Taos, NM, Mar. 25-27, 2019

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Taos, NM, Mar. 25-27, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Mar 28, 2019 9:47 pm

Taos remained cloudy and cool over the weekend after getting 3 inches Thursday and 5 inches Friday. So when we got on the hill after 10AM Monday it was all winter conditions. It was sunny all day, maybe in the 30’sF so lower and sun exposed areas softened but never got slushy.

I did not know that Taos’ chair 1 up Al’s Run is now high speed. From there we skied Porcupine to chair 8 and another groomer there Lower Stauffenberg before taking chair 2 up high. View of West Basin hike-to chutes from Chair 8:
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View of Highline Ridge from top of 2:
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We skied Totemoff to chair 7, then Lonestar to chair 4. Here we had our first view of Kachina Peak and its lift, now in its 5th year.
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But it was my first time in Taos since 2007 and Liz’ first since 1997.

A catwalk goes right by the new lift but a fence prevents that direct access. You must take a step up traverse and approach the lift from the top. So we learned when running Kachina laps to traverse through trees above the catwalk to avoid that step up.

Kachina Peak made a wow impression on us. The snow was soft packed powder. Bumps were not tight except in confined areas like this chute under the lower part of the lift.
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Terrain is like Mammoth’s chair 23 except with consistent pitch more like chair 22. And being steep and north facing at 12,000 feet Kachina Peak rivals A-Basin’s Pallavicini for the best snow preservation in North America.

After skiing Main Street near the lift I worked my way skier’s left, skiing K5, K4, K3, K2 and K1. K1-4 chutes are steeper than the terrain nearer the lift. With the current 100 inch snowpack K3 and K4 are essentially merged into one wider run. K2 has one low tide chokepoint. Liz ran repeated laps on the ego snow of Main Street.

While skiing K4 I retrieved goggles that I saw rolling down the hill. A couple of runs later I realized that my pack zippers had opened and that they were mine and that the Castle Mt. hat which protected the goggles was missing. I took another K4 run to no avail but fortunately someone else found the hat and left it at the lift the next day.

I left Kachina by traversing far skier’s right to the boundary overlooking Taos Ski Valley.
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I knew there was a way into Hunziker Bowl from here, but the entry was blind through trees and I followed a snowboarder into a very bony chute. Approaching from skier’s right I had a sketchy traverse entry followed by stepping over rocks, then sideslipping 20 feet or so before I could slide backwards below the biggest rocks to actually start skiing. To no surprise the snow was outstanding below such difficult access. And it had to be worse for the snowboarder, who had to grip the snow with his hands during that sideslip. As usual, when I’m in survival mode I did not think to get out the camera.

I regrouped with on Liz for a chair 4 cruiser, then Rubenzahl to the base. We rode chairs 1 and 2 and finished our day of 20.900 vertical with Bambi and Powderhorn.

EMSC spotted us getting off the parking shuttle and emailed me so we could arrange to meet Tuesday. He was at Taos with his wife and son but Tuesday would be their last day, driving back to Boulder after skiing.

So on Tuesday Liz and I rode 1&2 and then skied a lap on 4 while trying to make a difficult cell connection with EMSC. On our first Kachina lap, here are EMSC and son skiing just skier’s left of the lift.
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Lower down EMSC and I squeezed into a narrower line.
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I’m sure I was not skiing in there at a speed to spray that much snow.

EMSC’s wife and son skied some chair 4 groomers while EMSC and I skied some of the more technical lines. K3:
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Looking back up at K5, K4, K3:
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EMSC in Hunziker Bowl:
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K1:
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EMSC’s son wanted another shot at Main Street and so skied it with Liz. EMSC and I returned to Hunziker Bowl.
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The chute entry above EMSC is the one where I did lots of sideslipping and stepping over rocks Monday. On Tuesday I took the more open line, which is out of the picture to the right. EMSC always skied the rocky chute in the picture, but had fewer obstacles to get past entering from skier’s left.

We all had lunch at the Bavarian from 1-2PM. EMSC and family had to get on the road but Liz and I skied to the base and rode chairs 1&2. Reforma under chair 2 wore Liz out so she went into the base village to look around.

