The Olympic spirit is infectious. And perhaps that is most noticeable on the slopes of Whiteface Mountain, where athletes from the 1980 Olympic Winter Games competed in all six of the alpine ski events and still train today.
Enter the National Brotherhood of Skiers. In 1973, the ski scene was primarily white, but Ben Finley and Art Clay saw an opportunity to unite ski clubs that were predominantly African-American. That year they held what would become known as the “Black Summit,” an event that brought together black skiers to identify and discuss subjects which were unique to the black skiing population. And, of course, ski an awesome resort (the first one was in Aspen). In 1987, the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS) held their first Black Summit on the East Coast at none other than Whiteface Mountain. To date, this is the only time a Black Summit has been held on the East Coast; most gatherings are in the West, in places like Colorado and California.
In the January 1988 issue of Skiing magazine, we got a little insight as to what this summit was like. Randy Kahn, a racer from Denver, Colorado, was present and ready to make his mark as the first black skier in the Olympics. Even though some felt he was already “too old,” he still raced in Europe, but not on the Olympic stage. Kahn was a hopeful for the Olympic Winter Games in 1988 in Calgary. Also present that the Whiteface gathering was Laura Hardenbaugh. Laura was the first black woman certified by the National Ski Patrol.
There was socializing at the summit, but participants skied hard, too. Hey, après-ski is just as important as the skiing itself, right? Lasting multiple days, the summit hosted different themed parties each night after a day on the slopes. One night, the theme was “hotter than July.” Reports say it snowed that evening.
Meeting every other year, one of the main objectives of the Black Summit is to fundraise for the NBS Olympic Scholarship Fund. This fund is designed to provide financial support for “exceptional athletes of color who excel in winter sports” to help propel them “to Olympic and international competition.” Upcoming Olympic Winter Games include Beijing, China 2022 and Milano/Cortina, Italy 2026. There is certainly a bright future with endless possibilities for the young athletes supported by NBS. With different clubs across the United States, who knows, maybe we’ll see the next Olympic Super-G or Giant Slalom gold medalist at a future NBS event at Whiteface?
You can experience the thrill of skiing this famous mountain this winter by visiting the Whiteface Region! There’s a lot of mountain to explore -- book a room, eat a hot meal, and discover a new adventure while you’re in town. 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. Come celebrate in the town where the Olympic legacy lives on.