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New Mexico Pow-Wow: Pics

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Ryan and I got back last night from our inaugural turns for 2002-03: two days at Ski Santa Fe, one at Taos, and one at Angel Fire. We arrived 72 hours late for fresh snow, but the conditions, particularly at Santa Fe and Angel Fire, were outstanding.

The only real disappointment was driving through Espanola and being unable to ski snow-covered Pajarito Mountain just minutes away (still not open).

New Mexico Pics

[ December 11, 2002, 03:02 PM: Message edited by: jamesdeluxe ]
post #2 of 23
Looks like I missed a great time... Next time!

EDIT: Forgot to say; "Schweet pics dood!"

[ December 11, 2002, 03:06 PM: Message edited by: AltaSkier ]
post #3 of 23
With the exception of the dogs and cat it looks like you had the place to yourselves. Looks like fun!
post #4 of 23
Nice pics looks like there was pretty good conditions. One of these days I have to get down that way to ski.
post #5 of 23
Someone once told me the problem with skiing in New Mexico can be stated in one word: Texans. Leaving that for a poll, I'll begin by confessing that when I went down for breakfast Sunday morning, after James had returned to the room, warning me, I had a bowl of corn flakes with seven or eight men who'd just driven nine hours from probably Midland, or Odessa, to ski Taos that day, as had James and I flown from respective coasts to meet at baggage claim in Albuqueque at pretty much the exact same time Friday night, about 10:30.

James, it turns out, was a graduate student at the University of New Mexico back in The Day, where he taught German in lieu of the hefty tuition. (James is also fluent in French and plays bass guitar.)
So he knew where to go for a quick bite, after getting the car from Dollar, with ski rack at extra charge and the insurance we got because you never know. Like the folks who were standing by the side of the road up the hill to Ski Santa Fe the next (Saturday) morning, looking down at the ditch and their tilted-over SUV down in it. While snow was all around, none was on the road, nor was there ice - we motored up in our fine Dodge Neon without incident - so their misfortune was inexplicable.
One might surmise they were Texans but that might reflect a jump to conclusions.

We ate at Il Vicino, on Central, next to the artfilm theater. I had the Rustica pizza, which was delicious. What I didn't finish stayed in the car at night, colder than your refrigerator, and supplied me with a few bites the two mornings after, on the drive to the hill.

We later saw the Texans on the hill, from chair 8. They moved in a pack, skiing to a spot, then starting off again, one by one, in syncopation. It seemed they might have at one point taken a lesson together, and taken to heart the suggestion to keep their hands ahead, because a few of them were really reaching. I admired the nine-hour drive. I thought they'd be pounding the beers at lunch, where we saw them again, but they were not. They looked a little bleary-eyed, like grown men who'd be in bed early that night.
Also from chair 8, looking straight ahead, I saw a skier dance a few turns down Oyster, shoot the trees and come out the other side on Spitfire. The High Traverse was open. While the trails in both basins, east and west, were for the most part pretty darn hardpack, with fluffy slough off to the sides here and there, and better east then west, where the sun was hard-pressed to peek in, the lone skier had the West Blitz trees to himself, and was surely finding things others didn't feel like hiking to get, assuming they had the skills to get themselves down intact.

Taos forces you to at least give thought to the idea of hiking for turns. A thought that, when extrapolated, arrives at a point when skiing started. When someone had to get somewhere through snow, and adapted. When someone else decided to go through snow, too, or at least on top of it, downhill. And turn. There wasn't always someone to brush the snow off the heated, padded seat of the high-speed sofa sixpack that dropped you off onto a nice little ramp at the top, down which you skied to a large billboard trailmap, at which people pointed the tips of their poles, telling their partners where to meet in case they got separted after their mid-mountain lunch, in the restaurant right over there.

James informed me that snowboarders ARE in fact allowed on the mountain. When they belong to employees and it is the last day of the season, in the spring, when the trickle of skiers coming into the valley has stopped.

Our first day, though, was at Santa Fe. It was my first day since the first weekend in May, at Mammoth (The Cornice is noticeably steeper than Al's Run, by the way), and James's first since April, at The Canyons, where on the last run of the last day of his season, one of his skis hit something that will remain a mystery and James very soon thereafter had himself a broken right femur.