I rode chair 1 and skied Al’s Run about 3:30.
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I was pleasantly surprised by good snow and decent spacing, so I only stopped once where I took the above picture. But I probably paid the price Wednesday, as any bumps I skied then were quite fatiguing.

I finished Tuesday with 18,900 vertical.
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-26, 2019

Postby jojo_obrien » Fri Mar 29, 2019 7:35 am

Taos has always been known for the bumps. K chutes are a blast - kinda like the Cirque - requires focus, lungs (12k feet!), and quite a bit of effort if it hasn't snowed in a while. there is some incredible terrain off to lookers left (tree skiing) - luckily i had a local guide me around one day. sounds like you might have hit that area.

did you lodge at the blake? ($$$)
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-26, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Mar 29, 2019 8:24 am

We lodged in town. El Pueblo Inn is a great value: a bit over $100/night, large rooms, free southwest style breakfast, fresh cookies apres ski and a decent hot tub.

Telluride was the only pricey stop on our SW road trip. We tend to eat dinners at the top places but Geronimo in Santa Fe was the only expensive dinner after Telluride. The regional food in New Mexico is nearly always reasonably priced and a cut above standard Mexican fare.

At Taos they were selling units in the Blake. Is the Blake all condos and no hotel rooms? Maybe as it’s a big building and only 80 units total I read. I would think the the ski area would want more “hot beds” in that convenient location.

In general Taos trees are quite dense unless they have been deliberately gladed. That’s part of the reason why adding the Kachina high alpine has really enhanced the ski area a lot.

Revelation at Telluride pales in comparison. Adam’s 2004 Telluride comment still applies: “Why are we skiing down here instead of up there?” The best “up there” skiing at Telluride has to be accessed on foot starting at 12,000 feet.
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-26, 2019

Postby EMSC » Fri Mar 29, 2019 3:51 pm

I think the biggest difference to Tony's report is that I hiked up to upper Stauffenberg both afternoons that I was there. Though I have pictures of that exact same chute with a sign for "Zdarsky": see 3rd pic in my second post on this thread: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=6703&p=33158&hilit=taos#p33158

The map shows that trail in the trees past Stauffenberg. Seems weird, but I find that to be a continuous theme any time I am in New Mexico. It always has an undercurrent of weirdness with it, including the hike up and around access to the Kachina lift.

The snow on the 25th was winter top to bottom early and super creamy Soft & Smooth snow on the steep stuff. Pretty much as good as it gets without being powder. Things were a bit firmer on the 26th after an overnight in cold temps.

Plenty more pics to add though :)

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Good overview of Kachina peak


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from the short hike to the top this single person was coming down Lake Fork peak. I thought it was a dumb move to be skiing single in year with such a well known sketchy snowpack in the area


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Apparently this is the highest peak in NM, which doesn't look like much more than a high ridge-line.


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Jr on lower part of Kachina


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The infamous Bavarian at bottom of chair 4


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the needlessly weird entry to Kachina lift


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This is the entry Tony found sketchy. I skied in skiers left trees to nearly where the person ahead of me is in the chute at which point there was a single rock left to navigate. The snow below was in spectacular condition with no bumps of any kind due to such low volume of skiers.


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Looking down upper Stauffenberg after a 10 minute hike on the front side.


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Tony


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Tony


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Tony


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Tony
Last edited by EMSC on Fri Mar 29, 2019 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-26, 2019

Postby EMSC » Fri Mar 29, 2019 4:05 pm

A few more pics. Side note: I refuse to apologize for the sideways or upside down pics which display properly on every single other platform and web based program except FTO. I guess the forum software is just that out of date at this point.

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Tony in Hunziker


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Tony in Hunziker


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Tony somewhere in the K's


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I think this is K1


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On the way home we saw wild horses, antelope...


