Even Olympic snowboarding gold medallist Shaun White would be happy to hear since March of 2008, snowboarding has been alive and well at Taos Ski Valley.
The owners of Experience Snowboards, Michael Johnstone and George Medina, opened their first store in Angel Fire in 1994 and are proud to announce its sister store in Taos, a convenient location for all snowboarders heading to the Taos Ski Valley.
“It’s a must stop for snowboarders visiting the Taos Ski Valley,” says Medina. “It’s been 15 long years getting this store open and we’re proud and happy of the road blocks we overcame to get here.”
Experience Snowboards in Angel Fire was the headquarters for the FreeTaos campaign, and while owners George Medina and Michael Johnstone say they weren’t totally responsible for bring snowboarding to Taos Ski Valley, they feel their impact made a difference.
“People ask us what we are doing with all those FreeTaos bumper stickers,” says Johnstone. “We like cutting them to read TaosFree or TaosFreed. ”
There’s a lot of snowboarding experience and passion behind both owners. Michael, a University of Washington graduate with a degree in environmental studies and economics, quit the office cubicle life in 1994 to start the shop.
As an adventure seeker with a closed store in the summer, he spent two seasons teaching snowboarding at El Colorado Ski Resort, just outside of Santiago, Chile and one at Turoa Ski Area, south of Auckland, New Zealand.
“Snowboarding allowed me to experience the mountains and culture of the southern hemisphere. I now realize the size and diversity of our planet.”
Medina — who likes to tell people he’s not a Taos native but from “Cañón” — has been certified as a judge for both half-pipe and freestyle snowboarding events.
“He’s a great coach, competitor and judge, and he has coached bordercross on a national level” says Johnstone. It’s easy to see the true passion of snowboarding from these two owners of Experience Snowboards. As they put it, “FreeTaos still has significance, but the meaning has changed slightly. It is like the difference between Free Speech and Free Beer.”
Meet Us on the Way to Taos Ski Valley
For riders who want to experience top of the line boards, the Taos shop is offering full-kit demo boards from Lib-Tech and Never Summer at an amazing rental cost of only $35 per day. Other boards offered for rent at $25 per day are Burton, Arbor, Gnu, and Rossignol.
“The demo boards are special,” Medina says.“The Never Summer board is hand built in Colorado and the Lib-Tech is hand-crafted near Canada in the USA.”
If you missed the grand opening of the Taos store Dec. 22, stop by and meet Medina and staff to find out why Experience Snowboards is a much-needed venue for snowboard enthusiasts on their way to Taos Ski Valley.
Meet Us in Angel Fire
Experience Snowboards’ first location is at the base of the chairlift in Angel Fire. Snowboard kits, which include board, boots and bindings, rent for only $20 per day. Johnstone’s been happy with the turnout of snowboarders in Angel Fire during events like the Burton and Never Summer Snowboard Demo Days, as well as during the Mardi Gras in the Mountains event. Look for the Experience Snowboards sponsored event, the Jedi Challenge this coming March. Also a full service shop, Experience Snowboards offers rentals, repairs, tuning and sales — everything to grab the ride and fly.
Rent It, Buy It, Tune or Repair It
The manufacturing, tuning and repair of snowboards is an art. According to Medina, an expert in tuning and repairing boards, most snowboards are made of 30 percent plastic, 20 percent fiberglass and 50 percent wood core and metal edgings. With all the composites, the need for master tuners and repair personnel is crucial.
“That’s why I partnered with George Medina,” said Johnstone. “There is no one better.”
For only $10, you can have your wax replenished, with a belt wax costing only $5. Properly applying the correct wax for the snow conditions is a science and an art. Medina’s custom waxing strategies have helped racers win national titles and freeriders cruise along the flats, which frustrate poleless snowboarders everywhere.
Experience Snowboards also offers a full tune that includes a base grind, edge sharpening, P-Tex and a hot wax for $40. More complicated repairs such as edge replacements, delaminations and core shots can also be fixed. Need more repairs? Ask expert Medina for a quote. Need maintenance? Try the mini-kits, complete with a zip-tool screwdriver, ceramic stone and rubdown wax, all in an easy-to- stash pouch. You’ll also find a full line of gear boots, outerwear, sunglasses, goggles, helmets and protection padding.
“We want to be the snowboarder’s one-stop shop,” says Johnstone.
Explore the Culture
Experience and knowledge drives Johnstone and Medina. Johnstone is an instructor trainer in Angel Fire and Medina is a snowboarding instructor at Taos Ski Valley. Now, the snowboarding culture its own fascinating story. With snowboarding becoming more popular after its entry into Winter Olympics, it seems only natural Taos Ski Valley grabbed the opportunity to invite riders on the slopes.
All ski resorts seek the family environment. A winter sport that once seemed to invite only long-haired, grungy-dressed teens now entices people of all ages. As Medina puts it, “The passion of skiing rivals the passion of snowboarding. They enhance each other.” The thrill of the ride and the lack of heavy skis and poles to carry increase its popularity as well.
“We want to grab the interest of snowboarders and keep skiers and snowboarders aware that Taos Ski Valley welcomes both sports,” Medina points out.
At Experience Snowboards they help spread the word on snowboarding — the technique, the thrill, the adventure, the freedom, but most importantly, the ride.
“The snowboarding community has a lot to offer,” says Medina. “It’s all about having fun and being part of the mountain. It’s also piquing the interest of skiers who are engaging with snowboarders, amazed at their skill, and helps pull them in and win them over at Taos Ski Valley.”
Twenty years ago or so, snowboarding remained rare. By 2000, it became the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. And it’s not all youngsters either. One out of four riders is between the ages of 25 and 44, with 23 percent of riders being women.
“Beyond being a snowboarding pro-shop, we want to make sure riders are safe,” says Medina. “We talk to them about the basics and because snowboarding is a winter sport, we can let them know how to store and keep their boards prepped on the off-season.”
To meet all your snowboarding needs in the Enchanted Circle, visit Experience Snowboards in Angel Fire and their new location in Taos on the way to the Taos Ski Valley.