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On The Slopes With Art Clay, Longtime Sno-Gopher, Founder Of National Brotherhood Of Skiers Bringing Black Skiers Together, And Chicago Sports Pioneer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- His name isn't Jordan, Payton, or Banks – it's Clay; Art Clay, and he's very much a Chicago sports pioneer.

Clay, 84, is the co-founder of the National Brotherhood of Skiers and a proud member of the Sno-Gophers – an African American ski club that is one of the oldest ski clubs in the U.S. The club was established in 1965.

As we celebrate Black History Month, at CBS 2, photojournalist Tamott Wolverton took us shushing down the slopes with them.

"I'm a daredevil, and so I've always wanted to try things that I've not done before – and skiing was kind of at the top of the list about 15, 20 years ago," said Angelica Faith, president of the Sno-Gophers.

Faith has been a master of the slopes.

"Whether you're cruising or going at a moderate pace, the exhilaration is indescribable," she said. "There is a sense of serenity, freedom, peace."

Faith called Clay one-of-a-kind. On his hat, he has pins from some of the many ski areas he has visited.

"Arthur Clay is just another character who enjoys the sport of skiing," Clay said. "March 18, I'll be 85."

Faith said in 1973, Clay and his co-founder Ben Finley, had a vision of wanting to ski together with a group of ski clubs. Thus came the National Brotherhood of Skiers.

"Without this man here, Art Clay, the National Brotherhood of Skiers would not have been born," Faith said. "I would not be standing here."

As noted on its website, the National Brotherhood of Skiers came about at a time when Black skiers were not a common sight and Black ski clubs were an exception. But Clay and Finley – who was president of the Four Seasons West Ski Club in Los Angeles – decided to bring 13 different Black ski clubs together for what a member of the Jim Dandy Ski Club of Detroit called a Black Summit.

Finley was quoted on the organization's website said the of the summit was "to identify and discuss problems and subjects which were unique to the black skiing population, ski and socialize."

More than 350 skiers came to Aspen, Colorado for the Black Summit in 1973. The National Brotherhood of Skiers was then chartered in 1974 and became an Illinois nonprofit in 1975.

"When you're denied the access to something, it becomes important to gain access," he said. "Today, I come out here and I see some of us. Fifty years ago, we weren't welcome at areas like this."

The National Brotherhood of Skiers gets together once a year, and a group of more than 1,000 skiers usually meet in places such as Aspen, Colorado or Sun Valley, Idaho. The group has now skied all over the world, Clay said.

Those trips aren't just for skiers either. The Sno-Gophers also camp, bowl, roller skate, bike ride, and participate in additional activities all year long.

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