Board ban protesters make feelings clear outside Taos
The group that’s protesting the snowboarding ban at three well-known Western ski resorts has found an eye-catching way to spread its message at Taos, N.M.
The group called Free the Snow unveiled a 12-by-24-foot billboard last week along Highway 285, the main artery for traffic into Taos from Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The billboard is about 45 minutes outside of Taos, but it’s seen by virtually everyone traveling to the ski resort, said Matt Kreitman, who is heading the protest.
Free the Snow is lobbying the U.S. Forest Service to require Taos, Aspen Mountain and Alta, Utah, to open their slopes to snowboarders. The group claims the prohibition is an unjustified form of discrimination.
Since the three resorts are at least partially located on national forest, Free the Snow members argue, they shouldn’t be able to close their slopes to riders. And since the Forest Service handles annual operating permits for the resorts, opponents of the ban are trying to enlist the support of the feds.
Skico officials acknowledge the ban is a form of discrimination – but a legal form. Banning riders is a strategic business decision, they say.
Free the Snow’s billboard targeting Taos will remain erect throughout the ski season, according to Kreitman. Heelside, a snowboard boot maker, is sponsoring the effort, which costs $450 per month, Kreitman said.
The billboard says, “Free Taos” and lists the http://www.freethesnow.com Web site. It also carries the Heelside logo.
Along with capturing the attention of travelers, Free the Snow’s billboard gained publicity for the issue when newspapers and television stations in New Mexico covered its unveiling.
The group won’t be able to use a billboard to support its cause in Aspen. Billboards are legally banned and popularly despised in Pitkin County. Kreitman hopes to gain publicity in other ways. He scouted out support for sponsorships last week at an industry conference in Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C., sponsored by the transWorld Snowboarding magazine.
Kreitman said he is trying to convince a sponsor to underwrite the cost of running advertisements on RFTA buses this winter. Those ads would likely say “Free Ajax” and display the Web site address.
Free the Snow has been trying to keep its campaign visible in Aspen by distributing “Free Ajax” bumper stickers. About 500 of the stickers have been handed out by Pride Snowboard Shop. The shop’s co-owner, Larry Madden, is supporting Free the Snow’s local efforts.
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