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Deer, and elk (sorry didn't get pics of the antelope or elk)


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a pair of 14'ers in Colo as we head north through the San Luis valley
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-26, 2019

Postby jojo_obrien » Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:42 pm

did you get any pics of him skiing over his goggles/sunglasses/etc?

seriously though, nice pics. the entry to kachina lift ......as you alluded to -- unnecessarily complicated. why????
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-26, 2019

Postby baldyskier » Fri Mar 29, 2019 5:54 pm

I agree with jojo; nice pics, both of you, and that entry to Kachina is weird. Maybe they're trying to make it just a little bit difficult as a nod to the effort required to ski Kachina before they installed the lift?
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-26, 2019

Postby snowave » Fri Mar 29, 2019 7:56 pm

Id be interested to know if they still have the same policy on the Kachina lift as when I was there 2 yrs ago.. keep it closed for 2 days after a storm for hikers to enjoy the powder before they open the lift for everyone else to get sloppy 3rds.
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-26, 2019

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sat Mar 30, 2019 4:28 am

EMSC wrote:I refuse to apologize for the sideways or upside down pics which display properly on every single other platform and web based program except FTO. I guess the forum software is just that out of date at this point.

LOL, angry EMSC.


EMSC wrote:Apparently this is the highest peak in NM, which doesn't look like much more than a high ridge-line.

I spent two summers during the early 90s in TSV (based at the dearly departed Thunderbird Lodge) and did a fair amount of hiking there. Many people have made that observation about Wheeler Peak. The Eiger or Matterhorn it ain't.

Great pix and report from both of you.
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-27, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Mar 30, 2019 7:33 pm

Skiers rarely get to visit Taos Pueblo because it is generally closed during February/March prime ski season. But the El Pueblo Inn had a sign announcing that March 26 was opening day. We intended to take the last 4PM tour Tuesday but bad navigation got us down the hill behind the Kandahar at 3:20, far too late to make that tour. So that's when Liz went shopping and I skied Al's Run.

So we opted for the first 9AM tour Wednesday, not being in a hurry to start skiing with increasing spring conditions. The North Pueblo is the most continuously inhabited structure in North America for 1,000 years.
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The smaller South Pueblo is across Red Willow Creek.
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The Indians who live in those pueblos live traditionally with no electricity or running water. The only updates are windows/doors and some pipes to ventilate fireplaces. The people in the pueblos usually have extended families living outside with more modern conveniences.

Liz on the bridge over Red Willow Creek:
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That creek has very pure water flowing from over 12,000 feet. The headwaters were put into national forest in 1906 but restored to the ownership of the Taos Pueblo in 1970. FYI these local New Mexico creeks are home to pink trout of similar quality as we had in Patagonia. It was on the menu of two of the Taos restaurants where we had dinners, and the Taos Pueblo guide mentioned the pink trout also.

Taos and other northern New Mexico pueblos were noted for a 1680 revolt that drove the Spanish out of New Mexico for 12 years. When the Spanish returned in 1692, the pueblos ended up with more local autonomy than elsewhere in Spanish America.

Resistance to the Americans in 1847 was less successful.
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This was the church where some of the Pueblo Indians took refuge but were killed and only this bell tower remains with the grounds being turned into a cemetery.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-27, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Mar 30, 2019 8:01 pm

On Monday and Tuesday it was hard to tear myself away from the stellar skiing on Kachina Peak. So on Wednesday I decided to sample a bit of the original Taos expert terrain. I started with the same hike above chair 2 which EMSC had done Monday and Tuesday.

After 10 minutes I'm at the top of West Basin.
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These runs are steep with perfect north exposure so definitely where I planned to ski.

Looking the other way, another 5 minutes of hiking will get you to Highline Ridge.
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Those runs are more wide open and prime territory in fresh powder but more questionable after multiple sunny days. I skied one of those with Adrianna Blake on a press trip in 2007.

I skied Upper Stauffenberg, same as EMSC earlier.
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Snow was as good as Kachina Peak but I skied it much less continuously. I was more fatigued from the prior two days, the hike or some combination.

If I wasn't tired after that, my next dubious choice surely finished me off. Wednesday was much warmer than Monday/Tuesday and the lower Stauffenberg groomer was in full-on spring mode before noon. So I was confident that the east facing steeps dropping off Bambi would be soft and decided to check out Sir Arnold Lunn.
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It looks OK in that picture but was entirely unconsolidated mashed potatoes. That was ~1,000 vertical of exhausting survival skiing. mostly one turn at a time.

