Friday, April 6, 2012

Sandia Exhibitions

"The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there."

In the Spring of 1974 a “streaking” fad swept across the nation.  For no apparent reason, people (mostly young) would take off their clothes and “streak” through a public place, like a college campus, a restaurant, sporting event, etc.  Some guy even streaked across the stage at the Academy Awards that year.  This still happens occasionally, but it was ubiquitous for a few weeks then.

So, that winter I was teaching skiing at Sandia Peak Ski Area, just outside of Albuquerque.  Near the end of the season, one of my friends from Ohio, Jim B, a fellow Instructor, visited.  We planned to ski the last weekend at Sandia and then go up to Taos and into Colorado.  Jim had a flight home from Denver.

On the very last day the area was open, a Sunday late in March, there was a big party.  There were contests like goofy ski races where you had to hold an egg while you skied a race course, slowest time in a course without coming to a stop.  There was a live band, Four Wheel Drive by name, all of whose members were on the ski school and there was a dance contest scheduled.

Exhibition Run at Sandia
Well, Jim and I skied the morning, but as the weather warmed up and the snow got slushy, Jim decided to stay down at the Lodge and enjoy the festivities (also there were several young ladies that Jim intended to chat up).  I continued to ski with some of my Sandia friends on the upper lifts, as I knew this would be the last time I'd get that chance.

One time as we rode the lift up we heard an electric guitar playing a rock & roll tune.  At first I thought it was the PA system, but we were far from either end of the lift, where the PA speakers were, then I saw one of the Instructors ski out of a side trail onto the main ski run under the chair.  It was Fritz, a member of Four Wheel Drive, playing the guitar which was plugged into a battery powered amplifier he wore on his back.

I wondered what the heck he was doing as I watched him slowly making his way down the run.  Then some movement behind him caught my eye and I looked up to see more skiers coming out of the side trail onto the main run.  I recognized the first skier, it was Angie, another instructor, she was wearing only ski boots and gloves -- she was a streaker!  Following her was Jackie and Carla, also instructors and also nude.  I was flabbergasted. 

At about this moment my buddy and chair partner, Joel, said, “Isn’t that Barbara?”

Yes, the fourth skier was Barbara, a good friend who I was supposed to take out that very night, similarly costumed (or should I say uncostumed?)!

The fifth and final streaker was the wife of one of the Instructors, I think her name was Debi.  She was not a strong skier and was having a bit of difficulty negotiating the run (which was appropriately named “Exhibition”).

We watched them until they went out of sight.  By the time we came down the run they had disappeared, probably by taking one of the side trails were we guessed they had stashed some clothes.

My friends and I skied a few more runs and then finally, as the day drew near its end, I made my way down to the bottom.  As I was taking off my skis, Jim ran up to me and said, “Tom, where have you been?  These ladies are taking off their clothes!”

“Yeah, I know,” I replied, “I saw them up on Exhibition.”

Sandia Base Lodge
“No, no,” Jim said with exacerbation, “I know some chicks streaked.  I’m talking about down here!  The dance contest – these girls are getting naked!  Look!”

He pointed over to the deck at the lodge.  The band was playing and there was a girl dancing on top of one of the tables.  It was Kathy, one of the Instructors, and a girl that Jim had gone out with a few times during a previous visit.  She was wearing only jeans.

The song she was dancing to soon ended and Kathy stepped down to be replaced by Debi, one of the steakers.  The song had barely started when she whipped off her t-shirt.  A few seconds later she unbuttoned her shorts and dropped them down.  She then proceeded to dance completely nude for a good two minutes.

As Jim and I watched this amazing event I noticed my friend Elaine sitting alone by the lodge.  She was wearing a red & white one-piece ski-suit.  Jim asked her why she hadn't joined the contest.

"Because I don't have a t-shirt.  I'm not wearing anything under this," she replied and zipped the ski-suit down far enough to prove her statement.

Jim, ever eager to prove that chivalry wasn't dead, immediately whipped off his own shirt and offered it to her, "Now you can participate."

Elaine went into the lodge and came out a few minutes later wearing Jim's shirt.  She'd tied the sleeves of her ski-suit around her waist.

Now that Jim had made sure Elaine was properly equipped for competition, I began to look for Barbara. Locating her inside the lodge I approached her.  Her face turned beet red when she saw me.

"You were on the chair weren't you?" she said.

"I sure was," I replied.  "We passed right over the five of you."  I paused and looked at her.  "What were you thinking?"

"They talked me into it, you know.  Safety in numbers and so on.  I thought with that many doing it no one would recognize me.  We only went down Exhibition about 100 feet and then we went to the other cutoff where Holly had our pants and jackets."

"Are you in the contest?" I wondered.

"Oh, gosh no!" she replied, "Streaking is one thing, stripping is another!"

As we talked we went back out onto the deck.  Elaine was up on the "stage."   I watched with a measure of dread and fascination -- Elaine was a beautiful girl, but she was only 15.  She danced for the whole song in a very provocative manner, but I'm happy to say that she did not take Jim's shirt off.

The “contest” continued for at least another half-hour and quite a few girls participated.  Debi was the only girl who danced totally nude, but well more than half danced topless and several momentarily exposed their behinds.  Of the ones who kept their tops on, several flashed the crowd by quickly pulling their shirts up and exposing their breasts.

When they announced Kathy as the winner of the contest, Debi cried and was inconsolable.

At the end of the day as we were preparing to leave, Elaine told Jim that if he wanted his shirt back, he was welcome to come pick it up in person at her house. She said there was no way that she was going to take it off and give it back to him there.  Elaine must still have it -- that evening Jim went out with Kathy and I had my date with Barbara.

Al's Run on left
I knew most of the girls who “danced” and I know that some who danced partially clothed were not yet 18.

Another shocking thing was that there was a grown man setting on the deck watching all this with his child, a toddler, on his lap.  I knew him.  He was a part-time Instructor who was a physics professor at the University.  There were actually a number of children wandering around, not really watching as they were otherwise occupied.

Al's Run from the top
It’s funny the different attitudes towards streaking that prevailed in the industry at that time.  Purgatory Ski Area, near Durango, Colorado announced that anyone who streaked there would be permanently banned from their slopes.  On the other hand, Ernie Blake, the owner of Taos Ski Valley offered a season pass to any woman who would streak “Al’s Run” one of the steepest mogul runs in the Rockies.  I’m pretty sure that no one took him up on the offer.

I understand that when Ben Abruzzo, the owner of Sandia Peak, heard about the Closing Day festivities he blew his top. Not sure if anyone lost their jobs.


  1. Wow! Nothing like this happnes at the Peak now!

  2. tom, my daughter sent me thi link. she knew i skied a lot at sandi then and wanted to know if i was the elaine in this story! she said it sounded like me! what could i tell her? i never forgot that day or u an can't believe that after all these years.... i no there were peple takin pictures i sure hope none of them showup! how are u? Whre are you now?

  3. Things were wild in the 70's. This sounds like the sort of thing my Mom would have done! Wish I could have been there. Wonder if there'd have been room for me on the stage?

  4. Elaine,
    If that really is you (I doubt it) I'm in California now, near Sacramento.