Deer Valley must come to Ski Santa Fe for grooming tips because SF's was velvet. 8:30 a.m. turns on shaded runs in cold temperatures were user-friendly, the snow accomodating. Later, with a little sun added, it was springtime, and skis slid and sliced, the proverbial hot knives through the equally proverbial butter.

We shared a chat mid-morning with a fifty-ish man on the Roadrunner chair, which runs above a friendly mogul meadow. Going right as you get off the chair you find the happily named Gay Way, a wide and gentle pitch on top that drops slightly and swoops you down along the ski area's boundary. (You can, if you're so inclined, hike a-ways to Tesuque Peak and ski to the road where a driver can meet you at a well-marked spot.) Heading left off the chair steers you onto a mountaintop trail marked blue but it's really a green catwalk that extends along the ridge and from which one drops left into short and moderately pitched bump runs, or stays on to where the catwalk ends, turns left and becomes a broad cruiser back to the base of Roadrunner, if you want, or on to the bottom (carry your speed through the Roadrunner area and onto Sunnyside).

This guy had come up from Albuquerque, where he'd moved from Park City. The Church's influence had proved too much in Utah, and Santa Fe was, he fairly exclaimed, a little "out there." He hailed from Jersey, originally. He was talking about how he had tired of driving the kids through snowstorms to dance lessons down the the valley when we drifted over his two girls who were under the chair in a ski class. He mentioned something about an Albuquerque private school that was "the best in the country." I don't recall the design of the gold-embroidered graphics on the back of his black Bogner one-piece, but I'm sure they were attractive.

The third day, Monday, we skied Angel Fire, which involves a not-long and very beautiful drive east from Taos that empties into a valley from which you look to one side at Angel Fire's mountain, a gem of a revelation, and to the other at Wheeler Peak, its 14,000-foot cap packed in gleaming white.
Though a "smaller" mountain, Angel Fire skis significantly larger than its listed acreage, all of which rolls down in trails below timberline. Even with a large chunk of the hill not yet opened (though one was moved to wonder WHY as one rode the Chile Express from the base and saw a handful of perfectly fluffy trails unmarked and roped off), AF offered us plenty on day that offered cloudless skies and sweet spring conditions.
James discovered a cruiser-burner that is now my favorite, a snake called Ariba that drops like its brethren blues from Highway, a green traverse one accesses from the top of the Southwest Flyer chair. Slower skiers, stay right on Highway. Speed seekers tuck through it, hoping to carry speed onto the four or so twisty, dropping blues that parallel and intersect one another and race to the base of the chair.

Which is where James introduced me to Jeff, whom he'd met and who has been in AF for a little over a year, having come out from Boston at age 40 to build his house. And, for a living, those of others settling in and around the area. He's a self-taught craftsman who has worked with "some of the best," including Bob Vila (I kiddingly asked if he watched This Old House), whom he called an "idiot" (citing one of more than one incident of borderline incompetence). Jeff oozed a benevolent but always-aware streetsmartness that had been earned the hard way, some of the wear self-inflicted. He'd cleaned himself up and is the father of a two-year-old boy, Dalton, whom he picked up at the end of the day from the daycare center. He said his wife had just been hired at the mountain. And so he declined our offer to join us in ducking a rope to get at some of that soft fresh. It wouldn't go down well back in the office. In the end James and I opted to stick to the rules anyway, and he and Jeff and I tucked down Lower Jasper's, merged onto the flats of Lower Domingo, and ended the day that way, pausing at the deck of the ticket window to bask in the warmth.

The next day we left early for the drive back to Santa Fe, where we spent a half-day before packing it up and heading back toward Albuquerque and our respective departure flights.
On the drive back I looked beyond the edges of I-25 and the assorted mobile home villages and the families of rusted out automobiles that attended them like nursing metal mammals and had seen their best days years and a couple hundred thousand miles ago. I wondered what percentage of them still ran, or, if they didn't, how many could sleep in one on a cold winter night.

The Rio Grande meandered alongside for awhile. If she were a woman she would go out without makeup or lipstick and be soft-spoken and simply turn away from foul behavior. Silent men with things on their mind and in need of sustenance despite their solitary bent would fall in love with her; leave flowers at her doorstep; and imagine pulling the pin from her mud-colored hair to watch it fall onto her bare shoulders.
The women I'd seen in the Whole Foods Market in Santa Fe - some of them, anyway - with their expensive etherealness and herbal tea-and-aromatherapy-induced clear eyes would secretly wish her misfortune and seek out the doctor who could make them look like THAT, no matter the cost, as long as it could be done by the time summer came around, when the foyer at the Opera's opening fete would be crackling with the rustle of turquiose and silver and diamonds and black fabric that highlighted the tans and brought out the color in the tinted contact lenses.

