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Access to Skiing Is Not Equal—He Has a Plan to Change That

On skis since he was a toddler, Quincy Shannon wants to share his love for skiing with the BIPOC community and make it easier for them to experience it for themselves.

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This article kicks off SKI’s series, “Why I Ski,” highlighting a diverse roundup of passionate skiers and what inspires them to pursue the ski lifestyle. 

Denver native Quincy Shannon knows that his upbringing—spending weekends in the mountains nurturing a love for the ski lifestyle—was not the typical experience for a Black man. He has his mother, who ran a ski program that introduced inner city youth to skiing, to thank, and he is now working to pass down a similar love of the mountains and the active lifestyle to his young daughter, Imani.

Shannon shares why he skis, his background, his inspirations, and how he hopes to parlay his passion for skiing into a way to draw more BIPOC to the sport.

Because he was introduced to it early.

My mom was part of a Black ski club called the Slippers-N-Sliders, so I’ve been skiing since I was 3 years old. Throughout my childhood I was introduced to all the stuff that I love to do now—skiing, hiking, climbing. I was lucky to be part of a small cohort of people in my neighborhood who liked to get up into the mountains.

To fight misconceptions.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was telling some friends about my weekend skiing, and one of them said ‘you don’t come off like a whitewashed black guy.’ I found out that most of them had never even been to the mountains, much less skiing. They said, ‘That’s not a place for us.’ The more people I talked to, the more I realized it was a truly unique experience among Black people.

Denver native Quincy Shannon grew up skiing, but realizes that’s not the typical experience among the Black community. Photo: Courtesy of Quincy Shannon

So that he can share the magic of the mountains with more people.

When I was in my early ’20s, I became president of the Slippers-N-Sliders club. The goal at that time was to get a Black person to the Olympics. But my goal was just to help more Black people get to the mountains and to try skiing. It was clear that our missions weren’t aligned, so I decided to create a new club that was aimed at growing diversity in the sport.

I started Ski Noir a little over two years ago. We’re all about access to the slopes, and what that looks like for all people, no matter their race, or age, or economic means. We met in my living room for seven month putting together policies, a mission statement, and a business plan. We knew we needed to have a strong skeleton in place before we moved forward. We have around 48 members now.

Go Deeper: What It’s Like To Be a Black Ski Mountaineer in Bend, Oregon

Because he wants to enact change for his community.

Over the summer I began to form several partnerships through Ski Noir at least in part because of the George Floyd protests. The sustainability department at Aspen reached out about the job pipeline, to get more Blacks employed in Aspen. I was very apprehensive at first, just wondering if this was them really wanting to work with us because we are a missing demographic in the mountains, or because the work pool had dried up because the borders were closed.

They were honest that it was a little bit of both, and I appreciated that they were really open to create a partnership and move forward. I worked with them to figure out what the job pipeline would look like, but also making sure that it wasn’t just placing Blacks in entry-level jobs. I asked ‘What else are you doing around diversity, how are you working to make more people of color feel comfortable in the mountains?’

Shannon and his daughter at Steamboat, Colo. Photo: Courtesy of Quincy Shannon

Because he knows what’s stopping more Black people from skiing.

Safety is the No. 1 reason. It’s scary that in 2021 there are spaces we don’t feel safe, or we’re worried about race-based politics or race-based hate being an issue. Second reason is safety from the perspective of feeling unprepared: ‘If I don’t know how to do it, I’ll just stay away.’ Third is the cost: It’s going to be $200 for one day, with rentals, lift ticket—at least! ‘They’re like, what! For something I don’t even know if I’ll like?’ Fourth is getting there. ‘I’m not comfortable driving that far, or on snowy roads,’ is one thing I hear a lot.

To make the mountains accessible for all.

Black people come to Denver all the time but never go to the mountains because they’re intimidated. There are no easy ways to get there and go skiing. That’s what I want to do. I can see the hole, I know what’s missing, I want to fill it.

That’s where the Neighborhood Uplift idea came from. I want to buy a bus and arrange trips to the slopes. Did you know it costs 300,000 for a new bus! People were saying ‘You’re crazy kid, no way you can raise the funds.’ I almost gave up on it and started doubting myself, it was only a week into the campaign, then I saw this refurbished bus on eBay for $15,000. And I was Iike ‘What can we do to make this happen?’ I set up a GoFundMe and raised $9,000 in two weeks.’ [The campaign has currently raised over $11K.]

Also Read: How Skiing’s Whiteness Has Affected Me, and How We Can Change It

Because he wants to use his voice to help grow the sport.

[The mainstream ski media can help] amplify the work that we’re doing and what we’re trying to do. There are people who read what you guys are doing who I simply can’t reach. If we all work together, we can introduce more people to the sport we all love and help grow it for generations to come.