Thirdeyemom

Skiing the Ridge

It’s something of a paradox. The more untamed, untrampled a place, the more it seems to soothe the soul. Even as it races the heart. – Advertisement of skiing the Ridge in the Taos Visitor Guide.

Taos Ski Valley view from Kachina Peak at the Ridge. A ski purist heaven that only recently opened its doors to snowboarding two years back.

Today I became an official “Ridgehead”. I climbed and skied the Ridge, a no man’s land of off piste skiing located at the top of Kachina Peak at 12,481 feet. It was an exhausting endeavor which quite frankly I had no business doing. Yet, did I enjoy it and was it worth the effort and the pain? Yes! It was an adventure that I had not yet accomplished in skiing and even if I was breathing heavy and my legs burned each and every step of the way, it was so incredibly worth the view and the accomplishment.

To access the ridge is half the battle. You take the last chair lift up to the top at 11,819 feet, take off your skies and carry them on your shoulder in heavy snow for an hour and fifteen minutes up to 12,481 feet. The walk up is arduous and exhausting. You gain over 600 feet in elevation and are doing it wearing uncomfortable ski boats and lugging your skies and poles up each breathless step of the way.

There were times when I was wondering what on earth I was doing. Then I remembered that trecherous, difficult final hike in Nepal where we climbed up to the pass at almost 18,000 feet and then hiked an additional 5,000 feet down to the next town. I could barely walk at the end of that hike. If I could do that, then I could certainly make the grueling climb up to the Ridge. My 69-year-old father was doing it. I couldn’t let him pass me by! (In case you are wondering, my five-year-old daughter was in all day ski school. Of course she didn’t come!).

I went a little crazy on the pictures as it was so incredibly beautiful that I couldn’t resist. It also gave me a nice rest as I climbed upwards inhaling and exhaling while my body tried to desperately acclimatize to this new elevation.

So here we go! Off and upwards on my ascent up and knee-deep ski down off the Ridge.

The map of Taos Ski Valley. Over 110 trails: 24% beginner, 25% intermediate, and 51% expert.

The friendly reminder (the first runs you see at the main lift are all blacks, straight down and moguls).

The starting point. Up there, to the right of the tree is Kachina Peak and the Ridge. We are going to climb all the way up there from this point.

The starting point and the list of warnings.

Here I go.

Following the dedicated local groupies. Taos has some of the best skiers I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it is becaues the town is so charming that it attracts a lot of ski bums who become sensational skiers at a very difficult mountain to tackle.

The Ridge beckons…

The climb continues…onwards and up…grueling.

This sensational view made it all the effort…WOW!

Almost there.

Getting very steep and strenuous.

The top! We did it!

Just like Nepal! There were prayer flags at the top!

We skied down in knee-deep powder and instantly realized we had the wrong skies. We sank down deep and could hardly make a turn. It was quite the effort getting down but we made it without breaking a leg! Was it worth it? For the views and experience, yes a hundred times yes. Would I do it again? Only if the conditions were right and I had on a pair of mountain skies!!!!

After our successful descent, we had to stop at the mountain side Bavaria restaurant for an ice cold, well-deserved mug of German beer. With a brilliant blue sky and the Taos hospitality and charm, what could be better?

Stay tuned… next post will be the three-generational ski!

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10 comments

  1. This is absolutely beautiful!!! I wish I had started skiing when I was young. I will never be very good, but I do love it. I would not be able to tackle something like this. I would need to be carried up, for a start.

    • I learned to ski even younger than my daughter and am so glad because it is like riding a bike to me. It is so much harder to learn new skills now as an adult. Snowboarding is one thing that I wish I would have learned as it is hard for me to pick up now. Spanish is also going really slow. Little kids are such quick learners, it is amazing !

  2. Pingback: A three generational ski trip | thirdeyemom

  3. Pingback: A three generational ski trip | Taos Fun Peak

    • Thanks so much for posting my post on your site! If it is ok, could you add me as the author, thirdeyemom? I couldn’t find that anywhere. That way people can go back to my site and also read more on that ski trip! Thanks again!

  4. MikeB

    I talked to a woman in her 60s, a telemarker, who had skied down from the peak twice in one day. Her feeling was that it could be done by an advanced intermediate. It does look to me (looking up from the top of the Kachina lift, which is at the bottom of the trail off the peak) like there may be routes, but you need to know where they are from the top, which might not be obvious, and it may depend on conditions This woman was in remarkable condition, lived at decent altitude in Albuquerque, and was obviously a very experienced off-piste skier. I have made this a goal for next season; I’m thinking that I work hard at my conditioning, get some more lessons, make sure I have the right skis, and maybe hire a guide, although I have to consider the possibility that if I try to hire a guide, and they tell me I shouldn’t, they might refuse the gig.

    • It was awesome! I learned to ski when I was a toddler but over the last ten years or so only get out west about once a year usually for a short time. Skiing to me is like riding a bike, yet I am by no means advanced. It is quite steep and the conditions depend a lot. The snow was so thick and we didn’t have the right skis (need the super thick snow skis for this kind of stuff….you can rent them) that we could hardly move. Most of my “skiing” was just zigzagging back and forth and trying not to wipe out. Yet if the conditions are right, I’ve heard you can really ski it fast. It is doable as long as you are up to the challenge and are a relatively experienced skier in good condition. Thanks for the comment! The views on top made it worth the effort that’s for sure!

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