Sunday, February 27, 2011

Skiing in Taos

Much like I did last year, this week I took some vacation days (Monday already being a holiday) and drove to Taos, NM to go skiing. Because I waited until the last minute to book anything, I couldn't get a reasonably priced room in the ski village like last year, and I stayed in town. I took a city bus that runs between town and the mountain for 50 cents each way the three days I went skiing. The bus was easy and convenient (it stopped at my motel), but because the last bus back to town leaves at 4:30, I missed a talk by a world-class mountaineer Tuesday that started at 5 in the ski lodge. I took a group lesson on Wednesday morning that actually turned out to be pretty useful.

After running the 5K on Sunday, I got up early again on Monday (Presidents Day) and drove for 12 hours to Taos. The drive wasn't particularly remarkable. I made two quick stops to fill up and empty tanks, as appropriate. I used caffeine to stave off tiredness and satellite radio to stave off boredom. I got into Taos around 4, well ahead of my cutoff time of 6, which is when the ski shop I rented from closes. I checked into the motel before getting the ski equipment, so I would have more room in my car. I had dinner at pretty much the only place I know in town, Eske's, which is a tiny brewpub near the main square. After dinner I caught up with the world and had a little nap before going to sleep properly around 11.

I woke up around 6:30 on Tuesday, had my complimentary hot breakfast, and went out front to wait for the bus. On the way to the mountain, I chatted a little bit with a local guy and a woman visiting from New York (not far from where I grew up). We got to the ski area just past 9. I bought a 3-day lift ticket, and geared up to ski. I spent most of the morning on blue runs, with short blacks mixed in to really warm up the legs and test my ability to ski moguls. I wasn't doing particularly well on the bumps, however. I was riding my tails too much (my weight was too far back) and I stopped every 50 feet or so to "assess the trail," but really it was just to keep from getting out of control. I went in for a little lunch around 11:30, then skied more black runs until I took a second break around 1:30. After that second break, I was feeling kind of tired and lazy and spent the rest of the afternoon mostly skiing blue runs, quitting at 3:45. I stored my skis and wandered around the village a little to wait for the bus back down. It was then that I saw a poster for the talk by Dave Hahn outside one shop. I expressed my lament at having to miss it to a saleswoman, who suggested that I could just hitchhike back to town afterward. I may have contemplated it for a second, but just walked over to the bus meeting spot. I jumped into the hot tub almost immediately after getting back to the motel. Theirs pales in comparison to the hot tub in my gym I've gotten pretty fond of, but it still felt pretty good.

When I got to the mountain Wednesday morning, I signed up for a group lesson, meeting at 9:45. I got in one run before the "selection process," where they have a bunch of instructors watch you make a couple of turns and then group people together based on ability. I was placed in a group with four other people with an older man for an instructor. The other people were pretty interesting- a judge, a British couple in the oil industry, and a guy in emergency management- which made the lift rides up fairly interesting. The lesson seemed like kind of a waste of time for the first hour and a half, just going over some fundamentals that were drilled into me for years in high school when I was on the ski team. Once we got into the moguls, however, it started to come together, and the stuff we were going over earlier seemed to have some purpose. I felt a lot more comfortable in the bumps, but more importantly, I felt more in control. We actually went past the scheduled noon end time, taking one more run together before breaking up. After lunch I spent most of the afternoon on the moguls. I never felt quite as good at it as the one run where it all seemed to come together, but it was better than the previous day of skiing, and at least I had a better feel for what I was doing wrong. I went back to Eske's for dinner that night, mainly because none of the other restaurants in town looked like they had any patrons. It seemed quite odd that in a town where all the shops close by 6, people don't go to dinner until later (one restaurant was at least half full when I walked back to the motel later).

Thursday morning I awoke to fresh snow on the ground. At least in town, there was none on the roads, but as we climbed toward the resort, it looked a little slushy and I was glad to not have to be driving in it. I didn't see any sort of official report, but I would say that the mountain got about 4-6 inches of snow overnight, and almost none of the trails had been groomed. I wished that some of the runs that had gotten wind-swept and a little bare had been groomed, since those wound up being, at least early in the morning, powder over hard-packed snow. After making fresh tracks for the first couple of runs, the snow was starting to pile up in clumps, and was kind of a chore to get through. It was likely also an effect of it being my third day in a row of skiing, but it made my legs really tired. I decided to take go down a long black run that I'd never been on before. It was pretty intimidating to see such a long stretch of steep terrain (having only been on shorter blacks that lead to blues), but I just worked my way down, having to stop every so often just to catch my breath. Because the run had gotten less traffic than the others, there was more unbroken powder, and the snow hadn't piled up in bunches like the other runs. I did that run again before heading in for lunch. I mostly stuck to the blue runs in the afternoon, and even those were pretty tough on my quads. I took another break in the afternoon, and spent the rest of the day until 3:45 skiing about as lazily as possible. I paid $5 to leave my ski gear at the mountain, rather than lugging it back to town. I had a soak in the hot tub when I got back, and went to dinner once again at Eske's.

After packing up and checking out Friday, I drove to Santa Fe. For a while I've been thinking of getting a small sculpture, and Santa Fe probably has one of the largest collections of galleries in the country. I spent the morning wandering through the galleries, but didn't buy anything. I stopped in REI, interested in getting some snowshoes, but the ones I want weren't on sale, so I didn't get anything. I sat down to some lunch before getting on the road back home. I drove straight back, getting home around 1am.

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