Change agent: someone who promotes and enables change to happen within any group or organization. Denver, Colorado native, Quincy ‘Q’ Shannon, definitely checks the box on the definition as he works to get more young Black people on Colorado’s slopes— and slopes across the country.
Growing up in the Park Hill neighborhood— an inner city area that was also once home to Denver’s airport— Shannon was exposed to Black ski culture as early as three-years-old.
“My neighbor actually founded a local Black ski club called Slippers and Sliders, that was a chapter of the National Brotherhood of Skiers founded in the 70s,” Shannon told Travel Noire. “From a young age, I was exposed to seeing thousands of professional Black people on Colorado’s slopes. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized I was very privileged to witness this.”
He vividly remembers attending ski meetups and other events hosted by the Slippers and Sliders, and even had the chance to be in the room with iconic Black figures like Pam Grier. Seeing professional and well-to-do Black people on the mountain was something that was second-nature.
“It wasn’t until I went off to college, and asked friends and classmates if they had been to the mountains or skiing, and they would say no. These were people from my very same neighborhoods and communities who had never been to the slopes.”
Being the change agent and solution finder that he is, Q decided to take on more leadership roles within the Slippers and Sliders organization to learn how he could better expose people in his age group— and generations after— to the mountains.
While he was learning a lot within the organization, what he further realized was that many of the members during that time, were older, and didn’t necessarily understand the need for social media and creating meetups outside the slopes.
So, in 2018 he helped launch and create Ski Noir 5280, an organization dedicated to exposing young Black men and women to skiing, winter sports, and the mountains in general.
“I was able to receive the blessing of the Slippers and Sliders to launch. We have since registered our organization with the National Brotherhood of Skiers, and we are currently the youngest group in the network.”
Through Ski Noir 5280, Shannon is able to host ski meetups, group happy hours outside the mountains, and even provide members to access to discounts and brands that work closely with the organization. In the group’s short existence, he has been able to build brand partnerships with companies like Patagonia and Aspen-Snowmass donating jackets, helmets, and necessary ski equipment. Things that can be costly and often keep Black people from enjoying winter sports. He lends the items out, at no cost, to anyone who may need them while visiting the area.
But, for him, this group and the work he does is about much more than skiing and snowboarding. It’s about taking up space in places where we aren’t always welcomed.
On changing the narrative
Not only is he working to expose other Black men and women to a lifestyle, but he’s also changing the culture of how and where we are accepted. On any given weekend, you can find Q and his daughter on the slopes together.
“I want to be clear, this is not easy work,” Shannon explained. “I have been on certain slopes and had people flash the white power sign. There are still people and places that do not want us here.”
Shannon recalls how during the first Black Ski Summit in 1973, the National Guard was called because so many Black people had come together to enjoy the slopes and events.
But beyond the racism that can occur, he also wants to continue the legacy of the elders and organizations— like the National Brotherhood of Skiers— that blazed the trail in ensuring we had access to these spaces.
“The men and women before me are now aging, and I don’t want to see the work they did, die. I’m simply taking the baton and letting them know I’ve got it from here.”
Exposing local youth to Colorado’s slopes
Outside of giving his own peers access to the slopes, Shannon is also working to expose local students to the mountains, as well, through his new non-profit— Neighborhood Uplift. He wants them to be able to appreciate and fall in love, just as he did as a young kid.
“When we’re able to take the students outside their everyday environments, we’re helping them to see something greater,” he said. “The mountains have changed so many people’s lives, and I want to continue that.”
The bigger goal is to also purchase a 15-passenger van within the next year, to get more people to Colorado’s slopes, and beyond.
You can learn more about Quincy ‘Q’ Shannon through his Instagram: @qtheque. You can follow Ski Noire 5208 here, and the National Brotherhood of Skiers here. Also, the Black Ski Summit will be taking place in the Aspen, Colorado area Feb. 5-11, 2022.
“If you are ever in Colorado, feel free to reach out. Whether you need someone to ski with or even to borrow jackets, helmets, or equipment— I’m here.”