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The view from just above the top of the Kachina Lift, the highest point at the resort at over 12,400 feet.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone", he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't gotten to attend a bunch of Gatherings in Taos like you have."
OK - I stole/paraphrased that from The Great Gatsby... but I have been lucky enough to attend the Taos Mini-Gathering a bunch of times... this one was my fifth, and they seem to just get better. (Maybe it's because my skiing keeps getting better!
The view off the backside, out of bounds, from the top of Kachina. Wheeler Peak, center, is the highest peak in New Mexico.
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The first Taos Mini-Gathering was in 2018, with very little attendance, and almost no snow. Basically me and @KingGrump
and family. I took some lessons, tried a few bumps (there were literally only a few on the mountain), fell a bunch of times, and started to get better
The second Mini-Gathering, in 2019, started to grow even more. Taos had a new high speed lift (their first), we had some legit powder, and almost 30 attendees.
In 2020, the third Mini-Gathering grew again, to about 40 attendees - more people, more lessons, more fun - though I think we might have overwhelmed the ski school a bit!
2021 was a bad year, only because we didn't hold a Mini-Gathering. I mean, some other bad and weird stuff was going on too, but it was mostly bad because of the missing Mini-Gathering.
The return of the Mini-Gathering in 2022 was pretty darn successful - so much that I've quit counting attendees... it's just a bunch of good people getting together to take lessons and/or ski!
Which brings us to 2023... It was a week later this year, in the hopes that the Kachina lift would be running. (And it was!) I again took some lessons with a bunch of other SkiTalkers, skied some new terrain I hadn't before, and as I like to say, generally enjoyed the hell out of everything.
As usual, many of the attendees took a Ski-week ... 6 straight days of group lessons from 9:30 - noon. You get sorted in a "ski-off" into groups of similar ability, and go from there. I wound up with the same instructor as last year (just by coincidence) which I was pleased with, as I had great lessons last year. And I did make some more progress this year I think - or will if I keep at it.
I also wound up with @Woodsrider427
in my group, and @MarkP
's friend Dave, so that was pretty good too. Several (all?) of the groups had multiple SkiTalkers.
Whitney (@nebraskawhit) and Caitlyn picking up their ski-week tickets
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The ski-off! I went second... I always try to go early and watch everyone else come down
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@Tex!!! We got sorted into the same large group, which then got divided further based on how aggressive with terrain and hiking each group wanted to be... I chose the lowest of those three, as I tend to get over-rated on the groomer, and don't have a lot of experience in steeps and bumps. Tex went with the middle group.
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Some further sorting... @SKI-3PO and Tim Stolt and @MarkP visible here... probably some others I'm not seeing.
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Getting some instruction early at the top of lift 2...Dave on the left, and Rick Baca was our instructor, former Los Alamos electrical engineer... probably why I can relate to him
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More instrruction at the top of lift 4
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@Woodsrider427, Mike, and Dave waiting at the bottom of a pitch
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L-to-R, Mike, @aveski, @Woodsrider427, Dave, and Rick behind the tree, in Hunziker bowl, that we skied several times
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@aveski in the bumps of Hunziker
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Back at the top of Hunziker, with @Woodsrider427 and Dave
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@aveski and the runout after the top of Hunziker on the one soft snow day we had (they reported 3" through the morning)
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After doing Hunziker and a few days of instruction, we started to step up the terrain to the top of Pollux, and traversed to the lower part of Blitz, known as Chicken Blitz, since you avoid the steep trees above. Rick here with @aveski and @Woodsrider427
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Wider view of the guys coming down Blitz
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Rick showing how it's done... calm, steady, smooth... in Blitz. That's what we were going for - controlled speed and good turns all week.
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@Woodsrider427 here pondering the start of this section
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@aveski in Blitz
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Regrouping further down
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The last morning, a couple of groups decided to stop in the same place. From the left, Dave, @Woodsrider427, @Gary Stolt, and Caitlyn (blue/teal pants) in the shot here.
