National Brotherhood of Skiers Black Ski Summit 2011 attendees, from right, Kathy Lloyd, Travis Garrett and Butch Mikell walk through Gondola Square on Saturday.

Photo by Matt Stensland

National Brotherhood of Skiers Black Ski Summit 2011 attendees, from right, Kathy Lloyd, Travis Garrett and Butch Mikell walk through Gondola Square on Saturday.

National Brotherhood of Skiers draws more than 1,000 to Steamboat

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If you go

What: Black Ski Summit 2011 Opening Ceremonies

When: 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. today

Where: Gondola Square at the base of Steamboat Ski Area

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National Brotherhood of Skiers President Haymon Jahi discusses this year's summit in Steamboat Springs.

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The National Brotherhood of Skiers raises funds to support black skiers like Emily Whaler who skies for Loveland Ski Area and Evergreen High School.

— Haymon Jahi left a face print on famed bump run Rolex the first time he skied at Steamboat Ski Area in 1995. Four years ago, he returned, only to be bested by the black diamond slope once again.

This year, he’s back with the annual Black Ski Summit, and Jahi, now the president of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, wants to redeem himself.

But aside from conquering Rolex, Jahi said the aim of the convention is to raise funds to support black winter sports athletes, so the group can share the passion and exhilaration of skiing with a new generation. The convention moves around each year and was last here in 2007.

“When I’m out there with friends, when I’m skiing, it’s like a stress reliever,” Jahi said. “All you hear is that ‘shhh,’ and my mind is free.”

The National Brotherhood of Skiers is hosting the summit in Steam­boat Springs this week, with about 800 registered participants and hundreds more “renegades,” or nonregistered black ski clubs that plan their trips to coincide with the Black Ski Summit.

Social events, parties, skiing activities, races and hot springs adventures are planned during the week by the Brotherhood and renegade groups.

The opening ceremonies are at 3:45 p.m. today in Gondola Square.

“It’s like a family reunion every year,” Jahi said about the event, which he has attended for almost 20 years. “Some of these people I only see once a year, and we all come together. I get to ski with a different group every day.”

The Brotherhood comprises 60 clubs representing 43 cities and a membership of 3,000. It is recognized by the ski industry as one of the largest ski organizations, and its summit is regarded as the largest ski convention in the Uni­ted States, according to a Brotherhood news release.

This year’s convention marks a special occasion because this week the Brotherhood will unveil its new foundation, the National Winter Sports Education Foundation, aimed at fundraising for the Brother­hood’s cause. The funds support a nationwide effort to develop young black athletes through coaching and sponsorships.

“We’ve been working hard for 30-something years,” Jahi said. “And we really want one of our skiers to make that downhill U.S. Ski Team.”

Emily Whaler, 17, wants to be the one to do it.

The Littleton teen is a downhill racer for the Loveland Ski Area ski team and the Ever­green High School Ski Team. She also is one of the National Brotherhood of Skiers’ sponsored skiers and traveled to the convention Saturday to meet the group’s officials.

“It’s really helpful because I really can’t do this without the support,” she said. “I really like (the Brotherhood) because it’s good to just represent and show that we can ski, too.”

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said the resort is excited to have the group back.

“It’s always an honor when NBS selects Steamboat as their destination,” Kasten said. “They’ve been here in the past, and we love the ability to show off everything we have to offer to such a large group.”

The Brotherhood’s presence will be apparent across town. According to a Brotherhood news release, officials estimate that the summit attendees will contribute $500,000 to the local economy through retail purchases, ski rentals and entertainment.

“They’re from such a large variety of places, and they’re always so happy to be here and share it with friends and enjoy the conditions, which are obviously great,” Kasten said. “It’s a great impact on the entire town.”

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or e-mail ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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