In Memoriam: George Medina and Michael Johnstone (copy)

Taos Ski Valley has renamed "Pioneer" run to "Free Tacos," a reference to a spellcheck error made by a sticker supplies for the Free Taos movement, which helped end a snowboarding ban at the resort.

There’s a stretch of mountain on the lower front side of Taos Ski Valley Inc. that now gives a nod to the Free Taos movement, which was carried forward by two friends who passed away within a day of each other last year.

As of this month, the run formerly known as “Pioneer” is now called “Free Tacos." The name became a running joke after a sticker supplier made an error using spellcheck and printed a variation on "Free Taos," a campaign that was integral to ending a longstanding ban against snowboarding at the resort.

Burt Skall, director of the Snowsports school at the ski valley, said the joke was a fitting tribute to the movement's founder, the late George Medina.

“We felt the name reflected George’s sense of humor, energy and his impact on the mountain,” Skall said.

Medina died June 24, 2020 after a cement truck he was driving on U.S. Highway 64 flipped in Taos Canyon. He was 54. A day later, his close friend and partner in the Free Taos movement, Michael Johnstone, 50, died in his sleep. He had been battling throat cancer for a few years.

In the 1990s, Medina and Johnstone started Experience Snowboards, a snowboard shop in Angel Fire, before the Free Taos movement began building momentum and became a common bumper sticker seen on cars around New Mexico.

Medina also became a beloved snowboard instructor at Taos Ski Valley and around the Enchanted Circle, Skall said.

“Having been involved in instruction going on 40 years, I can say George was truly a coach that had an ability to connect with all,” he said. “He created many impactful memories and lifelong snowsports enthusiasts. George was the pinnacle of professionalism. He became one the first fully certified snowboard instructors in New Mexico.”

Medina’s sister, Theresa Trujillo, contacted Taos News this week to share the news that her brother and the movement he was integral to would be acknowledged with the renaming of the run.

“We were so honored and touched,” she said.

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(1) comment

Steven Baca

George Medina and Mike Johnstone were two the nicest men I've ever known. To the profession of snow sports instruction they brought professionalism and joy. They were always up for a laugh or some gentle ribbing both given and taken. I was proud to call them friends

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