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!
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!