I eventually traversed out into the chair 7 terrain park and made my way to chair 4 and Kachina. Liz and I took EMSC's suggestion and took the short walk from the lift to the true peak.
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I assumed one of these peaks was Wheeler but EMSC's post shows I was wrong.
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jamesdeluxe wrote:
EMSC wrote:Apparently this is the highest peak in NM, which doesn't look like much more than a high ridge-line.

I spent two summers during the early 90s in TSV (based at the dearly departed Thunderbird Lodge) and did a fair amount of hiking there. Many people have made that observation about Wheeler Peak.

New Mexico top spire measures: http://www.peaklist.org/spire/lists/nm-15-ang.html
Note that Wheeler is not on the list and that the highest RORS in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains is the peak overlooking the Taos Pueblo at a modest 227. That's about the same as Mt. Mansfield's 225.

It is not uncommon for the highest peak in a state/region not to have a high RORS. Mt. Elbert does not make the top 30 in Colorado and Mt. Whitney does not make the top 10 in California. Mt. Whitney does have an Alps-like ambience because it's 4,000 feet above tree line, but it's surrounded by other mountains of 12,000+ feet.

RORS lists for western states: http://www.peaklist.org/spire/lists/index.html
No peak in Colorado is over 400. The most impressive peaks in the Rockies are in the Tetons and Glacier National Park. The vertical drops in some canyons produce greater RORS than many conventional mountains. Half Dome and El Capitan rank #2 and #3 in California. The top two measures in Utah are in Zion. 14 of the top 15 in Arizona are in the Grand Canyon.

jamesdeluxe wrote:The Eiger (RORS 977) or Matterhorn (RORS 976) it ain't.

No surprise those are the top two in the Alps. Only Mt. Rainier in the lower 48 would crack the top 10 in the Alps.
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Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-27, 2019

Postby jojo_obrien » Sun Mar 31, 2019 8:25 am

i learned something new today (RORS). always learning something from Tony.......

Since we're on the subject of Taos culture (pics from Taos Pueblo), I do recommend folks who like events to check out the Taos Winter Wine Festival (first week of February). If you have $ , check it out. Nice event. I would go every year for years but it recently got a bit pricey for me. When I asked why they increased the prices I was told by the event organizers that the new ownership really bumped up the price for the space (and also, they fly all the wine makers/ wine reps out and put them up in the Blake).

So if you're retired and planned well for retirement (or a trust funder), and like wine apres ski, check it out.
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-27, 2019

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Mar 31, 2019 9:10 am

jojo_obrien wrote:i learned something new today (RORS). always learning something from Tony...

I remember him mentioning RORS a long time ago and then forgot about it. He brought up the term spire measure a month ago.
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-27, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Mar 31, 2019 11:36 am

EMSC wrote:I refuse to apologize for the sideways or upside down pics which display properly on every single other platform and web based program except FTO. I guess the forum software is just that out of date at this point.

I thought this was worth some testing. I first read EMSC's TR on my iPhone and the pictures were fine. But the two offending pictures are misaligned on all computer browsers I've tried. That includes Firefox, Edge, Chrome and even the lean Opera we used to get around insecure WiFi in Morzine on my Surface 3 Pro. Liz has a desktop Mac and the pictures were bad on both Safari and Chrome there too.

I'm learning to live with the minor annoyances of FTO over the past couple of years. At this point I'm grateful the lights are still on. When the site crashes, notify admin and he normally fixes it within a day.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Taos, NM, Mar. 25-27, 2019

Postby baldyskier » Sun Mar 31, 2019 5:57 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I'm learning to live with the minor annoyances of FTO over the past couple of years. At this point I'm grateful the lights are still on. When the site crashes, notify admin and he normally fixes it within a day.

I agree with Tony. We don't have quite the same participation here on FTO as we did a few years back, but it's still a good place to come for honest trip reports with valuable information (with the possible exception of Marc_C's mention of xxxxxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxxxx, and xxxxxxxxxxxx as late day powder runs at Alta, lol).
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