By Henri Rivers
Winter is approaching in the Northeast part of the US and we are witnessing another beautiful scenic display of the transformation from fall to winter as we view the colourful majestic backdrop. As we travel through the mountains preparing for the new season and anticipating the first snowflake to fall, we feel it in the air – the ski season will soon be here. However, snowsports are not quite the same, as the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS) and the world are experiencing the “new normal”.
It has been an impactful year for the NBS after the fallout of COVID-19 among club members and advocating on the front lines for racial equity in the snowsports industry. In lieu of its traditional in-person summit, the organization plans to hold a Virtual Black Summit in February 2021 and reminisce about skiing, boarding and enjoying snowsports while socializing virtually the new normal way.
The NBS beginning started in 1973 when 13 ski clubs from around the United States converged in Aspen, Colorado for what was called the “The Gathering” and is now affectionately called the “NBS Black Summit. Almost 50 years later, the organization’s 50 clubs with over 3,500 members nationwide, including England, will commence preparations for its milestone 50th Anniversary.
Over the years, the NBS has been recognized as the largest ski and boarding organization in the US. Pursuant to its mission to identify, develop and support athletes of colour who will WIN Olympic and international winter sports competitions, representing the United States, and to increase participation in winter sports, the NBS continues to break barriers in snowsports and make meaningful accomplishments, while being reminded of the racial barriers faced and continue to experience in the snowsports industry.
As of late, the snowsports industry has made their position known to the public that they will no longer stand by and accept racial discrimination and racial bias. They understand and know that “Black Lives Matter” and the lives of Indigenous and people of colour matter. They are moving in a direction to “Plan” a comprehensive, in depth analysis of how to chart a path of being inclusive and equitable within their organizations. It is believed this will be a long arduous task, one which will last many lifetimes, but one that must be journeyed to be a benefit to all. The National Brotherhood of Skiers has made progress forming new partnerships and alliances with several leading sponsors and organizations within the snowsports industry.
We are also pleased with the hiring of Robert “Bobby” Johnson Jr., an African American, to the position of Snowsports School Director at Magic Mountain in the State of Vermont.
There will be new challenges to face, new protocols, and mandates to follow. The snowsports industry will move forward with the season as best they can. We must plan accordingly and be willing to adjust our schedules, anticipate delays and be prepared to adapt to sudden changes. Face coverings will be required at all ski areas and social/physical distancing shall be maintained where and when possible. Guidelines have been established for the loading of chairlifts and gondolas. Access to the mountains will be managed by the resorts to ensure guests will have the space they need to fully enjoy the environment. Most resorts will have a reservation system in place to ensure a safe operating and recreational experience for all skiers, riders and guests.
The snowsports industry is confronting the challenges of racial equity as well as COVID-19; and the NBS will continue to stay safe and advocate for social justice and racial equity. The landscape is changing in many ways – let’s all do our part to make this a better, more beautiful and safer world. Enjoy & be safe! Happy skiing and riding!!
ABOUT HENRI RIVERS
Henri Rivers is the President of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, as well as a native New Yorker and an avid skier and outdoor enthusiast for over 45 years. He is a professional ski instructor, certified master teacher and children’s specialist as well as a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Alpine coach, jury advisor, referee and official. He coaches in the Alpine race program at Windham Mountain in the Catskill region of New York.
Henri attended Marist College and received a B.S. in Biology in 1982. He worked for several companies as a construction engineer and project manager before founding and managing the Drumriver Companies.
Henri became involved with the National Brotherhood of Skiers in 1996 and has held many positions within the organization. He started as a club president and moved on to become the mid-west regional competition director. In 2003 he became a coach for the national team of NBS and in 2008 was appointed the Olympic Scholarship Fund Administrator. During his tenure as OSF administrator, he grew the national team to 15 athletes. In 2016 he was appointed the National Competition Director and in 2018 was voted in as the Executive Vice President of the National Brotherhood of Skiers. He served for two years and was elected National President of the NBS in March of 2020.