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Lessons at Taos generally involve a lot of mogul skiing, and working on skills to ski moguls even when you're not skiing them. This year was no different... I skied some of the steepest mogul runs I've skied, and really started to enjoy them more this year - especially jumping into the shorter and easier pitches and just skiing them without too much thought. (Bumps that were daunting when I first started going to Taos.) I also got up Kachina lift for the first time ever this year... that's pretty great on a bluebird day. It would be really great with a lot of soft snow.
Then again, everything looks good with soft snow... but Taos can be pretty scenic in general - some folks were comparing it to the Canadian Rockies. I just love it every time I go!
I tend to take a bunch of pics on the chair... it's something to do, reminds me who I got to ski with, and is fun to review... though I didn't take nearly as many this year as other trips...
@aveski, Dave, me!
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Jess, Lucky, @Pasha, me!
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@MattSmith, Steve, Jess
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Me, @MattSmith, @nebraskawhit, and Steve!
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Jess, Lucky, Caitlyn!
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@Woodsrider427, Dave, Rick, me!
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Riding up Lift 4, Mike, @Woodsrider427, and Rick
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Industry Demo Day
There was an industry-only demo day held for a couple of days while we were in Taos. We couldn't demo any skis, but I took a couple of pics and thought it might be of interest to some which companies were there.
Some friends drove down from Colorado, and came out from Rhode Island. And we (as we've done before) rented a house in Arroyo Seco. This puts you about 15-20 minutes drive from both Taos Ski Valley and the town of Taos itself. It's a nice location as long as you don't mind the drive, especially given that the Ski Valley village is relatively small.
The house was wonderful, with a great patio area, hottub, and 4 bedrooms, and worked great for our group of 7.
View in the back yard with fire pit going... and Lucky walking into the shot.
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We had a huge fancy hottub, so had to get a few robe pics... @MattSmith, @nebraskawhit, Me, Caitlyn, Lucky, Jess, Steve.
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Last day, last run - Steve, Caitlyn, Whitney, Matt, Jess
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Since we had a nice house rental, and people driving in after a Costco and Albertson's run, we ate in most of the time. But we did get out to a couple of favorite restaurants... In Taos, we went Taos Taproom (https://www.taosmesabrewing.com/taos-tap-room
)... it's a pizza place with a lot of nice beers on tap, and not too expensive. Get the house focaccia loaf as an appetizer if you're a bread fan. In Arroyo Seco, we went to Aceq (https://www.aceqrestaurant.com/
), which I really like. It's a bit pricier, but everything is always really good. And the whole group really liked it I think.
At the resort, lunch was at the cafeteria, or at the Bavarian sitting outside if the weather was nice. That's my favorite - unfortunately, one of the days we planned on it, it was closed for a private event. Good thing we also went earlier in the week.
And après was at a few different locations... Taos Ale House, Rhoda's, Hondo, or a new one, the Rolling Still Distillery. The Distillery is tiny, but has good cocktails and local liquor, if that's your thing, that can incorporate green chile, like everything in New Mexico.
Odds and Ends
Flying from DC, you can sometimes get some nice views
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This is the sign at the top of Kachina if you hike up from the lift
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Requisite SkiTalk sticker shot
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Afternoon skiing... lots of big/random groups... here you see @Unpiste, Steve, Jess, @aveski, @SKI-3PO, @Tony S, @mdf, Caitlyn, @MattSmith, and @nebraskawhit far right on snowboard... probably a couple of others hidden behind them that I can't identify
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Caught this group from lift 8... I believe when there's a group like this, we call it a "quiver" of SkiTalkers
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Well it was another fantastic Gathering... and it went way, way, way too fast. My skiing continues to improve, I had a great time with friends, we had terrific snow (despite what some of the spoiled westerners might tell you), and I can't wait to do it again next year!