There was a “Blackout” in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., and I don’t mean a power outage. As COVID cases continue to trend downward, a group of outdoors-loving professionals ascended to Heavenly Mountain Resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to enjoy Blackout Weekend, known as “The Urban Professional Ski Snowboard Party.” An event that’s been thriving for years, Blackout Weekend does away with the assumption that winter sports aren’t for the Black community. We “shred” too.
“This is not traditionally thought of as a sport for Black people. In fact, a lot of Black people are boarders, skiers — and you’d be surprised when you get there how many people already have their own equipment, board, skis, that sort of thing,” Cherice Calhoun, one of the producers of the annual event, tells ESSENCE. “Black people from all over the country get together to ski, snowboard, snowmobile and enjoy all winter activities. It’s something that we started about 15 years ago as a way to get people together, to give them the opportunity to do something a little different.”
The event runs in mid-March annually, usually over four days from Thursday to Sunday, with tickets going on sale around the top of the year. The goal is to introduce more Black people to this dazzling part of the country and to winter sports. Nearly 50 percent of attendees come from California, which is where Blackout Weekend, the company, is based. The remaining travel from across the U.S.
Organizers say nearly 700 people participated this year, itching to get outside for a sense of normalcy after two years of uncertainty, closures and navigating the coronavirus. They also took advantage of the multiple networking events, VIP gatherings and all the casinos have to offer at the host hotels for the event, including Harrah’s and Harveys.
I picked up snowboarding in 2019; living just 45 minutes from Lake Tahoe in Reno, Nevada. You can get to some of the best ski resorts in the nation all within a three-hour drive, and with scenery like this, how can you not take advantage? So, when I found out about Blackout Weekend and felt comfortable being around other humans again, I decided to check it out.
It was quite the experience. Heavenly Mountain is stunning! A gondola takes you up with a pit stop option to get off and drool over a scenic overlook and that’s before you get to the mountain’s base. I’m not falling nearly as much anymore (after tons of practice and lessons), so I hit the slopes to kick off the fun, checked into the hotel, and then got ready for the nightcap event. Friday night we “swag surfed” and relived our college and post-college days, dancing to tunes by Travis Porter, Roscoe Dash, Waka Flocka Flame and classic throwbacks.
Saturday was a “take your pick” kind of day. You could do yoga, attend a day party or hit the slopes. I loved the flexibility of the schedule and that there was something for everyone’s personality and tastes. The day party was the choice for me and my sorority sisters who accompanied me.
Taking in the scenes around me, the area is made for tourists: gift shops, local restaurants, bike rentals and carriage rides through town with unforgettable views of the incomparable Lake Tahoe. You could spend a week up here and not do the same activity twice.You might eat the same food twice, though, because it’s just that good. I couldn’t get enough of the Fra Diavolo (fresh spaghetti with lobster tail, shaved garlic, and white wine) from Sapori Italian Kitchen inside Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. And before I even remembered to snap a picture of it, my sorority sister and I devoured the Carpaccio di Bresaola, which is dry cured beef with artichokes, herbs and lemon-mustard dressing.
After so much walking, shopping, Cupid Shufflin’ and vibing, the Blackout Weekend team wrapped up festivities with a pajama party. But this wasn’t any pajama party; it was a silent disco pajama party. Three talented DJs spun on three different frequencies. You could tune your headphones to whichever songs got your hands up on your knees and your bows on your thighs! The grand finale was the perfect way to cap off the weekend.
My home of Reno has a Black population of under five percent. Getting back on the road after two years of major nerves surrounding travel, hugging and even standing in an elevator with a stranger was a big leap to take. But the joy that took over my heart seeing my people, in my backyard, was priceless. I witnessed an increased interest in winter sports, new relationships being built and an appreciation for the beauty of this spectacular area that’s close enough for me to call home.
Who knows? Perhaps a future Olympian, your soulmate, or your next business connection is among the crowd. Come out next year to the #westcoastbestcoast and experience Blackout Weekend for yourself.