In the Rearview: TSV embraces snowboarding, a tree travels cross-country and deputies spray perps


- 10 YEARS AGO - 'Taos Ski Valley: Free At Last!' By Andy Dennison, Dec. 20-26, 2007

The full-page photo and the headline stretched across the front said it all in that week's edition of The Taos News. Free Taos campaign founders Michael Johnston and George Medina stood slope side at Taos Ski Valley holding their snowboards, which they would finally be able to use on Al's Run and the other 1,200 plus acres of Taos Ski Valley beginning March 2008.

It had taken a 13-year campaign to convince TSV that opening the slopes to snowboarders was the right thing to do. Posters and bumper stickers calling on TSV to "Free Taos" peppered bulletin boards and vehicles around Northern New Mexico all the way down to Albuquerque.

A new generation of Blakes, the founding family of TSV, finally helped make it happen.

"The older members of the family took into account those of us who were in touch with the changing demographics in skiing," Alejandro Blake told The Taos News at the time. "That made it an easier decision for all of us."

The Blakes realized, too, that they were losing long-time ski customers whose children preferred snowboarding, forcing them to choose more shred-friendly venues for family vacations.

Other skiers mourned. "A sad, sad day," one told reporter Andy Dennison.

"The decision to open up Taos Ski Valley's terrain to snowboarders was, in large part, a move to keep the resort under Blake family ownership - and firmly tied to Taoseños - in the face of stiffening competition for a stagnant number of customers in the skiing world," wrote Dennison.

At the time, TSV employed about 500 people, most of them full-time Taos residents and at least 100 of whom had been with the company 20 years, according to the story. "We are very much a part of this valley, always have been," said Mickey Blake, then president of the family corporation.

Fast forward to June 2014, when the Blake family finalized the sale of Taos Ski Valley they had founded to billionaire Louis Bacon. The Blake family remains involved with the ski valley, which has undergone a transformation, complete with a new hotel.

Snowboarding, meanwhile, is alive and well at the ski valley thanks to the efforts of a couple of its ardent fans.

- 25 YEARS AGO - 'Star potential: Taos tree's journey goes Hollywood', By Mike Stauffer, Dec. 24, 1992

A 75-foot tall blue spruce tree from near Vallecitos in Taos County made the long journey in 1991 to be lit as the official Christmas tree in the nation's capital. It was later planted in the National Arboretum, according to the article.

The tree's 2,000-mile journey - and the events and people involved even before it was selected - was documented in a 28-minute documentary called "A Tree for the People," released a year later. Unfortunately, that was before YouTube or other video programs, so an online hunt for a version of the video produced nothing.

The project involved the Carson National Forest, Taos County Chamber of Commerce, the town of Taos, Taos County and many Taos County residents.

Once the tree was chosen, it was blessed by representatives from Picuris Pueblo: "Asked Mother Earth to protect and guide the tree ..... that it have a long life .... that it symbolize great honor among all people, all races."

The video documents crews digging up the tree's 30-ton root ball and transporting the giant tree down the hair-pin turns of the road out of the mountains. It took eight days to drive the spruce to its new location, accompanied by 12,000 hand-made ornaments from New Mexico.

The tree, with an estimated seedling date from around the Civil War, grew 6 inches in the year after it was planted at the National Arboretum.

- 50 YEARS AGO- 'Halt, Or I'll Squirt New Police Challenge?' Dec. 21, 1967

The Taos County Sheriff's Office rolled out its new crime-fighting tool: an aerosol can that sprays a liquid capable of enveloping a scofflaw's head from 20 feet away, rendering the suspect incapacitated within 30 seconds.

The story doesn't note if the spray, called Del Defend, is similar to mace or pepper spray. But the spray causes stinging in the eyes, reduces vision and makes a person nauseated - symptoms similar to those caused by pepper spray.

Then County Sheriff Anselmo Valerio said the aerosol can is an improvement over tear gas.

One of its biggest proponents was Deputy Sheriff Alfredo Lucero, who used the spray six times in a month on alleged law breakers. Lucero told the newspaper "it used to be a matter of using brute strength, blackjack, or night stick in subduing an offender."

In one instance, the article says, Lucero made a house call "and was confronted by an ax-wielding juvenile who was in no mood for discussion." Lucero sprayed the youngster and quickly had him handcuffed and in the patrol car.

Valerio said his officers wouldn't use the spray "indiscriminately" but that it "would certainly help break up barroom fights and the situations where officers would otherwise be in physical danger."