Meet the women on a mission to bring colour and diversity to the mountains
Founded by a group of college friends, Mount Noire provides community and group trips to skiers and snowboarders of colour.
If we asked you to close your eyes and describe your typical snowboarder, what would you describe? Think about it for a few seconds.
Chances are, you didn’t just describe someone of colour, did you?
We met an incredible group of women at this year’s Ellesse x Tomorrowland Winter festival who are on a mission to smash stereotypes in winter sports, break down barriers, and bring colour and diversity to the mountains.
Meet Mount Noire!
The aptly named Mount Noire is a community group of skiers and snowboarders based out of London, UK, with one mission; To bring together people from black and brown backgrounds to experience the joy of skiing and snowboarding.
We sat down with the five co-creators and all-round legends; Wenona, Simi, Blessing, Tobi, and Dee, to learn more about their story, ambitions, what they’re up to, and what the future looks like for Mount Noire.
Q: So, what’s Mount Noire all about?
“It all started a few years back when we recognised that a lot of people don’t have access to, or don’t know how to get into skiing and snowboarding, so we started this group to provide a platform and an opportunity for people to do just that.”
In a nutshell, Mount Noire…
Run organised trips to European resorts each winter (with shorter, budget-friendly trips to places like Bulgaria through to more Luxe-style trips to the French Alps and more).
Run group day trips to UK-based dry or indoor slopes so people can get a taster into the sport and learn for the first time before committing to a full-on trip.
Organise local socials and meet-ups for people interested in mountain or winter sports within the UK.
In their own words, there’s a huge misconception that black and brown people don’t ski or snowboard, and it’s pretty clear to see how wrong this is on every level with what these women are achieving with the success of the Mount Noire movement.
“Getting people into winter sports is obviously such an awesome part of it but what’s also so important for us is to bring people together, create connections and friendships. It’s all for the love of the sport and allowing everyone to experience how fun it is to be in the mountains.”
Q: What’s a standard trip with the Mount Noire crew like?
“In one word? Energy!”
They admit that at times the trips can get pretty lively, but this is actually just a by-product of the community vibe and a bit of organised fun at après.
After spending the week with the Mount Noire crew at this year’s Tomorrowland Winter festival, I can totally see why! It genuinely sounds like these trips are so much fun.
“As much as we love to party and have socials, we also recognise not everyone wants to party. We also organise various team activities, game nights, and treat-yourself spa days on our French trips too. We put a really big emphasis on creating a proper experience for everyone to remember, as well as ensuring any first-timers have a great first experience and get them to want to come back again and again.”
Q: What’s the mix of skiers vs. snowboarders on your trips?
“Up until fairly recently, we’ve always had more skiers than snowboarders. But we can see this changing. One of our more recent trips had about 50/50 so it’s a really good mix. One of the people who came along recently was saying how big of a deal it was for them to finally ride a snowboard with other black people for the first time ever.”
“We’re finding that a lot more people are asking us if they can try switching to snowboarding too. We did a day out with Burton last year to give people snowboard lessons and this had a really great response.”
Q: Any highlights or stand-out moments to share from any of your trips?
The girls’ recalled some of their favourite memories being the impromptu nights out in the clubs when the locals all join in on the fun.
“There have been times when the DJs let us change the music and the locals and tourists all wanted to be involved. It really is just about the vibe, and that helps bring the togetherness and it’s how great friendships are formed.”
“Another major highlight for us is when we introduce people to the sport for the first time. Seeing the first-timers fall in love with the sport and want to come back and do more is actually something really special, and we’re so glad we are a part of that for them. You can see the joy on people’s faces when they tell you about the blue run they nailed. This is actually what makes it all worth it.”
Q: We’re obviously out here at Tomorrowland Winter with Ellesse, but what are all these brand partnerships helping with?
“Being part of the promotional shoots this year for Ellesse and Tomorrowland Winter was a lot of fun. It’s cool we get to do these things with such big brands but one of biggest things this is doing for our community is helping to normalise seeing black and brown people in the sport. There isn’t a great deal of black representation at the elite level in winter sports, but seeing people of colour from all diverse backgrounds in photos, promotional material and everything in between helps future generations and young people think I can totally do that. It’s the introduction to the sport that matters.”
The Mount Noire team still work full-time jobs that help fund their mission, which also means they don’t have big budgets to play with to advertise their stuff. They rely on socials, word of mouth, articles like this one, and coverage through brand partnerships and even the BBC in their Ski Sunday feature earlier this year to spread the word.
Q: What are some of the biggest barriers we need to break down to bring more inclusivity to the mountains so we can all shred together?
At the end of the day, the three biggest barriers are:
1. There aren’t enough grass-roots opportunities for kids and youth groups
“In the UK, there aren’t a lot of grass-roots opportunities to introduce young kids to winter sports.”
“Kids grow up seeing their favourite footballers, they get to play it at school and it’s easy to fall in love with the sport. It would be awesome to see more funding opportunities to allow kids and families to experience local indoor and dry slopes to give them an opportunity to fall in love with skiing and snowboarding.”
2. Cost barriers and funding
This isn’t exclusive to winter sports, but let’s face it, snow trips aren’t cheap! These days a trip to the mountains from the UK is in the thousands, which makes it harder to be inclusive. And, if it’s your first trip, you need to buy all the gear and to go along with it.
“It’s easier said than done, but what we’d love to see more of is packages to cater to families and youth groups to make affordability to the mountains a lot more in-reach.”
3. A lack of diverse representation in winter sports
“As we mentioned earlier, just seeing a more diverse mix of races, colours and cultures on the mountains, as well as in promotional materials, goes a long way in helping to normalise seeing diversity across the sport.”
Q: So, what’s next for Mount Noire?
“We’ve got three big ambitions this year…
World domination – We’d love to extend our reach wider across the world and organise some trips further afield. Europe is our home, but we’d love to get some trips to North America in the pipeline as we get a lot of interest from the community in the states already. We’d also love to head out to Japan too!
Venture into other sports too – Our mission doesn’t really stop at winter sports. You can obviously go to the mountains in the summer, so we’d love to start exploring the possibilities to get people into nature, hiking, and experience the resorts outside of winter too.
Start building partnerships through a Mount Noire Bursary Programme – We want to do more the help enable grass-roots funding for small families and youth groups. We’d love to talk to brands and potential partners to try to make everything more accessible for everyone. So if you’re a chalet and accommodation provider, ski or snowboard instructor, equipment rental provider, snow brand or anyone else – this is your calling. Get in touch with the team and let’s discuss how we can make this happen.”
Getting the opportunity to sit down with the Mount Noire crew was genuinely awesome, and incredibly eye-opening. If there’s anything you think you can do to help their mission to bring colour and diversity to the mountains, get in touch with them via their Instagram, or visit https://www.mountnoire.com/ to learn more about their trips and their mission.
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