A grass-roots snowboarding campaign, backed by Transworld and industry sponsors, is enlisting the help of snowboarders everywhere to overturn the ban on snowboarding at Taos, Ajax, and Alta. These are the last three areas that maintain a ski-only policy while operating on National Forest Service land. “As private companies operating on publicly owned land, the only reason these ski areas are allowed to continue their pointless and elitist ban snowboarders is because the National Forest Service allows them to,” says Matt Kreitman, a New Mexico-based writer and frequent Transworld Snowboarding Business contributor, who is coordinating the FreeTheSnow campaign. A new website, FreeTheSnow.com, asks snowboarders to add their names and addresses to an e-mail letter that will be sent out to around 50 elected and appointed officials, including the secretary of agricultural, congressmen, and state governors, asking them to push the National Forest Service to change its policy on issuing operating permits.
In exchange for sending the letter, all writers will be sent a bumper sticker with either Free Taos, Free Ajax, or Free Alta on it. Bumperstickers have been paid for by Nike. Meanwhile a range of further actions will be taking place, many backed by industry dollars. For example, a road-side billboard paid for by Heelside will be erected next week on the main highway to Taos.
Several business owners in Taos, led by Jack Wilson, a bagel store owner and Lib Tech rider, are also working to educate other local businesses about the negative economic impact of the snowboard ban. The campaign will be presenting its economic data to the local Chamber of Commerce next month with the hope they too will endorse the campaign. Fundraising benefits and plans to leaflet skiers visiting the mountain are also underway.
“Local snowboard retailer Experience Snowboards started a Free Taos campaign a few seasons ago. And local riders such as Christof Bromwell whose family own a hotel at Taos Ski Valley, have been poaching lines and writing letters for years. But this is the first time we are coordinated with snowboarders from other areas and have a comprehensive plan of action. It’s excellent that companies such as Nike and Heelside are ready to step up and support snowboarders at a local level,” says Wilson.
In Aspen, Larry Madden of Pride Snowboards, is heading up efforts in his region, giving out bumper stickers and working to reach out other business owners and local riders.
“The ban is wrong because it is simple prejudice,” he says. “Aspen is one of the world’s best known ski areas but they are effectively saying as far as they are concerned, snowboarders are second class citizens. It reflects badly on our entire community.” The FreeTheSnow campaign has already received extensive local coverage in the Aspen press and on local radio and strong interest is expected to develop in New Mexico.
“These three ski areas have absolutely no justification for their bans,” says Kreitman. “At best these areas have policies that exclude a large percentage of their local community from a major community resource. At worst it has a serious impact on the local economy. And it’s an insult to snowboarders everywhere.”