Thursday, 2 January 2020

Skiing's Whiteness

According to Clifford, downhill skiing is the "whitest and least integrated popular sport in America" although Black American ski organisations have been promoting Black people skiing for decades. In 2003, Black Americans made up only 2% of the American skiing market. A survey of articles in Skiing magazine (1993-2010) came to the conclusion that there were articles dealing with disabled skiing, gay skiing, skiing in Africa, but none dedicated to "African American skiing".

Here I argue that, in addition to specific structural constraints typically used to explain Black underrepresentation in skiing, there are powerful symbolic forces which work to define and maintain skiing and its associated social spaces as essentially White. As an arena of both sports and leisure tourism (...), the discourses surrounding skiing’s all-White imagery range from residual scientific racialism regarding body types and essential differences to exclusionary tactics utilized in managing residential communities.
Harrison (2013:316)
According to Harrison (2013), Black people's underrepresentation cannot fully be explained by skiing's high costs. Washburn's alternative explanation is that Black people shy from sports they perceive as White. A cultural explanation highlights the structures and points out that skiing is usually passed down from partents to children producing patterned behaviours.
By examining the racialized construction of downhill skiing, we can better understand the processes through which exclusionary geographies are secured outside of urban areas as well as within them — for it can reasonably be argued that ski resorts seek to reclaim the appeal of the urban experience in all White. Based on the current skiing landscape, we might join Philipp (2000) in pondering the extent to which leisure spaces function as mechanisms for preserving, rather than eroding, social segregation. The boundaries of Whiteness serve as the chief barrier through which racial stratification has been maintained in U.S. society. As one of the most racially exclusive leisure activities in America, skiing offers a spectacular view of the (mountainous) spaces where the preservation of Whiteness has been most successful.
Harrison (2013:333)

- Harrison, A. K. (2013). Black Skiing, Everyday Racism, and the Racial Spatiality of Whiteness. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 37(4), 315-339.
- photographs taken in Snowmass Village, 1972 via and in Cortina d'Ampezzo, 1962, by Slim Aarons (1916-2006) via


  1. "preservation of Whiteness", thanks for the share!

  2. Many thanks for your comments and, again, all the best for 2020!