OPENING HEARTS TO OPEN MINDS AT TAOS SKI VALLEYSnowboarders and Business Leaders Seek to Lift Snowboard Ban through Valentine’s Day Outreach

Taos, New Mexico ¿ February 14, 2001 ¿ A group of snowboarders and businesses have tried to mend the increasingly bitter divide between Taos Ski Valley and the nearby town of Taos, NM, by spreading “a little love” this Valentine’s Day with gifts to over 100 ski valley employees.

The gesture is in response to Taos Ski Valley’s continuing ban on snowboarding. The ban has led to an unlikely alliance between the large local snowboarding population, barred from the town’s major recreational resource, and local business owners who increasingly view the snowboard ban as deeply damaging to the tourist-driven economy.

The snowboarders, local members of the “Free The Snow” campaign, toured the mountain today, handing out gifts including snowboarding jackets and free nights at local hotels, to lift operators and other ski area workers. All gifts were donated by national snowboard companies and Taos business owners, and represent a retail value in excess of $6,000.

“We wanted to open our hearts to Taos employees in the hope Taos Ski Valley management will finally open their minds to allowing all snow sports enthusiasts to share the slopes equally,” said campaign coordinator Matt Kreitman. “We are promoting harmony between everyone with the passion for snow and respect for others, while they are promoting division and exclusion to the detriment of the local community.”

According to the National Ski Areas Association, snowboarders now account for around 30 percent of all lift tickets sales, and almost every family participating in winter sports contains at least one snowboarder. Many feel the snowboard ban is responsible for a sharp decline in the number of families and young people visiting Taos.

“From restaurants to retailers, our economy is slowly dying to satisfy the short-sighted prejudice against snowboards held by a few individuals that run Taos Ski Valley,” says local business owner Jack Wilson. “Meanwhile, instead of being welcomed to share in a positive outdoor experience, our local youth, who almost entirely prefer to snowboard, receive a clear message to “hit the highway” each weekend.”

The Free The Snow campaign, which seeks to lift the snowboard ban at the remaining “closed” mountains nationwide, was launched last season. Free The Snow was instrumental recently in bringing an end to the snowboard ban at Aspen Mountain in Colorado, which opens to snowboarders on April 1st. Backed by sponsors including Burton Snowboards, Free The Snow has gained extensive attention through activities including a national mailing campaign to elected officials. In addition to Taos, remaining closed ski areas include Alta and Deer Valley (Ut) and Mad River Glen, (Vt).