editors note: Ryan is from Taos, New Mexico
Today I was stricken with some sad news that hit very close to home and very close to my heart. As I was going through my normal routine of school followed by ski industry news feeds followed by more school I came across news that made feel somewhat empty inside. This was the news on the Taos Ski Valley website that they have announced plans to build a chair lift this upcoming summer to legendary Kachina Peak. I almost could not believe this was true. As of last month TSV announced they had been acquired by an investor from Colorado named Louis Bacon and he had lots of “plans” to improve the overall experience on the legendary mountain. Here is the article snow brains covered on it (http://snowbrains.com/taos-
This changed when I read the news this morning. I say this with all my intended purpose of staying true to my roots and not forgetting what made me the skier I am today. I have skied all over the lower 48 and a little bit of British Columbia and there is no place that brings mixture of spirit, terrain, atmosphere and over all experience that Taos does. I do say this with some bias due to the fact this is essentially where I learned to ski, grew up skiing, and got my first sweet taste of big terrain. A big part of this experience is the amazing hike to terrain that Taos has to offer when Mother Nature cooperates. I would say from my experience it is the best and most rewarding hike to inbounds terrain in the lower 48, I am sure many people would agree.
What many people outside of Northern New Mexico don’t understand is that this is a rite of passage to a skier in New Mexico. To me this is the New Mexican Skier’s Bar Mitzvah, signaling that he is ready to take the step in the next level of skiing and that he or she has proven themselves. Therefore for TSV to construct a chair and take away this whole experience really makes me sad. I understand and agree with the fact the Terrain will remain unchanged but it’s the principle that this decision violates. Additionally the joy that one feels when they hike the 45minutes to the top of Kachina and earn the amazing turns is unmatched. Furthermore this hike was the key the door that only the true die hards had a copy of in order to access this amazing terrain.
My father has been skiing this mountain and Kachina peak since the 1970’s and has seen the mountain progress to what it is today. I can remember as a kid, him talking with his ski buddies about the day they had in Kachina and west basin. From this all I ever wanted to do was to do this myself and have this experience. As a young skier I dreamed about this every winter. As things progressed I remember the first time I made this hike. It was about 2001 and I was about 11 years old with my brother and his ski buddy who where 18 at the time. My brother took me skiing after a big storm as usual but as we rode the chair and he turned to me and said I think you should hike Kachina today. From that we did, and I still to this day remember how nervous yet excited I was as I made my way across the ridge and up the peak, and especially how amazing it was to ski almost 3000 vertical feet to the base in knee deep or better powder.
To think that skiers growing up in New Mexico will not have this same experience saddens me, but I guess this is progression and we all know that it is very hard if not impossible to fight this.
– The chair lift is planning on being installed and constructed in the summer 2014 and if all goes as planned with be operating next season.
– It will service advanced and expert terrain and increase the skiable acreage by 50%.
– It is planned to be a fixed grip triple that will have a vertical ascent of about 1100ft to top elevation of 12,450ft.
– Here is a link the official press release from Taos Ski Valley