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Ski Jammers is Texas’ first predominately Black ski club

Written by on February 16, 2023

By Mario Dunham

The seemingly endless downpour from a Houston thunderstorm did not dampen the spirits of members of the Ski Jammers, who had gathered on a Sunday afternoon to discuss their upcoming trip to Vail, Colorado.

Hugs, laughter, handshakes, and a cheerful voice in the background said to those entering the room, “thank you, guys, for coming.”

That welcoming voice belonged to Andrea Yowman, President of Texas’ first predominantly Black ski club. The club was founded on September 12, 1982.

Ski Jammers is Texas’ first predominately Black ski club
Ski Jammers is Texas’ first predominately Black ski club (Ski Jammers)

“There is a mission to help support our athletes of color who really aspire to compete in the Olympics and internationally, but at the same time expose skiing and boarding winter sports to our community,” said Yowman.

The club is under the umbrella of the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), which has been around since 1973, and focuses on bringing African Americans to the slopes and ensuring a safe, fun, and family-oriented experience.

A National Ski Areas Association 2021-22 survey found that only 1.5% of skiers at resorts were Black. That number has been the same for a decade.

Yowman wants to see that number change. That’s why her Jammers are part of the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), founded by Ben Finley and Art Clay 50 years ago.

NBS, which has over 3,000 members and 57 affiliate chapters, met in Vail February 4-11 for its annual “Soul on the Snow” summit.

(Ski Jammers)

Ski Jammers has a clear mission

Exposing African Americans to skiing gives a basis for growth in the sport, with aspirations of Black athletes participating in winter sports.

Historically, African Americans faced racial discrimination, and many other obstacles when trying to participate in activities played on snow. According to NBS founders, the Colorado National Guard was put on alert when the group held its first summit in 1973 in Aspen. Since that time, NBS has been able to change some minds about Blacks and skiing.

As an affiliate chapter of NBS, Ski Jammers hopes to continue NBS’s mission of breaking barriers and attitudes about Blacks and skiing.

Long-time Houston businessman Francis Page, Jr. beamed with pride as he spoke about Jammers’ impact on his life.

“I love to ski, and when I found out there was a Black group that had the same like [interest], I gravitated to them,” Page said.

Yowman sent a message to the members thinking only a few people would come out; however, ten Ski Jammers spent Sunday telling their stories.

(Ski Jammers)

Ski Jammers’ story is rare

Ski Jammers take skiing trips from across the United States to destinations worldwide.

All ages converge on these mountains and experience the powder at their feet and the cold air filling their lungs.

(Ski Jammers)

Family and fellowship

The Ski Jammers’ gatherings have united people and brought some into holy matrimony.

Ski Jammers member Tony Curry fell in love on one of these trips and met his future wife while taking nieces and nephews on a trip with the group.

“I brought my nephews and nieces along, and she brought her nephew and nieces along, and that’s how my wife and I met,” Curry said.

People gravitate to Ski Jammers because of its family-friendly environment, Curry said.

“It’s all about fellowship,” Curry added.

Curry and his wife went on to have triplets and passed their love of skiing to their children.

(Ski Jammers)

“For me, if you even think…of trying skiing or snowboarding, I’d say just go for it. The opportunity is there; you just have to take it, and once you try, you will enjoy it,” son Neo Curry said.

Neo loves skiing and enjoys being around people who snowboard. He has made lifelong friends thanks to his father teaching him to try new and adventurous activities.

“Being from Houston, you don’t really see the views you see on top of a mountain. You see snow on the trees and mountains everywhere when you are going down [a mountain]. It’s pretty quiet, and you can kind of forget about what’s going in your life, and it’s a really cool feeling,” daughter Trinity Curry said.

Trinity’s voice turned gentle and reflective as she described how she felt on the mountain.

Triumph over hardship

Omni McCluney, a Ski Jammers member, discovered an interest in becoming a member after receiving a double lung transplant.

The greatest lesson is there is absolutely nothing I can’t do. I truly believe that if I put my mind to it and can do it, I will accomplish it; never in a million years did I think that would be skiing.

Omni McCluney

McCluney found purpose on top of a mountain with people who looked like her while facing her crisis.

From youth to adults, the Ski Jammers hit the slopes the way they have hit obstacles in their lives, with ferocity, vigor, and intensity forged in the fires of their ancestors.

Ski Jammers promotes life, living for the moment, and creating memories as they continue to be an ambassador for skiing in Texas.

Yowman’s niece, Deandrea Staes, started skiing when she was 5-years-old. Now, as an adult and leader in the organization, she envisions Ski Jammers as being transformative.

“My vision for the Ski Jammers and NBS as a whole, especially the Rocky Mountain region, is for us to be the trendsetter for the next generation, ” Staes said.

Yowman proudly looked at Staes and added, “We bring a lot of economic impact to the mountain. So, we want to not only help our athletes but also to continue to diversify the mountain.”

Yowman hopes the next 41 years will shatter even more barriers and create generations of African American skiing enthusiasts.

Previously published on KPRC2 news.