A Rite of Passage Ends… | Taos to Build Kachina Peak Chairlift

Ryan Mulcahy | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Author over looks west basin and Kachina Peak in March 2013
Author over looks west basin and Kachina Peak in March 2013

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-ski-valley-sells-billionaire-conservationist/). I was somewhat mixed on this decision by the Blake family to sell out, but did my best to keep an open mind that Mr. Bacon would do great things for the mountain and thus help support the local people at the same time.

A warning of what skiers and riders about to get into as you enter west basin and on to Kachina Peak
A warning of what skiers and riders about to get into as you enter west basin and on to Kachina Peak

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.

front face of the Peak with a few lucky sets of tracks
front face of the Peak with a few lucky sets of tracks

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.

Hikers make their way up final decent of Kachina Peak
Hikers make their way up final decent of Kachina Peak

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.

kachina
Katchina Peak, Taos, NM.

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

Kachina Peak Chairlift Press Release

 


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11 thoughts on “A Rite of Passage Ends… | Taos to Build Kachina Peak Chairlift

  1. So, who’s keeping anyone from hiking the 45 minutes trek? Are they putting 20 ton boulders in front of the hike trail? Go ahead and knock yourself out, Nostalgia Boy !!

  2. I don’t think anyone will stop you from hiking the peak, and now everyone on the lift can see how core you are.

  3. My first attempt to hike up the ridge (1970’s or 1980’s) was when I was greatly overweight.
    I had to rest about 20 times and only made it a third of the way up.

    Fast forward to the 1990’s. I had just taken off 40 lbs (modified Adkins Diet -bro took off 60 lbs)
    and hiked the ridge again. This time I made it all the way up with only 3 short stops!

    Amazing what removing the ball & chain will do!

  4. I completely agree with you. Kachina is the mountain that changed my skiing. I crave the hike every year and do not plan on changing that tradition. I’m sad it will be open to the outside who will not appreciate it’s greatness. As for us die hards, we need to carry on what made us men. I’m hiking with a crew as soon as this new lift is open. You should be there if possible.

  5. Yeah, this doesn’t sound like Bridger’s Schlasmans lift that was built for local ridge hippies. More likely a headline grabber for “Most vertical near Texas”

  6. I am not a local, so from an outsiders perspective, it seems to build a chairlift on kachina peak is a money driven move. I feel the new chairlift will make Taos a destination resort. The new owners want this area to be available to anyone and everyone who wants to ski it. Thus bringing in more money (not a bad thing to stimulate the local economy). But as for the locals feelings and the right of passage that marks you as an expert skier as you climb your way up and then descend through pristine terrian is a very sad day to no longer have that experience. The few people who have conquered this will now only be able to have a memory of their past climbs. Hold that memory tight as no one else will be able to create it starting this nest season.

    1. ^The issue with allowing “anyone and everyone” who wants to access this terrain is that the terrain is not meant for most skiers or boarders and particularly not for out-of-towners who are just getting their ski legs on…. Such a bummer!!

  7. 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.

    That sounds smart.

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