James Guyton plays basketball. But skiing?

Not so much; especially since it means being out in the cold.

When the Chesapeake Ski & Sports Club Inc. invites African-American teenagers to try a day on the slopes, members expect such resistance. It took some gentle prodding from counselors at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore before Guyton, 16, reluctantly agreed to try snowboarding — which seemed a little cooler.

Wrapped up warmly in a red ski jacket and black pants borrowed from the local ski group, he stumbled his way down the bunny slope at the Whitetail Resort in Pennsylvania during the recent visit. By the fourth run he was starting to master the hill.

"I didn't fall at all that time," he grinned.

It was another victory for the Baltimore-based ski club, whose mostly black members are working to diversify the area's mountains and dispel the belief that people of color don't ski.

"The biggest challenge is finding kids who want to do it," said Tracy Washington, the group's president. "This is not basketball or football and the kinds of sports city kids are used to. It's not a common sport in the environment they live in."

Washington has heard the excuses: The other kids will laugh at me. Black kids don't ski. It's a corny sport. It will mess up my rep.

His hope is that once they feel the rush of a downhill run, many will become hooked.

The ski club has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to introduce disadvantaged children to skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports. The group, which started the program last year, pays for travel, rentals, lift tickets and lessons.

The effort is part of a growing movement nationwide to get African-American youth out to the slopes.

Some are surprised to discover they actually enjoy skiing once they try it — even if it means wiping out a few times.

Such moments teach life skills as well as sport, said Washington, a former marathoner who traded his sneakers for skis a few years ago.

"They learn that when you fall you get back up and try again," Washington said. "You don't give up."

Washington's wife Tanya — the couple met on a ski trip — said they also hope to challenge kids to try new experiences.

"We hope they learn to think about a different way of living and to take a different perspective on life," she said.

Blacks make up more than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but only 1 to 2 percent of skiers, according to the consumer intelligence and consulting firm RRC Associates. The percentage hasn't changed in the last decade.

The Colorado-based firm, which specializes in tourism, hospitality and snow sports, says ski groups across the country are developing programs to get African-American children out on the slopes.

The problem has been getting kids to continue on their own.

"I really like what those programs are doing and I think it is really important to expose children to skiing, snowboarding and being outdoors," said David Belin, RRC's director of consulting services. "The challenge is translating that into lifelong participation."