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Free Ajax’ ads coming to local buses

Brent Gardner-Smith

Starting today, both skiers and snowboarders who ride Roaring Fork Transit Agency buses will be encouraged to “Free Ajax” by the Nidecker snowboard company, which has bought bus ads featuring the slogan inside the 74 buses in the RFTA fleet.

The ads are part of a larger campaign from the organizers of the Free The Snow campaign, which is seeking to lift the snowboard bans at the five remaining ski areas in the U.S. that have anti-riding policies: Aspen Mountain, Alta and Deer Valley, Utah, Taos, N.M., and Mad River Glen, Vt.

The ads will include the new slogan of the Free The Snow campaign, “Open Minds, Open Mountains,” the phrase “Free Ajax,” and logos for Nidecker snowboards and the Pride snowboard shop in Aspen.

“I think Ajax is a great mountain,” said Jerome Boulay, the U.S. distributor for Nidecker, a Swiss brand with a major presence in Europe. “I used to live in Aspen two years ago and I got a chance to ride Aspen and it is just disappointing that snowboarders are restricted in some areas.”

Nidecker is paying $3,000 for the advertising buy, which it views as money well spent, as up to three million people are expected to view the advertising message.

“Of course we want to show our support for the Free The Snow campaign,” said Boulay. “But at the same time, this is a cost effective way of advertising our brand and of supporting one of our major retailers in one of the world’s top markets.”

The Free The Snow campaign is the brainchild of Matthew Kreitman, a writer in New Mexico who last year garnered sponsorships from Nike All Conditions Gear to distribute “Free Ajax” bumper stickers in Aspen.

The campaign has just launched a revitalized Web site at http://www.freethesnow.com and gotten support from Burton Snowboards, High Cascade Snowboard Camps, and Plow, a snowboarding magazine. The group’s efforts this season include urging major ski clubs to avoid resorts with snowboard bans and developing an Adopt-A-Skier program to help skiers against snowboarding see the debate from a different perspective. In addition, the group reports that a “Free Alta” television commercial was produced by the advertising agency responsible for the “Got Milk?” campaign and that the ad was shown throughout the summer in major media markets.

Locally, Aspen Skiing Company spokeswoman Rose Abello found some irony in the “Free Ajax” bus campaign from Nidecker.

“I think it is interesting that they believe it such a good snowmaking market that they want to advertise here,” Abello said.

And she didn’t think the Skico would have any objections to the campaign. “As a company, we don’t think we make a point of judging other people’s advertising.”

Dan Blankenship, the general manager of RFTA, said he did hear from the Skico regarding the Continental Airlines ads on the buses, which proclaim “If we don’t fly there, it’s not worth skiing.”

“They raised some concerns about the Continental Airline ads, but once they thought about it in terms of how Continental is flying into Eagle and a lot of people come through Eagle on their way to Aspen, they didn’t have as big a problem with it,” said Blankenship. “Hopefully, everybody can look at these things with a sense of humor.”


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