Nike backing campaign to boot Ajax board ban |

Nike backing campaign to boot Ajax board ban

A grass-roots group that’s lobbying to open Aspen Mountain and other ski areas to snowboarders got its foot in the door with a major sponsor recently.

A subsidiary of Nike Inc., the footwear giant, is providing moral and financial support to a group called Free the Snow, according to Dawn Leonetti, communications manager for Nike’s All Conditions Gear clothing line.

“It sounded like something right up our alley,” said Leonetti. “We saw the campaign as the effort to get the voice of the snowboarder out there.”

Free the Snow has launched a campaign to educate people about the board bans at Aspen Mountain; Alta, Utah; and Taos, N.M., according to Matt Kreitman, a Taos writer who is helping lead the protest.

Those three ski areas have been targeted because they use substantial amounts of public land for their operations. Therefore, riders claim the bans are morally, if not lawfully, discriminatory. Nike’s visible role The group intends to establish a Web site in December that outlines issues and allows people to fire off protest letters to up to 70 federal government employees, said Kreitman, a regular contributor to ski and snowboard publications.

When people log on to the site and take the steps necessary to send letters to public officials, they will be sent a bumper sticker of their choice that says “Free Aspen,” “Free Alta” or “Free Taos.”

Kreitman hopes to have the Web site – its address will be – operating as soon as possible, maybe by the end of this week.

As a sponsor, Nike’s logo will be on the site and on the bumper stickers, said Leonetti. However, the corporation won’t influence Free the Snow’s efforts, she said.

When asked if the corporate giant could be criticized for cashing in on the protest, she said Nike’s history of speaking up for athletes speaks for itself.

Nike representatives have talked to Kreitman for months about Free the Snow and signed on as a sponsor this month.

“We’re open to a friendly resolution, but snowboarders deserve equal rights,” said Leonetti in a story by The Associated Press. “It’s about discrimination.” Skico caught by surprise Skico spokeswoman Rose Abello questioned whether Nike really knows what the issue is about. She said she was unaware of anyone from Nike discussing the ban with Skico executives.

“It’s somewhat remarkable that a company would do this without contacting us and finding out the facts,” she said.

Leonetti confirmed no one from her company had contacted the Skico, but that opportunity might now arise.

From the Skico’s perspective, the ban is a business decision dictated by loyal customers of Aspen Mountain, many of whom don’t want to share the slopes with snowboarders.

Abello noted that nearly 5,000 acres at Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands are open to snowboarders while 675 acres at Aspen Mountain are closed.

From a snowboarder’s perspective, the ban is a poor economic decision for the company as well as the town and one that is discriminatory, said Larry Madden, co-owner of Pride snowboard shop in Aspen and a vocal advocate for snowboard access at Ajax.

Madden is helping Kreitman educate people about the local ban by supplying facts and background for Free the Snow’s Web site.

Madden said he believes that many of the skiers who support the ongoing ban at Aspen Mountain are unaware of how snowboarding has changed and improved in recent years. Those changes, he said, include everything from gear to attitudes.

He said he believes that the most vocal foes of snowboarding have “viewpoints that are narrow and selfish.”

Madden, who has owned a snowboard shop for most of his 12 years in town, said the ban at Aspen Mountain creates a perception that the sport isn’t allowed anywhere on the local slopes. That hurts the Skico’s ability to attract prospective customers and workers, he said.

He noted that most of the growth in snow-sliding sports has come in snowboarding, so the Skico isn’t embracing the future.

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