He described potential obstacles: Many African Americans live in the South and other parts of the country where there is no skiing. The sport can be prohibitively expensive.

The Chesapeake Ski & Sports Club pays about $100 per child to rent gear, take a lesson and ski for a day, Washington said. Members raise money and use grant funds from the National Brotherhood of Skiers, of which the club is an affiliate.

Washington said disadvantaged kids can present challenges. The day of the recent trip to Whitetail, some of the teenagers were late and got to the resort three hours behind schedule. The group was supposed to include 10 kids, but several had bad grades and couldn't attend.

And getting the kids to participate in the first place involved getting parents to insist their children go because there was so little interest.

"They did not want to go at all," said Chris Parker, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club.

But Washington said his group is up to these challenges. He recently started showing videos of skiers doing flips and other tricks to get teenagers more interested.

"If we can at least get them to the mountain, that is something," he said.

The skiers know they won't convert every teenager.

Tahtiana Hyman, 16, made the trip to Whitetail. She was reluctant to go at first. No one she knows skis and she wasn't sure she'd be any good at it. But she decided to approach it as an exciting new experience. Plus, her good friend Kendreya Allen was going.

But it was difficult for her from the start. She struggled to get the ski boots on. By the time she was fully dressed, she was exhausted.

"Uggghh, I feel really uncomfortable," she said as she trudged along in the boots.

The actual skiing didn't come easy, either. During her lesson, she had a hard time grasping some of the basics, such as keeping her hands to her sides —she tended to scrunch them up in front of her body, as if in fear.

When she finally hit the bunny slope, Hyman struggled to ski down. She continuously drifted to the left and fell several times.

She thought she'd never get to the bottom.

"I am not going back to that mountain," she said afterward, with tears of frustration in her eyes. "I just didn't like it."

But Washington and Chesapeake Ski aren't giving up on Hyman. They hope she will find the courage to try again.

Allen told her friend she shouldn't give up on skiing. Allen said she was afraid, too, when she skied for the first time last year. But this year, she sped through the lessons with grace. She flew down the bunny slope with ease, comfort and a big smile on her face.

Hyman later told Boys and Girls Club executive director Parker that she, at least, liked being at the ski resort.

Maybe there is hope.

"I think Chesapeake Ski will see Tahtiana on a mountain in the future," Washington said.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ankwalker

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