Mount Noire is bringing color to the mountains

College friends Tobi Adegboye, Wenona Barnieh, Blessing Ekairia, Simisola Oke and Adeola Omotade started going on regular ski trips in 2012 and couldn’t help but notice how much they stood out on the slopes — and not just for their skills.

“One of the things that all of us recognized on the ski trip we went on together was that there was a real big lack of representation on the site,” Oke told In The Know. “I think it’s different in Europe — I think in Europe [it’s] a lot more significant than it is in the U.S. Like, there is no marketing towards people of color when it comes to skiing.”

The friends connected because they are all British Black women and avid skiers — a fact they said came as a surprise to some of the people they were meeting during their trips. Adegboye told Conde Nast Traveler that during one trip in 2018 someone actually asked her: “What are you girls doing here, I didn’t know Black people skied?”

“You’re on holiday — or vacation, as you might say, in America — you’re having a good time, you know, you want to be around people who look like you, see people who look like you, because it makes you feel like you’re just comfortable in your own skin,” Oke told In The Know.

A report by the National Skiing Association found that Black skiers accounted for just five percent of people who said they had skied during the winter of 2016/2017 — down 7 percent from the 2014/2015 season.

The study doesn’t specify why this decline is happening but does mention several possible factors that could be contributing to the low rate of participation, including proximity to ski areas and the cost. In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the median family income was $55,322, while the average income for Black households was $39,490.

Skiing is an expensive sport — especially if you’re traveling far to the closest mountain — and can cost up to $200 per day, not including accommodations or lessons.

But the group still noticed that friends would message them about posts from their ski trips expressing interest, which is how they came up with the idea for Mount Noire.

“It highlighted that a lot of people in our community were interested in winter sports—and that we could support [them] by making access to this experience easier,” Barnieh told Conde Nast Traveler. “We also recognized that there are other skiers and snowboarders like us out there and thought how great would it be if we could all come together on the slopes.”

Founded in December 2019, Mount Noire describes itself as a travel group dedicated to increasing inclusivity in winter sports through curating trips and experiences. The community’s goal is to “add a little color to the mountains.”

“I would say Mount Noire is also a vibe,” Adegboye added to In The Know. “We’re more than just, like, a company that plans trips. We’re a community.”

“Every day we get messages from people saying, ‘Oh, I wish I had this when I was growing up’ or ‘I wish I had people to go skiing with and I live here,'” Barnieh said. “It’s just amazing to see how much of a reach we’re having. And, obviously, it’s about growing our business and growing our name.”

“If you want to do something, go and do it,” Ekairia added. “By you being seen, by you being present in those spaces, [you’re] encouraging other people to try it as well.”

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