“Free Taos,” not Free Tacos!
Experience Snowboards Crew: Courtesy of Damion Terrell
This is the story of three Mavericks that came together in 1994 as friends and business partners: Brandon Peterson, George Medina and Michael Johnstone. Over the course of two plus decades, they changed the face of snowboarding in New Mexico forever.
The guys who started the “Free Taos” campaign—a bid to get snowboards allowed at Taos Ski Valley—are getting their due by being inducted into the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame.
Yeah, Free Taos. (My wife Ann just leaned over my should and said, “Free Tacos?? Where??) As usual, I digress.
In the mid-1990s, George Medina, Michael Johnstone, and Brandon Peterson put together a campaign that saw bumper stickers on thousands of northern New Mexico vehicles and t-shirts on hundreds of locals in an effort to get Taos to open to snowboarding.
In 1984, only 40 U.S. ski resorts allowed snowboarding. By 1990, there were more than 470 resorts that allowed snowboarding.
On March 19, 2008, Taos opened its gates to snowboarders, a day now commonly referred to as “the day Hell froze over.”
The sad thing about the induction is only Peterson is expected to attend.
According to the Taos News, “Medina was killed in a motor vehicle accident the summer of 2020. Johnstone’s death followed a few short days later after a prolonged battle with cancer.”
The three men were business partners in Experience Snowboards ( in Angel Fire, NM). According to a statement from Ski New Mexico, the three amigos made other important contributions to NM skiing, including:
- There were among the first PSIA Level 3–certified snowboard instructors in the state.
- They coached and instructed snowboarders for 20-plus years.
- They improved the Southwest race series and expanded its reach by spreading the competitions throughout all of the New Mexico ski resorts.
- They created the first sanctioned USASA Boardercross, Slopestyle and Skiercross competitions in New Mexico – the Jedi Challenge, which is ongoing today.
- They brought the USASA National Championships to Angel Fire, New Mexico in 2004 – the world’s largest ski and snowboard competition at the time.
- They competed on a National level.
- They created the first freestyle parks in New Mexico along with junk parks and snow skate parks and events.
- They brought the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup to Angel Fire in 2005. At the time, it was the first UCI MTB World Cup event held in the United States in over a decade.
The induction will take place the Anderson Abruzzo Balloon Museum on Saturday, October 28. Tickets for the banquet go on sale on Monday, September 18 and can be purchased on the Ski New Mexico website.