Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Multiculturals' on ice (okay, snow)

Ah Mammoth, powdery and white - in ways that some marketers hope to change. April 2010
Ah Mammoth, powdery and white - in ways that some marketers hope to change. April 2010
Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A story from ESPN on "multicultural" involvement in snow sports – and a marketing report aimed at getting more skiers and snowboarders of color onto the slopes - has caught my attention, because it's a topic that's close to my heart.

See, I’m a Latina skier. And like other minority skiers and snowboarders, particularly Latinos and African Americans, this makes me a member of a very, very small society.

There are notable exceptions, like Colorado-born pro snowboarder Marc Montoya. Still, according to the story, non-white snow sports participation stands at just 3.4 percent.

The reasons for this are obvious: Lift tickets are expensive, for starters. Even in Big Bear, not exactly world class, a one-day ticket for Bear Mountain runs a wallet-busting $56. It's just a couple of dollars less for a day on the only partially groomed and somewhat dicey slopes of Mt. Baldy (though it's still my favorite winter spot to play hooky). Getting to the mountains requires substantial driving, especially so from a non-snowy place like L.A., and that’s more money.

Latinos and African Americans, in particular, don’t grow up in a snow sports culture. Our parents didn’t ski, couldn't afford weekend cabins in Big Bear, and the mountains might as well have been another planet. And speaking just in terms of Latinos (unless they hail from the environs of the Andes, where there are plenty of Latino snowboarders and skiers) the idea of cold weather as something enjoyable doesn’t come naturally to immigrants from warmer climes.

But the demographics on the slopes could well change, according to the “Multiculturals in Action Sports” report, released last November by couple of cultural marketing firms, including one sports marketing outfit in Denver run by a Latino snowboarder. From the ESPN story:

By examining the intersection of Latin American and snowboarding culture, the "Multiculturals in Action Sports" (M.A.S.) report takes aim at the myths that, according to one of its authors, Juan Alberto Delaroca, Latinos don't have money to snowboard, aren't found near resorts or communities of snowboard enthusiasts and aren't interested in snow sports.

The report identifies the multicultural market as representing "a viable, sustainable opportunity for the snow sports industry," according to the story, especially as the so-called millennial generation that is now between 14 and 29 comes of age. The firms have partnered with SnowSports Industries America, a trade group, which will assist with more research, with results to be presented later this month at a trade show in Denver.

Here's a video from the marketing folks - quite nicely filmed, actually: