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trip to Taos (one of you wanted to know how it went)

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
(there is a little bit about teaching/learning in here so it isn't JUST a trip report)

The trip started off slightly disastrously when we got to the airport and
discovered that one of our suitcases was still at home half duct taped.
(Having seen many split suitcases on the conveyor belt, we always duct
tape our baggage)

Fortunately, we had gotten to the airport 2 hrs ahead of departure. Bob
drove home (flew, actually), retrieved the suitcase and was back
(including parking the car and taking the shuttle) with 20 minutes to
spare. We got to the gate as the last of the other passengers were
loading. Whew!!!

Did you know that Delta no longer offers any kind of meal unless the
flight is very long or overseas? I learned this the hard way.

Arrived in Albuquerque in the middle of high winds. SOme flights were
routed elsewhere but we landed in Albuquerque. Pretty hair raising.

The mountain was having similar (even higher winds of gusts about 70mile
an hour) conditions. THey closed the mountain that day about 1pm. The
next morning, the conditions (already thin and many places) were highly
polished (close to boiler plate) in the well traveled areas (especially
on the front side) and sudden deeper snow in others.

In spite of the iffy conditions (they did improve somewhat over the
week), we had a very good time.

We meet off an on the first couple of days with a couple of new instructors from our mountain. Jason is an extreme ski maniac and climbed the ridge
everyday. ..best snow at the resort. His last day he climbed the ridge
6 times. Karen accompanied him some of the time. Bob and I joined them
for one trip. This was a difficult walk for me with my asthma but worth
the trip at least once. I think I would have done it several more times
if I had been to Taos before. As it was I was still learning the rest of
the mountain and found an easier climb to a nice bowl on the backside.

The week I went was one of their busiest weeks and in spite of their
assurances on the phone, they were unable to give me a PSIA/ski area
discount for Mon-Wed. I must say, if that was their busiest time we
should all go out there a lot. The lines were usually less than 3
minutes long , usually one could ski up and have just a couple of chairs
worth of people in front...once or twice it was a longer wait (5 min).

I found it frustrating that there were so few long mogul runs. That was
partially because so many runs were closed due to poor conditions. And
many of those that were closed were double blacks (and I must say that
everything was a notch or two harder than at other mountains. Most of
their greens would be considered blue elsewhere). Most of the moguls
were bits and pieces on the side of smooth blues or where a slope
connected two other crossing slopes. Depending upon the time of day (how mushy
the snow was from the heat or crusty from freezing over night), we did
find a couple of runs that were wonderful. The bowl on the backside
(short climb) called Hunzinker and Al's RUn under the front chair lift.
THese were both easy black mogul runs for the most part (in some places a
nice blue mogul run). And Lorelei run fromthe front to the back is nice
mid morning for a few runs.. The relatively small moguls and relatively shallow terrain and soft snow allowed me to practice some technique...and I think I did improve.

But the conditions were thin and by the last day even some of these were
closed and the wind had picked up again. so we elected not to ski another
day (visited some Indian ruins instead)

Since they were so busy we ended up not joining any of their classes.
However, Bob and I did get a nice tip from an instructor as he and
another instructor passed us on one of the easier mogul runs. I had
noticed how nicely one of the guys was skiing the bumps and when he
stopped, I complimented him. TUrns out he was one of their bump
instructors (took off an outer layer while we talked and I could see he had on a school uniform). He was
giving the other instructor a lesson in bumps and let us listen in. His
comment was a good reminder to both Bob and myself.... most people don't
allow the turn to go round enough (wide enough) at the fall line. They
try to cut the turn sharply around the bump they are on instead of
allowing the skis to naturally turn so that they can use the slope of the
next bump over to help make the turn. I don't know if anyone can
understand this description...I could understand it in my head (he gave a
good visual) and now I'm struggling to get my body to do it. (Trying to
blend it in with the retracting at the top of the mogul and extending
around it which I can get only part of the time anyway)

Wish I could report that I had done so much great skiing that I could now
pass my next Level but it just ain't so.

