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Great skiing: top alpine trails and resorts around the country for skiers of all levels.

Perched atop a mountain 11,000 feet above ground, the cool, crisp air whips across your face as an almost blinding light is reflected off the snow. Six feet of powder swooshes beneath your feet as you ski down a 2,200-foot vertical drop. The wind rushes pass your ears as your body sways and floats to a beat of measured movement. Time is suspended while you meet the challenge at hand--conquering the mount.

This sheer thrill and exhilaration sends millions of skiers back to the slopes each winter. "No buildings, no smog. You can't think about anything else," says Ben Finley, co-founder and former president of the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), the official federation of African-American skiers.

While 30 years ago it was uncommon for blacks to be avid skiers, today skiing is a popular form of physical exercise that is also a great way to vacation and socialize. Arthur Clay, co-founder of the NBS and founder of "The Gang" chapter in Chicago, began skiing in 1965. He describes that initial experience as totally immersing himself in a white world. "The snow was white. The people were white. It was extremely rare to see other black faces." As a consequence, Clay says that when blacks did meet on the slopes, they became instant friends--a tradition that continues with the camaraderie found among skiers in the NBS.

Clay and Finley organized the first Black Ski Summit in 1973 with only their two clubs and not more than 10 others. In stark contrast, last year's Summit in Park City, Utah, accommodated nearly 5,000 people. According to Bob Bradshaw, NBS director of public relations, the organization now boasts 73 clubs and over 12,000 members and is still growing. He is expecting nearly 3,000 to turn out in Copper Mountain, Colo., this February for the 1992 Annual Meeting Challenge Cup (AMCC) "Mini-Summit." To register for the Mini-Summit or to find out the NBS chapter nearest you, contact the National Brotherhood of Skiers Inc., 1525 E. 53rd St., Suite 408, Chicago, IL 60615; 312-955-4100.

Hundreds of African-Americans will try skiing for the first time this year. And if you fall into this category, don't feel threatened. Almost every mountain has beginner, intermediate and advanced runs, and assuredly you won't be the only novice. "Let's face it," says Finley, "skiing is not taught in the community. Everyone has to go through that period of just learning to stand up or stop."

Whether a beginner or an expert, practice makes perfect. While attending an NBS Summit is big fun and a good way to put in slope time, you can only become a proficient skier by donning your skis regularly. Not only do most resorts offer skiing for every level, but you'll find more than just snowy peaks and trails of champagne powder. Enjoy snowmobiling, bobsledding, hot-air ballooning and horseback riding. Feast on fine cuisine, visit nearby historic sites, or go shopping, but most of all, ski, ski, ski! Here is a sample of resorts in regions around the country.

Southwestern Retreats

Nestled in the glittering valley of the Eastern High Sierras lie the "alpine beaches" of Mammoth Lakes. Just 300 miles north of Los Angeles, Mammoth is known for its California sunshine, as having one of the nation's longest ski seasons (November to June), elevations as high as 11,053 feet and an average snowfall of 335 inches. A haven for both beginners and the more advanced, Mammoth offers a "Three Day Learn to Ski Package" for first-time skiers ($182) and an "Explore the Mountain" class for semi-experts with more challenging runs. Group rates for adult and children's lessons start at $94.50 for the three days, with daily lift tickets costing $35 for adults and $17 for children. Seniors and children under 7 years old ski free.

Daily lodgings range from $95 to $165 at the cabin or condominium of your choice. Package rates are available including lodging and lift tickets. Call Mammoth Visitor Information, 619-934-2712, for additional lodging information and reservations. Those looking for more challenging mountains, not to mention a little Spanish-style romance, should mosey over to Taos Ski Valley, Taos, N.M. Of the 71 trails over 50% is expert terrain with steepness not often matched in North America.

However, if you're not quite as proficient at skiing the powder, don't shy away. Winter in the Sangre de Cristo mountains is like no other. Experience the ambiance of colony rich with Spanish and Native American culture. Call Taos Ski Valley at 800-992-7669, for information.

