose feels like a thorn in the side of the resort company’s leaders.

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