On the other hand, I was more aware of the mechanics of some of my inefficient moves. Because the base was so windblown (and basically icy)
I did get a little scared when I skidded/slid all over the place (and it
was steep enough that I was doing this at too great a speed). And I noticed
how much I was bracing ... bracing, of course, made it all worse. So
when I noticed (part of the time) that I was bracing, I tried several
different remedies: (1) I worked on relaxing and rolling my feet over
just a little more (great feedback for reminding me that I really wasn't
rolling over on edge enough). That worked some of the time. It also reminded me that I need to get both feet working and not allow that A-frame to start. (2) Just
relaxing a little sometimes helped. (3) relaxing and beginning the new
turn also helped. What was so great was that it was so clear that when I
braced (rigid outside leg) neither of my skis could roll over very far
and that when I relaxed and consciously rolled both of my feet over
everything improved.

In anycase, in spite of the poor conditions, I think Taos should be on
your list of mountains to visit.


P.S. To those people who gave me names of instructors: I looked for them and tried to find a way to contact them (especially to congratulate Paul on his new pin) but they were so busy most of the time it really wasn't possible and I really didn't want to push the issue. (I did get a tongue in cheek offer to let me teach while I was out there)
post #2 of 4
I'm so bummed for you that you hit Taos on a tough week. When it's going off, it's unbelievable.

I spent ten years in that school. I went there to learn about skiing and teaching under the guidance of Jean and Dadou Mayer.

That school was just a perfect place to teach. And that mountain is magical.

In the old days the martini trees were abundant, the beginner's slope avalanched regularly, the lifts closed at noon for lunch, and there was no law above 8000ft.
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Taos often felt less like an American resort than... well, it reminded me a little of the Chilean resort where I learned to ski in the mid60s (no I wasn't 60 yrs old).

And in spite of the very bad conditions (almost as bad some days as the terrible conditions I experienced at Lake Tahoe area during the Calgary Olympics...and I have never planned to go back there)...in spit of all that, I still enjoyed my trip.

In addition to the instructor who gave us a mogul tip, I chatted several times with other instructors on the lift, in lift lines, on the slope as they gathered their charges, in the lunch room... and they all seemed like such nice people. The only ski instructor on thelist of names given to me that I actually was able to meet was Alain Veth. And he was the only one I felt that I would need time to warm up to. I met him in his ski shop and I just stopped by to say hello so it really wasn't a "fair" moment to compare him with other instructors I met casually on the slope.

I also really enjoyed meeting the ski patrol. Again, I met them on the lift and lift lines and stopped by their hut to get advice on where to ski. Pretty wonderful people also.

And got slope pointers from some of the people checking lift tickets.

I was grousing a little about some food I had bought (I thought the guy hadn't givn me enough chicken in my taco) and the cashier overheard me. A few minutes later a manager from the cafeteria tracked me down at my table and presented me with another taco. By that time I had discovered that the taco had plenty of chicken....I was so embarassed and also gratified that they had gone to the extra expense and work to do that. I apologized to both the manager and later to the worker for my behavior (which wasn't a scene just not correct).

Funny thing...while we waited for our rental car in Albuquerque, in the middle of the wind and dust, I felt like I had come home. I have never been particularly interested in the desert but...

I am hoping to return to Taos when the snow is awesome.

post #4 of 4

You've picked up the essence of Taos. There is an underlying ethos there that is only available to those who are sensitive to it. And it's fun to listen to people who suddenly understand the desert! You got it!

I'm sorry you didn't get such a good take on Alain Veth. Given more time, you would find, as I have, that Alain is one of the best ever. He is full of heart and caring, and he is absolutely one of the best ski instructors I've ever met--teaching-wise and skiing-wise.

I had the good fortune to be his examiner some time back and I felt that our organization was fortunate to have him show an interest. That interest has continued and now he is one of our trainers, so I get to see him fairly often. I'm continually amazed at what a great package he is.

You must have caught him at a bad moment.
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