Smartwool's newest ski sock has a number knit into the bottom: 1973.
That's the founding year of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, a group committed to the mission of increasing diversity within skiing and snowboarding and developing Black skiers and snowboarders for Olympic competition.
Nearly 50 years ago, the group held its first Black Summit at Aspen, a gathering of over 350 Black skiers from all over the country. The event was the idea of Ben Finley, the founder of a Los Angeles ski club called Four Seasons West, and Art Clay, the trip director of Chicago's Sno-Gophers Ski Club. It was part conference and part necessity — racism still pervaded the small, rural communities around ski mountains, and gathering as a group was a matter of safety. (According to a documentary about the NBS produced by REI and embedded below, the Colorado National Guard was called to stand by ahead of the Aspen summit.)
The celebration and fundraising event became an annual affair that now draws thousands and is supported by over 50 ski clubs from Detroit, Washington DC, Chicago, LA, New York and more (the 2021 Black Summit is virtual due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic). Smartwool hopes that the collaboration sock, which features portraits of Finley and Clay, the Afro-American flag and the NBS logo, can support the group's mission. The company also donated $5,000 to NBS to commemorate the launch.
The sock itself is from Smartwool's PhD collection and comes in an ultralight merino wool construction with varying knit zones for compression and breathability.