Experience the joy of fresh snow and thrill of skiing in New Mexico. Courtesy of Ski Santa Fe.
WE SAT SIPPING HOT CHOCOLATE in a circle of Adirondack chairs next to the Blake hotel at Taos Ski Valley. But even with the mountain decked out in late-fall shades of brown, Al’s Run looked intimidating stretched out before us. With an October snowstorm predicted for that afternoon, my wife and I had finished a Sunday hike and decided to check out the mountain.
Except for a couple with their dog and a few workers readying for the season, we had the wondrous setting all to ourselves. Off in the distance, a hazy shroud of snow obscured Kachina Peak. As a few glittery flakes fell near us, we finished our drinks and headed home.
To be honest, that’s as close as I’ve come to hitting the slopes in at least 15 years. Even then, what I did could only tangentially be classified as skiing. As part of a magazine assignment, I’d dragged my wife and three kids for a family lesson at a resort in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, even though none of us had ever skied before. Several days of rain leading up to our visit had made for terrible, slushy conditions.
Still, I needed to write a story. So we scrapped the family plans, and the instructor showed me some basics on the bunny hill before jumping on the lift. By the time we reached the top, I realized we were alone on the entire mountain. As we started down together, he guided me though a couple of wide turns on the beginner run to gain some confidence. I eased off the pie formation, let myself go a little faster, and something happened. A couple of quick turns—and I was doing it! “That’s great,” I heard the instructor say as we neared the bottom. I was still going at a pretty good clip when out in front of me an orange snow fence continued to get closer, and closer, and ... over the top I went, skis in the air, head on the ground. The end.
Despite the shame of my tumble, I’ve kept the thrill of those few turns tucked away inside of me ever since. As George Brooks, the director of Ski New Mexico, says in our January/February feature “Powder Play,” “That’s why we keep coming back, trying to repeat those days, hoping lightning will strike twice.”
That’s the yearning I felt on that October afternoon, and again that evening when a blanket of fresh powder arrived. While I’m almost certain Al’s Run is not in my future, this most unusual of ski seasons seems like it might be just the time to see if I can find a little magic again.