Matthew Reese of Seattle, Washington might have gone his entire life without laying a foot on a snowboard. In a recent phone interview, Reese said he used to think: black people don’t ski, snow is too cold, and snow sports conflict with basketball season! But earlier this year, at age 30, his snowboarding co-workers finally convinced him to trek up to the slopes with them on a trip that changed his perspective regarding what was possible through the experience of snowboarding.
As a long time athlete, he felt confident he could take on a challenging run his first time out, but the mountain humbled him. Reese frankly calls that first time as “pretty horrible” and he even called it quits early in the day to tend to his battered limbs. However Reese was undeterred by the initial bruises, and was determined to try again a couple weeks later with an Urban League group for a Valentine’s Day event. The trip had a good mix people with varying skill levels and was where he found his snow groove that launched a new obsession for the rush, challenge, and excitement of snowboarding.
As an African-American male, I asked if he ever felt discriminated against while participating in the sport: “not at all,” says Reese. He finds that snowboarders are passionate about the sport and welcoming to anyone who feels the same way. The slopes are a great equalizer, however he does admit that it’s hard to be taken seriously in the board stores. Reese humorously recalls shop visits where employees learn after he starts talking, how knowledgeable he is about the sport and quickly change their customer service tune!
Reese is not playing around when it comes to snowboarding — in just this year, he has traveled to five different mountains and now skis every weekend. A favorite is his local Stevens Pass, but he also enjoys traveling to surrounding states to experience new challenges. For Reese, snowboarding has opened up a whole new path of fun, travel, and networking and he hopes others give snow sports a try as one way to discover new things about themselves, and the world around them.
Matthew Reese’s tips for Outdoor Afros who want to get started snowboarding:
- If you are not certain about the sport, renting gear initially is fine
- As soon as you know you want to continue with the sport, buy your gear as you’ll save money over time
- It may be a big initial investment, but if you shop around, you’ll find many deals
Still not convinced black people and the snow mix? Do you have other ideas and tips to share? Comment about it!