Created: 02/19/2014 6:34 PM
By: Kim Tobin, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Tom Long is the general manager at Pajarito Mountain Ski Area and has been an influential figure in New Mexico's ski industry. He has spent nearly his whole life skiing and even had a chance to show his Champion's Spirit when he carried the Olympic torch in 2002.
"My heart was just pounding like a bass drum," Tom Long recalls. "I took my torch and I put it in the cauldron. And Foomp! It just lit up. What a feeling. It was just indescribable."
When the Olympic torch made it's way through New Mexico to Salt Lake City, he was the one honored to light the cauldron in Civic Plaza. And he still has it in his home today.
"This is the actual torch I carried, that had the Olympic flame from Mount Olympus in Greece," Long said, showing off the display in his home.
Long started working for Sandia Ski Area in 1966. He helped boost the sport locally and coached New Mexicans down the mountain.
"You feel freedom," Long said. "You feel relaxed. You feel joy of movement in space, with gravity. And you're with the snow and sliding. You're outdoors. You can't beat it."
Today, Long works for the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area. He says he makes sure to hit the slopes everyday he's working.
"I just think that skiing has offered me a tremendous opportunity, and to try to share that love and that joy of a sport with people," Long said.
And it's a sport that has let him enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity that he will cherish forever.
"It's just an incredible feeling," said Long. "And a wonderful, wonderful time."