Northern New England has been blessed with an abnormal amount of early spring snow this year and the prospects for good ski weather through most of April appear good.
One man who plans to take advantage of the snow, at least through Easter weekend, is Earl G. Graves, a New Yorker who owns a condominium in Jeffersonville, Vt., near Stowe.
I'm a heavy skier," said Graves, referring not to his slim built but rather to his method of "getting away to relax" every winter weekend in Vermont. As such, Graves is one of a growing number of blacks who have become confirmed ski addicts. And he has a special interest in the subject as founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, a monthly started in 1970 tht is the only periodical aimed at black businessmen and women, professionals and administrators.
"You should have seen it," said Graves, describing a recent weekend in Vermont. The temperature outside during the day got up to 65 degrees and "there I was, trying to unwind after a hectic week with shorts on, skiing," Graves recalled.
So serious is Graves about the sport that when he invites friends or business associates to join his wife, Barbara, and their two sons for a weekend in Vermont, he makes certain they're up by 6 a.m. and out in the snow.
Graves said he is fascinated by the economic and socila implications of skiing, which has begun to attract large numbers of blacks only in the past few years. He has helped to foster the growing interest in skiing among blacks by introducing an estimated 300 black families to the sport on his own and by meeting with officers of ski equipment manufacturers and resorts, seeking to impress them with the importance of a market he feels has been ignored.
The Black Enterprise publisher said he's talking about a multimillion dollar market, based on a "marked growth" in the black middle class during the early 1970s. Nearly 20 per cent of the nation's black population has a household income of $15,000 and above -up 216 per cent since 1969, he said. And, by 1980, he projected that 38 per cent of the black community will reach this income leve, "making the black consumer market one of the fastest growing untapped resources of potential ski dollars."
In the ski season now ending, blacks spent untold millions of dollars on equipment and skiing, Graves added. Their interest can be measured, in part, by a growing number of black ski clubs that now represent more than 2,000 members.
Overall, Graves estimated there are 340,000 black skiers in the country and half of these persons spend at least a week per month during the winter on the slopes. They patronize all major ski resorts, he said.
Graves began organizing ski trips back in the mid-1960s, as an assistant to the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. He contributes ad space in his magazine to the U.S. Ski Team and had hoped to sponsor a combined financial-investment seminar for skiers at Vail, Colo., last month, when a federation of black ski clubs had scheduled a biennial ski meet.
Because the early winter weather was abnormally warm, however, the Vail, seminar was cancelled for fear there would be no snow. Graves already had invested $20,000 in the program, which was lost. And, of course, blizzards developed and Colorado skiing has been good and may continue so through May.
That experience with an unsual winter season may have dampened enthusiasm for such pleasure-business programs in the future that are oriented toward skiing, but Graves said a similar seminar may be organized around tennis, another spot attracting more blacks without being subjects to upredictable snowfalls.
And the enthusiasm of Graves for family skiing hasn't been reduced. Graves purchased his condominium in Vermont six years ago, the first black to own a home in the Smuggler's Notch ski area. Now there are other black owners and Graves is vice president of the homeowners association; three-bedroom condominiums there cost about $80,000.
Graves also is thinking about investing in property near Vail. However, skiing is not always joyful, Graves noted, recalling a February accident in Vermont when one of his sons crashed into a tree. He was under care of a neurosurgeon for 10 days.
The younger Graves now is well, but as his father said: "We ski seriously."