The river bent right somewhere - I missed its exit when I looked to the left at a scrolling lightbulb marquee that showed Paul Anka is still alive and would be at the reservation casino, the name of which I forgot seconds after I'd read it - and carried on south through the state toward Las Cruces and where Texas met Old Mexico and sent mixed messages south.

When we stopped at a coffee house in Taos the third morning, for my double-espresso, and talked briefly with the black dog in the back of the red pickup, then crossed the street and walked into the bright rising sun looking for a picture to take, I expressed my interest in Kit Carson, whose likeness and brief history was etched into a wood block. James remarked, "When I think of those frontiersmen, I think of slaughtered Indians." Then we went skiing.

If you're not careful you'll bump into some pretty good eating in Santa Fe and Taos. It happened to us, twice. The first time was James's fault. He knew a casual spot in Santa Fe we eventually found after a hunt up and down stairways and around corners. I had Chalupas that, I'm guessing, bear little resemblance to the one a fast food chain's chihuahua mascot yips about. And I'm glad J asked which pepper is hotter, red or green, because I'd assumed the green was milder and ordered it. I'd've been in a culinary situation, because the red I switched to was quite zesty enough.
The following night we ate at The Green Apple in Taos, where I had the fish tacos (catfish) in blue corn tortillas with guacamole and perfect salsa to the side. We also had the pleasure of getting a little-on-the-hostile-side lesbian waitress who could, I'm guessing, pick from a list of a billion things she'd rather do than refresh our water glasses, though she did, prolifically, and each time a little more splashed onto the sleeves of my shirt. On the last re-fill I moved them under the table in time and offered my most heartfelt Thank You Very Much.
There is no shortage of Art in Taos and where there is Art, there are Artists, who are sensitive, intuitive; they have highly receptive antennae. So she must have been an artist because fleeting eye contact as she walked away indicated she'd received my Thank You in the spirit intended. (The tacos, by the way, were only superb.)

While in Santa Fe, I picked up a sixer of my trusted Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I wasn't feeling adventurous enough to take a chance on an unknown and run the risk of being disappointed. On drives home from ski days I look forward to the taste of prime liquid bread, and Sierra has never let me down.
At the ABQ airport, though, with James jetting back to New York and me with another couple hours pre-flight, I asked the young lady at the bar what she had on tap. I took a chance on the Cabezon Stout and found it helpful enough. Wasn't quite the caliber of a Sammy's, and wasn't what a Guinness will offer but it's a worthwhile effort. Main gripe: thin for a stout. Stout's aren't thin.

Next stop: Utah. See you there.

[ December 16, 2002, 06:01 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #6 of 23
Nice writing, Ryan. I was transported for a few minutes from this humdrum life. One can't ask for more than that!
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Kima:
With the exception of the dogs and cat it looks like you had the place to yourselves. Looks like fun!
Those Santa Fe photos were taken on a Saturday afternoon.
post #8 of 23
Lesbian waitresses with fish tacos.
post #9 of 23
Great posting guys!!!!!! Thanks for sharing your Memories. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #10 of 23
Wow! JD and Ryan, wonderful story and pictures!
Thanks a lot!
One day...

[ December 12, 2002, 01:01 PM: Message edited by: Matteo ]
post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 
I notice that Ryan conveniently omitted the part of the trip in which he ROCKED OUT to my Ted Nugent live album, "Full Bluntal Nugity." Later that morning, people skiing Lower Stauffenberg were looking up as he sang an enthusiastic unaccompanied version of "Snakeskin Cowboys" from Lift #8.

post #12 of 23
Rumors, nothing more than unsubstantiated rumors.

