Hispanics and their love affair with Colorado’s winter sports

on January 31 | in General | by | with Comments Off

By Veronica Whitney

El Montañes

The Hispanic newspaper of Eagle and Garfield Counties

This week’s blog comes to us from Veronica Whitney, Chief Editor of El Montañes, a Hispanic newspaper out of Carbondale.

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Though they might like soccer better, Latin Americans love to ski in Colorado. Proof of this are the thousands of Latin Americans that fill the ski trails at Colorado’s ski resorts every winter.

When my mom arrived at the Vail-Eagle airport (which serves Aspen and Vail among other ski areas) to visit us for Christmas she said most of the people on her flight from Miami were from Mexico and Venezuela.

Sunlight Mountain

Sunlight Mountain

“Almost everybody spoke Spanish,” she told me a little surprised.

I told her that Latin Americans have been coming to Colorado ski resorts for many years, and many of them own properties here as well.

The day before New Year’s Eve I met a Mexican from Leon and his family at the Aspen Film Festival. He told they’d been coming to ski to Aspen for 32 years.

“We love it here”, he said, as if there were no other place to go skiing in the world.

Another day at the Moncler store in Aspen I met another family from Latin America; this time from Brazil. I can tell when somebody comes from Latin America from a mile away. The language, the way they dress, the large families with lots of kids. And of course…we’re loud (in a good, cozy way).

Aspen_Jeremy Swanson

Aspen_Jeremy Swanson

The couple with their three children have been coming to Aspen for 16 years.

“It’s great for the kids,” the beautiful Brazilian told me. “And there is so much to do in addition to skiing.”

But what’s happening with the thousands of Hispanics who live in the Roaring Fork Valley, a group that has been growing consistently in the last 10 years according to the last census, and has reached 40 percent in some towns near Aspen? These are the local Spanish-speaking crowd, mostly from Mexico.

Though many of them still haven’t ventured in the winter sports life, preferring to stick with soccer and basketball, the younger generation is starting to take advantage of what the local ski slopes have to offer.

One of them, Isabel Weber, 14, of Glenwood Springs, a city about 45 miles from Aspen and 15 miles from the quaint and family-friendly Sunlight Mountain.

Isabel learned to ski when she was six when her mother, Elizabeth Weber, a Mexican who migrated to Colorado took her to Sunlight to take lessons.

“She started skiing that same day,” Elizabeth said. “And now she is a fanatic. She skis every weekend in Snowmass.”

Elizabeth told me she thinks many local Hispanics don’t ski  because they think it’s too expensive.

“I believe there is a lack of information. Skiing can be expensive for adults, but for the kids it’s very affordable because they get seasonal passes at a very reasonable price,” she said.

According to Alan Cole of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the participation of Hispanic local children in the club’s programs has been growing consistently in the past years.

Aspen_Jeremy Swanson

Aspen_Jeremy Swanson

“Last year (2011), we had about 360 Hispanic children, up from 130 in 2002,” he told me. “About 18 percent of our kids are Hispanics.”

Though the parents aren’t as involved in skiing as their children, Cole said they sign up dutifully their kids in the programs and they bring them to the mountain every weekend –the club also offers a shuttle service for those living down valley.

“It’s becoming less alien to them, it’s more of a tradition for them,” Cole tells me. “It’s becoming the thing to do in wintertime.”

When my mom was checking in at the Vail-Eagle airport to go back to Buenos Aires, all I heard around me was Spanish and Portuguese.

“We had a great time in Snowmass,” a man from Brazil who was waiting at the airline counter told me. “Now we are heading to Miami for a little warm weather.”

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