Taos, December 2008

First installment of a few writeups of more memorable trips I’ve taken recently, here goes. . .

This is the first full season Taos has been open to snowboarding. Being the stuff of skiing legend, for its isolation, snow quality, and difficulty, I decided to check it out, since it was a 90 minute drive from where I had been on business. Originally I had intended on flying up to Colorado or Wyoming for a few days, but work-related issues put an end to that, and also allowed me to avoid the bitterly cold temperatures. It was comparatively mild in Taos, and here are some of my observations from a couple days spent in the area.

So is snowboarding welcome? Well, from the people I spoke to on the lift, it was a necessary move, the story was that for the investors to pump in money to keep the place running, that the owners had to agree to allow snowboarding. It’s still a 70-80 % skier / rider ratio, so it will probably be some time (if ever) that snowboarding catches up to the ratio nationwide. At least for right now, it’s a rather awkward relationship. 

The terrain and snow? It’s everything that it’s stacked up to be, luckily the snow for December has been generous, so I got to sample some very nice, but still early season, powder. It’s indeed good, light and dry. This is the blower stuff, you puff on a pile of snow, and it just scatters. The terrain is the very steep stuff, the closest parallel I’ve experienced is Snowbird or Kirkwood. But the double diamonds are relatively short vertical drops, but on the challenging side. Half the mountain was still not open yet, and this included the ridgeline hike beyond the Juarez trail.

 

Feeling good at 12000 feet

Feeling good at 12000 feet

 

Ridgeline view

Ridgeline view

 

Wheeler Peak (13167', 4013 m), one long, difficult hike.

Wheeler Peak (13167', 4013 m), one long, difficult hike.

 

 

 

I briefly demoed the 2009 Custom X with the EST, C60 bindings, and tried out the Ozones (okay, a park boot, but I wanted to give them a test drive). The board is excellent and responsive, the boots were quite comfortable, despite being a bit icky from sitting outside all day in the cold. Putting on my own boots afterwards was even ickier. 

I spent one day mixing it up, snowboarding in the morning, skiing in the afternoon, and had the chance to speak with a couple of the instructors. One voiced her opinion, paraphrased- ” This is a skier’s mountain, lots of flat spots and narrow lanes that are difficult for a snowboard.” What’s a “skier’s mountain”? I found that to be far from the truth, Heavenly is considerably worse in terms of bad traverses, and it is not all that narrow in general. Plus the overall lack of crowds makes it ideal for snowboards and skis. No high-speed lifts, though, a bit like Kirkwood used to be. 

Had one bad set of attitude from the one of the rental staff, who was a bit of an ass about letting me stash my snowboard while I was out skiing. But generally they’ve been pretty mellow about snowboarding, if not completely welcoming. 

 

Looking towards Colorado

Looking towards Colorado

 

I was hoping for another day, but very high winds and lift closures ended that, despite a foot of snow overnight. So I played tourist instead and braved the terrible roads to explore for the day before returning to Santa Fe. Alas, next time. The price for lift tickets, incidentally, is $66 / day, which is good value, although no real discounts are offered. The resort’s rather isolated, being 150 miles from the nearest major airport and 4.5 hours from Denver. 

The town and atmosphere is special. I’ve been here several times before, and have always approached it from the Low Road, it’s an incomparable view once the road veers away from the Rio Grande and you have an airplane-like view of the town and the Wheeler Peak wilderness. Winter is also special, with that mix of fluffy snow and the pervasive smell of pinyon smoke. It’s one of the most spectacular natural settings, mixed in with the distinctive Southwest mix of cultures and people. Plenty of chile, good food, adobe buildings, nifty architecture, endless views, and a special quality to the light. 

 

Low road to Taos. . .

Low road to Taos. . .

San Francisco de Asis, Rancho de Taos

San Francisco de Asis, Rancho de Taos

 

 

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo

 

The hotel / B+B I stayed at was excellent as well, so I’ll give a plug for the San Jeronimo Lodge, located about 2 miles east of the plaza off of U.S. 64. Hard to find, but good lodging, and the price was right. The green chile breakfast casserole was delicious, my only minor gripe was that breakfast started a bit late to make it up to the hill by opening time. 

I’ll hopefully be back.

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1 comment so far

  1. snocon on

    Dang, I’m jealous. Beautiful pictures.

    Great setup too. The Custom X with C60’s must have been a pleasure. Looks like a great experience.


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