(And here I thought he'd dished about my numerous cattrack pratfalls. Whew.)
post #13 of 23
Fantastic guys. And the sun was shining everyday. You guys make a great team. James with the camera and Ryan with the prose. Some finer points from the pic. Missing were those bad-boy boxing gloves, and the 'sweet baby blues' of Ryans.
James: What kind of camera? The snow colour is great.
Ryan: I see that you've learned to keep your ankles together. Someone would be proud.
Nice start to the 02/03 Bear gatherings. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

[ December 12, 2002, 08:45 PM: Message edited by: artimus ]
post #14 of 23
it's been suggested by someone who'll remain nameless (jamesdeluxe) that the issue of the relatively limited number of photos of james be addresed.

the simple fact of the matter is that i proved snapshot-unfriendly, when the camera was in my hands, though i'm told i did take one crystal clear image of snow. with sky blue above. not a skier in sight.
not even james.

and i always tended to depress the button just AFTER james, in a forest-green parka, had crossed the trail, gone through the bluesky vista that had only a moment before provided a perfect chamber-of-commerce backdrop, and faded into the forest-green trees.

or the photograph was deemed "unworthy for purposes of posting."

edit: those oven mitts are the bomb, by the way. he wore 'em proudly. (i pretended to not know the guy.) all the lifties wanted them. they're how i spotted james on the hill. hand beacons, they were.

[ December 13, 2002, 06:36 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #15 of 23
Really appreciated the positive comments on New Mexico skiing. I know its not up to Utah or most of Colorado. But at times it can be really good. Taos was good early but needs snow now. I'll be at Taos next weekend, hope it snows.
post #16 of 23
I'll go back. Would like to see Pajarito when it's going, for one.

anyone skied here?

[ December 16, 2002, 06:14 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by anotherskidad:
Really appreciated the positive comments on New Mexico skiing. I know its not up to Utah or most of Colorado. But at times it can be really good.
Why the inferiority complex about New Mexico? I think Feal, Todd M, or anyone else who has skied in New Mexico can vouch that -- unless you're seeking death-defying La Grave/Chamonix-like terrain -- these areas are as enjoyable as anything in Utah or Colorado. Ryan and I both agreed that Ski Santa Fe (which rarely gets mentioned outside the Albuquerque/Taos corridor) and Angel Fire (often derided as “a place only Texans would ski”) were extremely fun mountains with excellent conditions.

This mindset sounds suspiciously like self-hating Easterners who have a great day at [whichever NE ski area] and sum it up with “we had great snow, fantastic weather, nice terrain, no lines,” then qualify the whole thing with “still, it wasn’t Colorado.” Given those descriptors, exactly what else do you want from a ski experience? Why do we always have to defer to the usual suspects (Vail, Breck, Whistler, et. al) as having the only decent skiing in North America?

If we always listen to conventional wisdom about what makes for a fun day on the slopes, it's just more income for the Vail Resorts/Intrawest money machine. Meanwhile, at Taos, which was offering $16 dollar lift tickets and $30 accommodations at most hotels in town the weekend we were there, the biggest lift line we encountered was about seven people.

As WTFH found out at Whistler last week, 7,700 acres of terrain and 5,000+ vertical feet is pretty impressive, but it ain’t worth much when there’s no snow, it’s crowded, or raining on most of the mountain.

[ December 16, 2002, 09:55 AM: Message edited by: jamesdeluxe ]
post #18 of 23
Ryan, excellent report.

James, very nice piece. Ski what you have, its often better than second best.

I may be hitting Taos this spring if the normal El Ninjo snow pattern holds/develops, but with the mix being Taos, Wolf Creek, Monarch, Telluride, and maybe Crested Butte or something like that not in that order, and not including all of them. I sort of like to play things by ear, plus the Motel 6 in Jackson is always pulling me back - hard to resist the cost/fun factor.

Other than Telluride, which I have spent some weeks at (but with none of the new terrain under my belt) I am not schooled in these southern areas. Haven driven by the smaller NM areas you guys hit, I am suprised at your positive reports honestly, but you never know I guess.

Taos sounds like a fun town. On my one pass through of the area, it did seem a little overly hip, and a bit beyond new age, but I suppose that could be good if you can avoid the angry lesbian artist waitress's that lurk in the shadows.

Thanks for the pics.

post #19 of 23
ryan and james, great report. I spent a week in Taos a few years ago and hit the jackpot, seven feet of snow in 3 days. We had to dig our van out every morning.
post #20 of 23
as a Texan headed to Ski Santa Fe the first week of the new year, I appreciate the fine report - thank you [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 
Ah yes, a year ago this weekend! A return trip to New Mexico in early March is looking like a definite possibility... gotta ski Pajarito.

Anyone else up for this?
post #22 of 23
I'm workin' on it.
post #23 of 23
ryan, make sure you wear "the pants" for those photo ops. [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]
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