As part of ESPN’s “Black History Always” celebration, Sunday’s SportsCenter “together members of the Black skiing population, and the rising star the group hopes to elevate to the U.S. Olympic SC Featured” segment will tell the story of the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), an organization formed to bring together members of the Black skiing population, and the rising star the group hopes to elevate to the U.S. Olympic team.
“Black Diamonds” will debut in the 8 a.m. ET hour of SportsCenter on Sunday, Feb. 28, and will re-air in other editions throughout the day.
At a time when African Americans on the ski slopes were a rarity and Black ski clubs were an exception, Ben Finley and Art Clay, both interviewed in the feature, were not deterred from their vision to create a national organization. In 1973, they moved forward with a proposal to bring together 13 Black ski clubs for an event at the summit of Colorado’s Ajax Mountain, leading to the formation of the NBS.
Dale Mauldin, who produced the story for ESPN Features, said he first heard of NBS when he read a magazine article.
“Their founders were being inducted into the Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame for their work in diversifying the mountain,” Mauldin said.
The purpose of NBS was “to identify and discuss problems and subjects which were unique to the Black skiing population, ski and socialize,” according to Finley. Since the first summit, the NBS has worked to advance the African American presence in winter sports through youth programs and sponsorships of rising talent, with the ultimate goal of having an African American on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Olympic team.
The feature introduces viewers to Brian Rice, a 16-year-old snowboarder from Michigan who moved to Colorado to train with the support of NBS. “Brian is the current frontrunner for NBS to achieve its mission that started nearly 50 years ago,” Mauldin said.
Joining Mauldin as a reporter for the feature is former X Games athlete and Olympic hopeful Keir Dillon, an African American who had not heard of NBS until he was already established in snowboarding.
Mauldin and Dillon went to Copper Mountain in Colorado to film Rice as he trained and prepared to travel to Austria for the Junior World Championships. Rice’s parents are also interviewed in the feature.
“Being from the East Coast and also African American, it astounded me that this club existed,” said Mauldin.
“Growing up, I had friends who skied and snowboarded but never thought it was something for me,” he said. “This is the case of many people of color before they are introduced to the NBS. Just seeing these folks have fun and build a community where I thought there wasn’t one is inspiring.”