NBS SnowPros create path for members to become part of the ski industry

The service club that connects NBS members with industry opportunities beyond the summit

NBS SnowPros pose together at Mid-Vail after their last ski session of the week.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

Among the many patches and colors seen on club jackets at the National Brotherhood of Skiers summit this past week are those of the NBS SnowPros, a service club of licensed instructors dedicated to giving more people of color an entry point into the ski industry.

The National Brotherhood of Skiers is known for having an unusually high retention rate for new skiers, with the organization reporting rates of 60% compared to the national average of 17%. Part of the secret to their success is the emphasis on group events and comradery, which the NBS SnowPros have made a central part of their own mission.

“You should never be at a resort and not ski because you don’t have a friend or somebody to hang out with,” said club member Forrest King-Shaw. “We never want anyone to show up and think they don’t have a dance partner or that they don’t have somebody who can show them around.”

Most of the members have been skiing together at NBS summits for over two decades. It started as a group of friends who worked in the ski business getting in runs together, but they would often find other NBS members watching or following them around the mountain after recognizing their level of experience.

Over the past few years, they have organized into an official club that is present at every annual Black Summit, hosting multiple ski and ride sessions during the week to bring people together on the mountain and demonstrate high-level skiing. Though the SnowPros are all licensed by the Professional Ski Instructors of America, the sessions that they offer during Black Summits are not lessons but informal group sessions aimed at connection and exposure.

“We’re trying to be a model of what good skiers are to the NBS members and then we’re trying to be a model of what instructors of color could be to the industry,” said member Dino White. “When I first joined the NBS, the guy that went down the race course with his jacket fluttering — if he was the fastest guy, he was the best skier. As I got more and more involved in skiing, I realized he’s not the best skier. He just has the most nerve.”

The NBS SnowPros lead sessions at the annual summits as a way to give back, but they are also interested in a larger goal: creating a bridge for people of color to find jobs and training in the ski industry. King-Shaw, who has been an instructor at Palisades Tahoe for over 20 years, said that his path in the ski industry was one of chance, and he wants the road to be clearer for those coming after him.

“I am very, very lucky,” King-Shaw said. “There are some monsters in this industry who put their arms around me and helped me learn how to do this. Helped me learn how to ski, helped me become part of the staff and an examiner at PSIA Western — for me, it was luck, and for all of us it was luck to find each other. We want to make something that’s not based on luck.”

White found his way into the ski industry through King-Shaw in the early 2000s and is now a board member for the PSIA Western and longtime instructor at Mammoth Mountain, where his son grew up ski-racing with support from the NBS. With each additional NBS member that gets involved at a ski resort, the network and opportunities grow.

“At Mammoth we still have a long way to go, but I literally corner young people of color and say this is who I am, this is what I’m doing, if you’re interested in teaching skiing or snowboarding instruction and want to work here, let me help you get involved,” White said. “That’s something that we’re all doing, every chance we get — talking it up.”

The SnowPros were known as the “Snow Bros” until its first female member, Denise Bass Allen, joined in 2018. Allen became an instructor at Palisade Tahoe after skiing with the SnowPros at an NBS summit and has since discovered a passion for introducing women to the sport.

“I just want to inspire other women — black or white or whatever — to ski. That’s what I do at Palisades,” Allen said. “I love working with women because a lot of skiing for women is so mental. By getting over the fear and helping them enjoy skiing, hopefully they’ll ski as long as I do, or longer.”

In time, the SnowPros hope to transform the demographics not only of the skiing population but of the industry’s core institutions so that the presence of the NBS and people of color continues long after the closing ceremonies of the Black Summit.

“What I really want is to have some of our members working at Vail’s ski school, working in their front office, working in their marketing, working in their shop,” King-Shaw said. “That is my vision.”

The NBS SnowPros can be contacted through their Facebook page, “NBS SnowPros.”


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