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Part Three: The NBS picnic is the day every Summit goer looks forward to…


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Wednesday is the day every Summit goer looks forward to. My morning begins with a hotel wake up call at the ungodly hour of 6:00. After a quick breakfast at 7:00 I hit the end of a GMAC Financial Seminar that ends at 8:15. That gives me enough time to grab my stuff and hop on a bus packed full of folks headed to Park City.

Once we get there I take a shuttle to White Pine Cross Country Ski Area. The idea is to spend a few hours of quiet cross-country skiing. No crowds, no lift lines. I only have a few hours to ski because I’m not about to miss the NBS picnic at 11:30. Once I get on the course things don’t go gracefully as I’d hoped. The extra effort plodding across the trail comes as a not-so-gentle reminder that I should have spent some time working out if I had planned to cross-country ski.

Tomorrow when I get out of bed, I’ll have another reminder. Conditions at White Pine are more like late Spring than late Winter. It’s not until later in the day that Parley’s and both Cottonwood Canyons get several inches of snow. As the ice comes in contact with my skis fish scales, what would ordinarily be a soft powdery slide, is more like a labored ice scraper across the frozen windshield.

Even still, this stands out as the most peaceful part of the trip. The slushy course is surrounded by a lake formed as a result of runoff from the aquifer at the Park City Mine. There are so few people along the trail, besides a nod from a jogger, my only encouragement comes from the quacking ducks along the lake.

I don’t need to look at my watch to realize the notorious NBS picnic-on-the-hill is underway. I start to chuckle when just after 11:30, miles from my serenity, I hear the hip-hop beat of the music that accompanies all NBS events.

Once I arrive it takes a few hours before the burger lines die down. The D.J. takes requests to give the party some flavor from every part of the country. Couples dance right where they are at the picnic tables. Way above the crowd, skiers on chair lifts wave down with big grins on their faces.

In between the food and the dancing, the picnic becomes a big photo op. This may be the only time everybody is in the same place together. Friends take turns snapping pictures of one another. It doesn’t hurt that Pontiac-GMC is inside a big van handing everybody three disposable cameras a piece.

Without warning the fast-paced music disappears as the big band sound of New Orleans Jazz takes over. The date being so close to the actual celebration, the New Orleans Jazz-Ma-Tazz Ski Club recreates an authentic Mardi Gras parade complete with dancers, costumes and musical instruments. Jazz-Ma-Tazzers march to the beat, tossing enough Mardi Gras beads into the crowd for all to grab a handful. By the time the line circles the picnic, half the crowd has become part of the parade. Ollie Barnes says he loves the camaraderie that comes about from skiing and partying with people from all over the country who look just like you.

When Black people get together, for whatever reason, a complete cultural experience emerges. Bystanders, mouths wide open, get a feel for why the Summit is one of the premier social events in the country. You can’t help but have a good time.

Though it’s been going on for hours, it’s hard to break away from the picnic. A bunch of us have to hop on a bus back to Salt Lake if we want to make it to the first Summit Black film festival. Later, after four hours and 6 films, I start to nod off. Not even my bottomless cup of coffee and an ice tea chaser can keep me awake at this point.

But when I get back to the hotel and run into an old friend, both of us get a sudden burst of energy. We decide to get dressed up and drop by our own Rocky Mountain Regional Party at the Salt Palace Convention Center. As we’re walking through the hallways, a lady stops to tell me she has never seen so many beautiful people in her life. I’ve often noticed people who ski are moore beautiful than all the others. Black people who ski can only be described as breathtaking.

On Vacation with the National Brotherhood of Skiers