Free The Snow Campaign Kicks Off Season

Even if your snowboard season hasn’t kicked off yet, at least Free The Snow has already been out on behalf of all winter sports enthusiasts everywhere, pushing hard to lift the snowboard bans at Taos, Alta, Ajax, Deer Valley and Mad River Glen.

At 5.00 am on opening day at Taos, local New Mexico activists hiked the mine tailings opposite the main lifts and made their point, carving FREE TAOS directly into the hillside. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the Long Beach Ski club was handing out hundreds of bumper stickers and talking the word out to the southern Cal public at the monster Ski Dazzle show.

And this week Free The Snow takes the messages to the heart of Aspen, with Free Ajax ads placed inside all 74 buses in the local bus system. The ads, paid for by Nidecker are expected to be seen by well over 3 million people during the season.

The campaign has also recently announced an “Adopt-a-Skier” program, designed to break down barriers by providing skiers with snowboarding buddies to hang with. As part of this program, there is a prize-drawing open to any season-ticket holding skier at the five closed mountains who takes a snowboard lesson this season. First prize is an all-expenses week at High Cascade Snowboard camp.

Other Free The Snow initiatives include a native American snowboard program being held in conjunction with the Native American Sports Council, and a Free The Pipes campaign, targeted at remaining restrictions on free skiers in half pipes and terrain parks.

“With our new slogan ‘Open Minds Open Mountains,’ we want to show the winter sports world we are about access to snow for everyone with the skills, passion and respect for others,” says campaign coordinator Matt Kreitman.

Over the past few months Burton has been distributing Open Minds Open Mountains t-shirts and stickers through its rep and dealer base. (T-shirts should soon by available for sale through the website.)

Burton has also been generating steady support for the campaign through ads in snowboard media and has even pushed the message in skiing publications with ads in Ski magazine.

The campaign already appears to be having an impact. Aspen Ski Company recently announced it was lifting its snowboard ban on Ajax for the last three weeks of the season.

“Whether they are doing this because it is the right thing, or simply to squeeze a few extra dollars out of snowboarders makes no difference. This is a crack in their policy they will never be able to close,” says Kreitman. “Props to Burton for dangling the carrot of a snowboard camp on Ajax during that time as the wedge that forced this crack.”

Local media has also helped put the “closed” ski areas on the defensive by asking simply for justifications of the snowboard bans based in fact, not stereotype and prejudice. Unsurprisingly this has pushed the resorts’ managements into undermining their own positions. For example Taos’ marketing director Chris Stagg recently admitted Taos would see an “immediate spike in business if we allowed snowboarders,” and Adrianna Blake, a co-owner of Taos last week distanced herself from a long cherished stereotype held by hostile skiers, confirming snowboards did no greater damage to snow than skis.

A long series of events and activities are planned in the coming weeks. Check out all aspects of the campaign at