Asst. Gathermeister-- Aspen 2021
- Feb 9, 2016
- Northern Virginia, USA
Kachina Peak in some wind and clouds during the Gathering
Two season ago (2017-2018) there were rumblings of a Gathering at Taos, but the low snow year kept it from happening (well, I still went, and the Grumps were there, but no one else ). Last year, there was a better snow year, and the mini-Gathering grew to about 25 folks. After the success and fun of last year, and a good snow year this year, 2020 was bound to be just as good... and it wound up growing to
Most folks did a "ski week" (and one "snowboard week" ), lunch and afternoons were full of camaraderie, good food and drinks were had, and I think everyone just generally had a great time! To summarize in PugSki ski review format:
- Who is it for? Anyone who likes skiing, gravity, groomers, bumps, steeps, steep bumps, trees, learning, friends, and fun
- Who is it not for? No one really, as long as you have the right attitude and like to slide on snow
- Insider tip: You don't have to hike to find great terrain at Taos
All but a few folks at the Gathering took some form of lessons, most taking the full Taos Ski Week. This consists of 6 days of 2 hours morning lessons from 10 AM until noon, with the same group and instructor. It's a great way to learn, sharpen your skills, or get into some of the more extreme terrain for the upper level groups. The week starts with a ski-off to sort people into groups on Sunday morning. Everyone skis down a small slope, and the instructors determine which group you join. I went first in the ski-off, and then got to watch everyone else get sorted.
Folks getting sorted into their groups (8 or 9 PugSkiers in this photo)
My group moved across the hill after filling up... the instructor with the poles up is indicating to the person skiing off to stop there
I was sorted into a level 6 or 7 group (out of 10) with several other folks who all wanted to work on bump skiing. We would spend the week talking about stance, doing some drills (side slips, pivot slips, pole drags, uphill ski traverses, etc.), skiing groomers, and practicing on a lot of different bumps.
We also spent one morning getting some video made of both groomer form, and some basic bump skiing. Getting video made is always a little nerve-wracking.... and this time there were definitely some things for me to work on. I still tend to get backseat and drop my hands back when in the bumps, especially as they get bigger and/or steeper. It's something I'm going to have to keep working on.
Overall the lessons were great... this is my 3rd year doing a ski week, and I think my skiing has improved a lot. It's fun to be in the same group all week, and my group-mates have generally been great folks. I've skied with some of them in the afternoons after lessons, and run into them in following years. I think a couple of them from this year are going to try to come back to Taos for next year's Gathering!
Getting some instruction early in the week
Kai, getting some bump instructions in the soft snow we had one morning
Nick, getting some bump instructions in the soft snow we had one morning
Jim, Kai, Bill, and NIck in soft bumps
Getting instruction on skiing to the videographer for our groomer video session
Every morning, the lesson groups typically meet at the mid-mountain Whistlestop Cafe around 9:45. That gives you time to get a run or two in before the lesson for warm-up. Some people would squeeze in an extra run or two if they hustled.
The Whistlestop Cafe, with groups and instructors meeting up
At the end of the week, every lesson group goes to the "Martini Tree", where you hear a story about Ernie Blake, some early Taos skiers, and martinis. Everyone gets to take a drink, with the goal being to pour with your arms extended away from you.
Jennifer and a pitcher of martinis
Nick showing good form
Kai seemed to enjoy it
Weather and Conditions
As you can tell from the pics above, most of the week was sunny, but cold - keeping the snow in good shape. On Monday night Taos officially got 3 inches, with a bit more in places. It made for really nice conditions on Tuesday, and helped keep things pretty nice throughout the week. There were some scrapey areas, and some hard bumps, but overall it was really nice. Skiing in the sun is rarely a bad thing!
Lift 7a - the most uncomfortable lift ever - in the sun... it's a short lift just to get over the ridge in the pic
Monday afternoon, when the storm rolled in at the top of mountain
@Near Nyquist, @Weegie McAdams, and me riding the lift in the snow
View of the ridge to the east from the Bambi run
Pano of out-of-bounds ridge as things clouded up a bit
Lots of sun and shadow at Taos
View down from lift 1 into a sunny village
After lessons in the morning, most folks go to lunch at various places. Generally around 1:00, groups form up near lift 1, and everyone figures out a plan for the afternoon. On some afternoons, I went with a group, and on others, I decided to ski around and see who I ran into. And a couple of afternoons I just went off to practice on my own, mostly lapping a couple of the moderate bump runs. And I generally still wound up running into and skiing with various PugSkiers.
