It was October,
I had just finished graduate school at the University of Denver and was on a flight to Albuquerque to pick up a rental car and drive 3 hours north in New Mexico to the Enchanted Circle of ski areas just south of the Colorado border. I had landed an interview with an Independent ski area owner for a Marketing Director Position, the town I was heading to was Red River. After passing Santa Fe the road drops into a steep gully along Rio Grande River and then up onto the high plateau into the town of Taos, in the distance the majestic Sangre de Christo Mountains filling the sky behind the straight road into town. After passing through Taos the road climbs and then turns east for another half hour before entering Red River. I settled in for the night and prepared for my interview.
Next morning the interview commenced and things were progressing as the owner explained to me that he needed more than a Marketing Guy he also needed a Ski Race Director to set courses and work with the public on the recreational ski race program and the only way he could hire me was if I was willing to do both (I kept a steady face but inside I was above cloud 9)
Several years earlier I was marooned on a small Midwestern hill teaching skiing and also working as the Assistant to the NASTAR Pacesetter for a Boss who was a ski racer from New England and also happened to be running the ski school. I gained some confidence in ski racing by winning the first two races I ever entered, with no coach, they were Pro/Am ski races head to head contests with two five foot jumps tucked into the course, the real deal.
Back in northern New Mexico I took the job, not knowing exactly what I was getting into but I was “over the Moon” that I would be both Marketing Director and Ski Race Director at the resort. Things progressed and in early December my boss/and ski area owner informed me that we would be heading up to Colorado for 2 days of ski racing at the largest ski area in America to get our National handicap.
After the 5 hour drive north we checked in the Holiday Inn and the next morning I was surrounded by the largest convergence of ski racers I have ever experienced, many in speed suits which I had only seen on TV, did not have one myself. For 2 days we took multiple runs down the course, we were all racing against the guy they called “Brownie” he was from the US ski team, to get our handicap. Everyone seemed to know “Brownie” he was both fast and friendly and it became increasingly evident to me that this was a big event, all the pacesetters from the major western ski areas in the US. That first year, I took it all in and managed to finish all my runs and hold my own against the faster guys in speed suits.
Excited to go back, the following year I decided I would be better prepared and trained by hiking up the hill after work and skiing down. Again, we made the 5 hour drive north, this time joining our immediate race group was a Salomon Ski Company rep who just happened to be in town (he was my first ski area boss from the small Midwest hill, a ski racer from New England like my current boss), I was now racing against my earliest ski racing mentor along with some new ski racing guys, the owner and ski school director from my new ski area home.
After some pre-race wagering/touting by my first boss, my preparation seemed to pay off, I consistently managed to score faster times on all the runs that first day than the rest of our group. After one of the runs, my first boss, the Salomon Skis Rep said..... “something must be wrong with the timing equipment!”
Although my graduate degree was in Marketing I had no real experience in the Marketing field so was learning as I went along, working with a PR firm in Taos who also worked with the Taos Ski Area on their marketing campaigns. My job consisted of snow reports to the media and Ski New Mexico, advertising, special events, sales trips to Texas and Oklahoma our core regional market, ski photo shoots for brochure graphics, working with the town lodging base, leading my share of the weekly torchlight parades, and of course setting the Race Course for the NASTAR participants and giving out Race Awards on evenings at the local steak house called Texas Reds.
As a kid I always loved maps, and when I started as Marketing Director I noticed that the ski area marketing map we were using was not that attractive and didn’t represent the feel of.... “the ski town of the Southwest” so I started my campaign with the owner to have a better map drawn by James Niehues the leading ski area map artist.
As time progressed I found myself down the road in Questa at the local National Forest Service office exchanging information with them, we were planning on cutting a new intermediate ski run and adding a new ski lift to increase our uphill capacity and allow more skiers to get up the mountain from a different part of town.
Before we could get approval on our new run and lift we had to pass a Spotted Owl survey/test with the US Forest Service that convinced them that our expansion would have minimal impact on the habitat and environment in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We did it! The Spotted Owl study passed and we were soon immersed in the excitement of adding a new ski run and lift to our historic ski town in northern New Mexico.
One last thing remained, what do we call the new run, I loved naming things, so after several late nights up spinning my wheels on a name for our new run, I came up with “Boom Town”, on the premise that to me every ski town was a Boom Town! It also tied well to our town’s mining legacy.
The owner liked the name and the rest is history, “Boom Town” is a run that skiers now ski down every winter in Red River, and the artist that created the new map
for our ski area expansion was James Niehues the man who draws maps for some of the most successful ski resorts in the world!
Age 4 skied weekends with my family in the Cascade mountains surrounding Mt. Rainier. Age 19 became a certified ski coach and have been actively coaching for 30+ years in four states and three foreign countries.
....to be continued
Special thanks to Xanthe Alexis and her band Poesis for the site sound