Northern Exposure

Sun Valley Resort in Idaho, is known as America's original glamour ski resort. Today, with 17 lifts, 1,300 acres for skiing and lodging for 12,000 in surrounding areas, Sun Valley still provides the foremost in modern skiing in an atmosphere of picturesque beauty. The 56-year-old resort boasts high-speed highways and low-gear bump runs immaculately groomed on the mountains of Dollar and Baldy. Dollar Mountain is noted for its beginner runs, while Baldy is great for intermediate and advanced skiers. A three-day ski-lift pass costs $110 for adults and kids 17 and under ski free most of the season. Call 800-634-3347, for reservations.

Eighteen miles from Yellowstone National Park are the gentle, rolling hills of Big Sky, Mont. With a vertical rise of 3,030 feet, 65 miles of skiing on 50 runs spread across two mountains, Big Sky caters to skiers and snowboarders of every level.

The area is best known for its intermediate terrain found on the rambling slopes of the Andesite Mountain. Lone Mountain, a forest of symmetrical cliffs, is definitely for more advanced skiers. Expert skiers can take on the steep chutes, rock jumps and powder glades of the Pinnacles, Little Tree and Snake Pit. If you're a cross-country skier, you'll want to take the guider tour into Yellowstone. For more information, call 800-548-4486.

Skiing In The Midwest

The midwest is characterized by hills of lower altitude and smaller resorts, but that doesn't mean you can't get in some good skiing. The Upper Peninsula region of Michigan, near the Wisconsin border is "Big Snow Country." It consists of four ski areas: Indianhead, Big Powderhorn, Blackjack and Whitecap and the Porcupine State Park.

Each Big Snow resort lies within 12 miles of the other, and skiing in the four areas is allowed with an interchangeable lift ticket. A three-day ticket runs $58.50 for adults, $45 for juniors (13-17) and $33 for children. For more information, call 906-932-4850.

Crystal Mountain, Mich., specializes in early- and late-season packages with families in mind. Midweek lift and lodging packages start at $39 a night before Dec. 13 and after March 21, and weekend packages cost $99 for two days and two nights. Children under 17 can lodge and ski free, except holidays, when traveling with parents who buy a midweek lift and lodging package. Call 800-968-7686, for information.

Heading East

At Smugglers' Notch in northern Vermont, a resort that combines top-of-the-line skiing with New England charm, you'll find the perfect hideaway for the entire family. The resort has 56 trails down three mountains, Morse, Madonna and Sterling, which provide just enough challenge for the intermediate skier. Novices should concentrate on mastering the Morse. After a day on the slopes, treat yourself to a massage or relax in the Scandinavian Spa. The kids will enjoy spending time at the animal petting zoo, riding a pony or hanging out at the video arcade. There's indoor tennis and swimming, sleigh rides and family game nights. The three-day/three-night Mini-Vacation package, which includes resort accommodations, an unlimited lift ticket and daily ski instruction is $235. For reservations, call 800-451-8752.

Whiteface, N.Y., was the site of the 1991 Freestyle World Ski Championships and the 1980 Winter Olympics. Strong on advanced terrain and just eight miles outside Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains, Whiteface houses the longest vertical drop ski trail on the east coast--3,216 feet. Its 17 miles of steep trails are served by nine lifts with daily tickets starting at $28.

But don't be intimidated by the lack of beginner runs. There are lots of other activities. Stay nearby the slopes in the city of Lake Placid and ride the Olympic Bobsled and Luge Run ($15), take a tour of the Olympic ski jumping complex, which includes a ride in a glass elevator 26 stories high to the site of the ski-jumping tower ($5), or go skating in the Olympic ice arenas ($2). For more information, call the New York State Division of Tourism at 800-CALL-NYS.

Southern Charm

The South may not be noted for its snow, however, it boasts a few good resorts. Skiing is, oh so sweet, at Sugar Mountain, N.C., and so are the prices. Get a midweek lift ticket, rental equipment and an hour-long group lesson for only $37. Call 704-893-9292, for reservations and information.

If you're near our nation's capital, visit Silver Creek, W. Va. or Wintergreen Ski Area in Virginia. Silver Creek is ideal, if you're traveling with youngsters and want them to get top-notch instruction. Call 304-572-4000, for information. Wintergreen offers variety of physical activities for adults, including tennis and golf. For reservations, call 804-325-7669.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes tips on ski gear
Author:Johnson, Karen L.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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