L to R: @Tony S, @SKI-3PO, @JohnL, @Gary Stolt near the top of lift 2
Bob, @Pat AKA mustski, @Weegie McAdams, Leszek, Peter, and @KingGrump in the afternoon snow shower
PugSki sticker shot... My ski on the left, and an obvious @mdf on the right
One afternoon, I happened across a large group of PugSkiers coming down the bumps and got some (I think) pretty good shots....
@missyc and @A Grump
L to R: @MegKan, Mamie, @Dean, @android
@KingGrump with some nice form
Some other shots from the week, in areas off lift 4...
@JohnL charging a bump patch
Tim Stolt in a steep spot
@Gary Stolt on the same pitch
We also hit the slope right under the top of lift 4...
@Tony S ripping into the windblown
@Tony S and @SKI-3PO watching Tim Stolt
The last two years, I've stayed in the village near the slopes... but this time to save a bit we stayed near the mouth of the canyon road in Arroyo Seco, about 15 minutes from both the town of Taos, and the ski resort. We were able to get a nice little 2 bedroom/2 bath house for under $1000 for the week. I think it worked out great and was a good location for both a short morning drive, and a short drive into town.
I'd guess the group as a whole was pretty evenly split between staying in the village, in Taos, or in-between.
Lunch at Taos has a few options... the cafeteria food is so-so, and on weekdays the options are limited. But it is sufficient, especially to meet up with others. The other primary options are:
- The St. Bernard hotel at the base - either in the bar, or on the deck; Pretty good and reasonable prices
- The Bavarian restaurant on the backside of the mountain - a German restaurant, and probably my favorite, especially if you can sit outside in the sun
- Rhoda's - a pretty standard restaurant next to the cafeteria but not a bad choice
Dinner's in Taos Resort are limited to the few restaurants around. Tim's Stray Dog Cantina is my favorite, for good cheap New Mexican food. We also had a very nice dinner at the St. Bernard, thanks to @Pat AKA mustski organizing it for the group. It's pricey to eat there (~$85/person without alcohol) but I think it's worth doing once on a trip. It's a fixed menu three course meal, and is typically very good. Further afield, there are quite a few good restaurants in Arroyo Seco and Taos (the town). This year, I hit Orlando's and Common Fire and can recommend both.
Ikon! Most folks were on an Ikon pass, which had to be scanned (no RFID) at lift 1 or 4. For those on the Ikon Base that only had 5 days, Costco had discounted lift tickets available.
To get to Taos, you fly into Albuquerque or Santa Fe, and drive 2 or 3 hours to Taos. It's a pretty easy drive, and the weather was nice. If you're not staying in the village, parking at Taos is pretty easy, and they run standup "cattle car" shuttles frequently so you don't have to walk up the hill from parking to the base. Parking is free, and there are some HOV and pay spots closer to the village.
Another few pics I didn't have a place for above....
West Basin in the sun
The bottom of Hunziker Chute and top of Hunziker Bowl (@Snowfan fell several hundred feet down the chute, but thankfully was mostly OK and skied the rest of the week)
Sunny view of the top of the lift 4 area
Contemplation in Tell Glade (which has no trees... and is not to be confused with Tell Trees)
Sun and Trees
I thought only race teams did this... *sigh*
This poor guy seems to have broken a binding
On Gathering mornings, the locker room is full of PugSkiers... the cubbies are new this season
Morning warm-up on Bambi where the groom was soft and perfect for carving
Overall it was a fantastic trip, and I know a few folks were already talking about going back next year. I know I plan to!
And thanks to everyone who I skied or hung out with, and made it a great trip! @MattSmith, Whitney, @KingGrump, Mamie, @Pat AKA mustski, Bob, @mdf, @Matchstix, @Sandy_NYC, @Pumba, Peter, @Dean, Teddy, Michelle, @ForeverSki, @Tony S, @Jimski, @missyc, @A Grump, @Jerez, David, @Dryheat, @PisteOff, @ChunderBlunder, @Unpiste, @Flying Dutchess, Leszek, @Weegie McAdams, @JimL, @SKI-3PO, @Gary Stolt, Tim Stolt, @JohnL, @Noodler, @Near Nyquist, @MegKan, @android, @FlyingAce, and @Snowfan! See you all in Jackson, Mammoth, or back in Taos next year I hope.