Meet the friends 'bringing colour to the mountains'

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The snow isn’t the only thing that’s white in ski resorts – most of its visitors are too.

It’s 2023, and there’s still a lack of diversity on the slopes.

According to a recent survey by the National Ski Areas Association, only 1.5% of skiers at resorts were Black compared to nearly 89% of white skiiers.

The organisation had found that numbers had barely changed over the past decade.

Mount Noire, launched in 2019, are now on a mission to ‘bring colour to the mountains’ and change the future of snowsports.

Founders Wenona Barnieh, Adeola Omotade, Blessing Ekairia, Simi Oke and Tobi Adegboye are encouraging people from all walks of life to get involved with skiing or snowboarding.

While the majority of their experiences have been positive, the group have become accustomed to double-takes or curious looks.

Racism still exists – even at 5,000 feet.

Simi told ‘Last year on our trip to Val D’Isere, four of the women from the trip including myself went to a mountain top restaurant which was incredible.

‘We had been seated inside and we’re at what they described as “the best table in the house”. There was live music playing.

‘The vibes and energy were high and we were all really enjoying ourselves, singing along with the other tables whom were also enjoying themselves along with us. A Caucasian man and his family were then seated at a table next to ours.

‘We noticed looks from them but this is not unusual, especially when you are a group of black women on the slopes, people often want to know where you’re from.

‘However, on this occasion the looks clearly showed a heightened sense of irritation and after some time the gentleman turned around and shushed us loudly, despite us not being the only table having fun around them.

‘However when we asked him what the issue was he aggressively said “you people are being too loud”.

‘We were all stunned, I tried to explain how rude what he just did was but he proceeded to inform the staff he wanted to move away from us.

‘Needless to say they were seated elsewhere, and the staff did come and apologise to us and we carried on having fun with the restaurant band and guests.

‘This is probably the worse discrimination I have experienced on the slopes and while it is not always like this, this is the extent it can go to.’

She added: ‘This is why it is important that we create an environment that welcomes diversity and promotes tolerance for all ethnicities.’

Mount Noire’s team posts frequently to social media, especially TikTok. Doing so means people are able to ‘see themselves’ on the slopes and can be inspired to get involved.

The group is also trying to address the hefty pricetag that can put many off enjoying winter sports.

Covid already disrupted a number of trips, with the cost of living crisis now a hurdle the group are working to overcome.

Mount Noires tracks down cost-effective resorts that also provide a ski experience that suits all abilities. They also offer UK-based trips.

Tobi told ‘While financing plays a role in all elective travel, it’s the stereotype that black and ethnic minorities do not take part in winter sports that needs to be broken.

‘As representation increases, accessibility improves and positive black and ethnic minorities travel experiences are shared more widely,

‘I believe this is the perfect conditions to allow healthy conversations to be held. In addition companies aligning with advocate groups promoting education and roles within the industry also helps to stop discrimination becoming an issue.’

Dee Omotade was among the first snowboarders within the group – and has helped share the love with new members.

Seeing people ‘fall in love’ with winter sports is something the entire Mount Noire are constantly proud of, she explained.

Dee told ‘Being one of the first to go snowboarding within the group, I have had the great pleasure of sharing that love with other founder members and our whole community.

‘The reason we started Mount Noire was to bring awareness to all and I’m still in awe every day at how quickly people have been eager to join.’

The joy the founders experienced on their first ski trip together, to Chamonix in France, had led to the initial creation of Mount Noire.

They bonded over the lack of representation on the slopes – and decided to take matters into their own hands.

Blessing Ekairia told ‘I loved everything about that trip; the skiing, the après, the late-night parties.

‘Guests who come on our trips as first time skiers experience the same sensation and I love that we can create genuine excitement about skiing.

‘A few times on that trip we were stopped by other skiers to commend us for skiing and who highlighted that they didn’t often see many other black skiers and snowboarders.

‘As frequent flyers these conversations are very common, but in this case, we had friends and strangers on social media back in the UK reaching out wanting to come with us on our next trip, so we knew we had something worth exploring.’

Moving forward, Mount Noire hope to go global.

The group has had interest from people of colour in America, so a trip to a US resort is the next aim.

For Tobi, with the momentum the group already has, she feels the ‘sky is the limit’.

She added: ‘We want to continue to inspire a generation of black and ethnic minorities to take up skiing so we are continuing on the path of creating more accessible trips as well as regular indoor ski socials for people to practice and experience the sport before going to resorts.

‘In the future we are also looking to encourage the younger generation by starting in schools and leading to hosting family trips as well.

‘We have had the great pleasure of meeting so many young families who have children going on ski trips and adults who want to learn alongside them too.’

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