NEW MEXICO ,COLORADO
SKI ODYSSEY 2016
Three feet of snow in two days.
Five passes over 10,000 ft.
Six ski areas.
Drive a day, ski two.
My wife and I travelled from New Zealand to Houston and on to Albuquerque.
Our booked SUV turned out to be two wheel drive, this forced an upgrade to a Ford Expedition at more than double the price.
Off to Taos.
High plain of scrubby bush, but fantastic views of the Rio Grande canyon, looking like a giant tear on a painted canvas.
Taos, dusty and dirty with old snow covered in road grime.
We were last at Taos Ski Valley 20 years ago, until recently it obviously had not changed much. Now the base village is a huge construction site, and there is a chair up Kachina Peak. Not so sure about the chair as it has turned the peak into just another bump run. (I hope there is never put a chair up to the Aspen Highland Bowl).
Taos is a great ski area, love the shapes and the variety.
Finished the second day with Kachina and Al’s Run. Sore left knee the next day.
Stayed next door to Kit Carson’s house in the Casa Benavides Inn. Recommend it.
Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek .
A varied drive, from the scrubby desert, across the Rio Grande on a flat bridge that is said to be the highest in the US, over a pass and into the mountains.
Disappointed with Pagosa Springs, but over night winter storm Kayla dumped 7
inches at Wolf Creek and did not stop dumping. By the end of the day 25 inches had fallen. Each run was fresh tracks and I wondered how we would get out of the car park.
Had not been to Wolf before, and it certainly lived up to it reputation for snowfall.
The hill shape is a bit flat and the only way to get speed to continuously turn was straight down the Gun Barrel, an ambitious name for a fairly wide moderately pitched slope.
We like visiting the local ski areas, passes were very reasonably priced, and the locals were obviously enjoying their skiing.
Durango and Purgatory
After skiing Wolf drove directly to Durango. Stopped in the old town and made an excellent choice by staying at the Strater Hotel: two great bars, great staff, and good food.
Again snowed at night and most of the next day at Pugatory. Excellent powder skiing. Purgatory has some great skiing, but we found it a bit difficult to get around with a lot of flats connecting runs. I think if you were there for a few days you would find better ways to ski it. Our second day was sunny which made navigation easier.
There is a lot of money going into the facilities and it is well worth going to.
We really enjoyed our three nights in Durango (historic part).
Red mountain pass was closed so it was the San Juan Skyway. This is one of the world’s great drives, particularly after two days of snow. The road winds through deep ravines below towering mountains.
Accommodation was tight in Telluride and we ended up in the Camels’ Garden and could jump of our balcony onto the chair. Camels’ Garden is a new edifice, very efficient and with a nice hot tub, but lacking the character the older places have.
We were last at Telluride 19 years ago, when a friend and I skied every black and double black in one day.
The town, the ski area and the Mountain Village have grown exponentially, you would be lucky to ski a quarter of the blacks and double blacks in one day. Special note avoid East Drain! Spent most of our time in the Prospect and Gold Hill areas. There is skiing for every body at Telluride.
Telluride is expensive $100 for a seniors day pass. The town is now more Aspen than Ketchum or Crested Butte. We found a fun and reasonably priced restaurant Floradora’s Saloon for our dinners.
Now for Crested Butte.
Another great drive, this time along a wide valley floor, off to the West five peaks rising straight out of the valley to over 14,000 ft. Wow!
A coffee stop in Gunnison at “The Bean” - great to find that
America has found espresso coffee, and the baristas to make it.
Crested Butte greeted with a sunny day, and a very well supported langlauf race through the town.
Stayed at the Elk Mountain Inn in the old town, two blocks from the main street, and the free shuttle to the ski area. This was an excellent choice, friendly customers, staff, and owner. Great to catch a shuttle rather than drive to ski.
Good eating in Town, but if you go to the wooden Nickel (which I would not recommend) one meal is enough to feed four people. Watched the Super Bowl which made all Coloradoans very happy. The Broncos were just plain better than the Panthers, even we could see that.
Crested Butte tends to be either a bit green or very black. International is the best well pitched (say 30 degrees average) and long groomed run.
We did not ski the “gnar” as interestingly CB was light of snow n
high but plenty low down, and I don’t like beating up my skis. We skied these areas last time we there, about 25 years go. Would recommend them to good skiers that like off piste, a bit like the Hobacks at Jackson Hole.
Last stop Loveland
We had driven passed Loveland many times and thought it was time to ski it.
A nice drive up through Leadville which claims at over 10,000 ft to be the highest city in the US. They even have espresso there!
During this drive we noticed some valleys full of snow and another only a few miles further on dry, interesting micro climates.
Into Georgetown, which appeared closed. It seems that Tuesday is the day of rest.
Eventually we found a place to stay, and the next day restaurants, bars and breakfast eateries opened again. Things were looking up.
Pulled into Loveland Valley only to find that what you see from I-70 is not where you ski, unless you are a beginner or a racer. Took the free shuttle up to the basin, tried to figure out the layout and started skiing.
Loveland is a very big area, a huge basin over the top of the Eisenhower tunnel, with a skiers’ tunnel under I- 70. It is difficult to understand from the trail map but easy to get around once you have figured it out. There is excellent skiing for all abilities.
One lift takes you up to the ridge and the Continental divide. A snow cat will take you further along the ridge giving access to a variety of bowls and chutes. It was great skiing where the wind had blown in snow that dropped in the shelter of the ridge, however the basin at the bottom of the ridge had been scoured largely bare, groomed trails took you down a few hundred yards to where full snow coverage restarted.
The east side of the basin, accessed directly from the base, had some nice steep tree and mogul runs.
We liked Loveland, $50 a day for seniors, but we think Frisco would be a better place to stay than Georgetown.
At 70 (next year for us) Loveland offers a season’s pass for $89 which covers Crested Butte, Monarch, and Powder horn. Beat that, all you have to do is get old.
Back to New Zealand
Packed up and left Georgetown for DIA and 23 hrs. of travel to get home.