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Guest Post: Why MLK Weekend Matters to the Ski Industry



The following OpEd was written by Henri Rivers, President of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, and was shared by Alterra Mountain Co., our partner in the Ikon Pass. On this holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are passing the mic to Henri to help amplify his message to the ski and snowboard industry. 

Reposted with permission.

As a lifelong skier and snowsports enthusiast who loves to spend extra time on the mountain on long weekends, there are familiar messages I see from the snowsports industry every January when the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend approaches. I am reminded about blackout dates, I get tips on scoring parking and beating longer lift lines. My friends and colleagues working in the snowsports industry speak of staffing and operational challenges. Mountain resort operators brace for a busy weekend, knowing it is one of the most profitable weekends of the entire winter season.

Last season there were about 473 ski areas operating in the United States alone, all preparing for the MLK weekend. For me, what is louder than these messages is a common silence about why the MLK holiday weekend exists in the first place and what the holiday honors. As January 16 approaches, I ask all of us in the ski and snowboard community to consider how we can better celebrate the person who helped inspire equality and equity, on and off the mountain.

Dr. Martin Luther King was a tremendous champion of civil rights, an extraordinary leader, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He is more than what he did, the awards he won, and the life he ultimately sacrificed for the civil rights cause. Dr. King and the holiday that commemorates him embodies the pressing and ongoing need for full racial equity, freedom, and love. We have not yet achieved this dream on the slopes or in our broader society.

In 1979, U.S. Representative John Conyers and U.S. Senator Edward Brooke introduced the bill to congress to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday. In 1983 the bill passed, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a national holiday, observed on the third Monday of January. This national holiday was officially first observed in 1986.

It is fortunate for the ski industry that Dr. King’s birthday falls in January, rather than in a shoulder month like May or September when a long weekend may not translate to significant additional business. This good fortune does not have to be just financial – this holiday can also help enable resorts to share the mountains with a wider range of people who are using time off from work or school to spend time with friends and family on the slopes.

How can and will the ski industry better honor the person and the civil rights cause at the core of this holiday, every day and every year? How can and will the ski industry pay it forward, going forward? We can work together to answer these questions in earnest, not just in the form of remembrance, but also in the form of action.

It is apropos for the snowsports industry to be directing and focusing a portion of its actions and financial gains toward benefiting the work and legacy of this amazing, remarkable, and fearless proponent of human rights, equality, and justice. When there are broader and deeper partnerships with organizations of color—including contributions to those organizations to help continue and broaden their winter outreach programs—we can hope to see the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. grow and flourish.

When, along with those partnerships, the snowsports industry invests in inclusion education, broader representation, and support networks for people of color, we can hope to see his dream reflected in increased participation in winter sports and the outdoors. We could see more people of color enjoy the mountaintops. We could see more women and men of color become gainfully employed in the snowsports industry. We could see more youth of color become lifelong snowsports enthusiasts and become stewards of our environment.

The snowsports industry can lead our communities on a path toward human equality and inclusion, applying the energy and resources of every snowsports resort, working together to dismantle the foundation of racism and inequity.

Let’s all honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day more meaningfully together, promoting the legacy of this great leader and propelling our society in the direction we all want, toward peace, love, and equality.

Learn more about A-Basin's DEI efforts

National Ski Areas Association DEI Resources library


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