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Taos ski week 2017

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#1
After hearing and reading a lot about Taos ski week I have finally done it last week. Taos ski week is 1 week of ski lessons - 2 hour lesson every morning for 6 consecutive days in a group of 3-8 people and an experienced instructor. Taos ski week costs only $185 - so great value for 1 week of ski lessons. Taos Ski Valley (TSV) has an excellent ski school and I have heard/read about ski week as a great way to improve one's skiing.

First a few words about TSV and the trip. TSV is located in New Mexico and can be reached by flying into either Albuquerque (3 hours to Taos Ski Valley TSV) or Santa Fe (1.5 hours to TSV). I was there wh @nopoleskier , @marzNC and 2 of her friends. @marzNC friend Bill and me where the only 2 of the group that did the ski week.

About me as a ski student:
I have been skiing for 6 ski seasons and thanks to many many ski lessons I am a somewhat cautious advanced skier with a good ski technique, but get scared on really challenging technical terrain. Two season ago I was told by a PSIA L3 instructor that I am about L7 out of 9. Now I am probably an 8 technique wise and 7.5 terrain ability wise - like I said get scared in really challenging steep terrain (big steep bumps or steep tight trees with bumps for example) and have to side slip/do falling leaf.

Day 1 of ski week:

The ski week usually starts on Sunday, most people arrive on Saturday, I arrived on Friday to acclimate to elevation a little. Day 1 of ski week starts with ski off - basically all students, one person at a time, ski a very short section of groomer and instructors evaluate what group they should be placed in. After the ski off I was placed in a group with expert skiers. I think this is mostly due to me having had a LOT of lessons I have a very good ski technique. But when the instructor for the mostly expert group asked if I am comfortable skiing black/double black slopes at TSV (very steep mountain, known for expert terrain) I said no and proceeded to say that I don't really do big steep bumps. What I failed to say is the reason why I don't do them is that I get really scared and can get down them safely by side slipping/falling leaf, I just can't make myself turn (because of fear) if the terrain is too scary even though I am capable on a physical/technique level. As a result I was placed in a group that had students most of them had ski technique at a lower level then me and the pace of the group/lesson was way too slow for me. The instructor was very good, but he was covering a lot of the basics that I have already known and learned maybe 2 years ago. Also I didn't really "click" with that instructor. That instructor from day 1 was great, he was just not the right instructor for me, also the ski technique ability for most people in the group was lower then mine. Thus my conclusion was that this group/instructor was not what I needed to improve. So I was thinking to ask to switch groups. Which is what I did in day 2, I got moved into a different group with a different instructor and things went much better from there on and will be posting about it in several posts.

I think the bottom line I got from my day 1 group placement for ski week is that ski-off and having them watch you ski for a few turns may not be enough to place in the correct group and one needs to give as much information as possible to instructors who are placing you in the group. They also have a 2nd ski-off on Monday morning so one can also do that. I didn't need to do it, but from what I heard that is an option. Also from what I understood it is possible to start ski week on Monday instead of starting it on Sunday.

In my case after ski off because of good ski technique I was placed in a group that was too aggressive in terrain they were going to ski, but then I was too modest in talking about my ski ability and got placed in a a group with too slow of pace/lower level than I needed because of that. Luckily TSV ski school is very accommodating and they are more than happy to let students switch groups and ensure the students are happy. I was very happy with my instructor and group after I switched on Day 2.
 

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
Day 2 of ski week. I got acquainted with a new instructor day 2 had a mostly evenly matched ability levels I felt I fit in very well. We practiced some smeared turns then skied some bumps, first small ones that were easy then big ones that I got scared a bit in and fell, but got up pretty quickly. We then skied some groomers.

Day 3 and 4. We practiced more smeared turns then did several ungroomed and 1 groomed (but steep) black runs. Some of those I really enjoyed and sometimes traversed a lot until making that 1st turn. On Day 4 we ran gates once on modified GS course and that was super fun! Some of the blacks we skied on days 3 and 4 were Hunziker Bowl, Psycho Path, Ruby's Gully, Street Car

Day 5. I was tired and so were several in the group so we mostly skied groomers, maybe 1 easy bump run also we got filmed in a short steep bowl with small bumps and then were fimed skiing on a section of blue groomer. My pic in current avatar is a snapshot of that video of me skiing on a blue groomer. After videos were done we watched them with instructor and he critiqued them. After 5 days of lessons the improvement was very noticeable for everyone in the group.

Day 6. We skied some easy bumps then Hunzkier Bowl. Then skied Valkyries Glade which even though rated as a single black has sections of huge bumps in tight steep trees, I side slipped those and got scared towards the middle then bailed to groomers with one other student, the rest of the group skied them slowly till the lift. Then there is a really fun little graduation ceremony, but I will not talk about that and leave that as a surprise to those who do Taos ski week. :smile:

Overall I had a great time and my skiing has definitely improved thanks to ski week! I still need a lot of mileage to be able to ski more technical/challenging terrain, but I definitely made a lot of progress this past week I am hoping to come back and tackle some more of TSV challenging terrain.

I didn't ski off of Kachina lift that week and I also didn't ski the famous Al's run this past week so I may just have to come back to TSV to do that. :smile:
 
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Jenny

Angel Diva
#3
I can't wait to read about this. Would love to do it sometime. Is the morning lesson the only time the group is together? From some reading it seemed like there was stuff at night, too, but if I am ever able to do this I have to figure out what to do with DH while I'm busy.

ETA - oops, posted while you were posting your other days!
 

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
I can't wait to read about this. Would love to do it sometime. Is the morning lesson the only time the group is together? From some reading it seemed like there was stuff at night, too, but if I am ever able to do this I have to figure out what to do with DH while I'm busy.

ETA - oops, posted while you were posting your other days!
It's all good! We only skied/did lesson stuff 2 hours in the morning - 9:45 to 12, sometimes went after 12 slightly, but almost never beyond 12:15 -12 :30. I skied with others from the group at one point or another after the lesson, because I met some cool people wanted to ski with them more. Feel free to post or PM me with more questions about ski week!
 

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#5
Other drills/practice we did in ski week in addition to smeared turns - skiing/carving on easy groomers with a as wide of a stance as possible, skiing on easy groomers with arms open wide and in front of you, also practiced side slip and falling leaf and 360 or whirly birds.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#6
Glad to see a TR!

There is no doubt in my mind that the Taos Ski Week is the best value for lessons possible in the U.S.: 2.0-2.5 hours, 6 mornings in a row, with the same instructor and group for the most part, Sun-Fri, for under $200. Not only did @Olesya Chornoguz improve noticeably, my ski buddy Bill really got a lot out of his Ski Week experience. I know he wants to it again.

Bill was an advanced skier in high school. He went to high school near Aspen in the late 1970s and lapped Bell Mountain bumps every weekend. When I started skiing with him in 2007, he hadn't had a lesson since middle school. After a semi-private lesson with @snoWYmonkey at JH with me and our other ski buddy a few years ago, he decided to keep taking lessons every so often. Bill had skied at Taos a few times. But I think double blacks there were a real stretch. By the middle of the week, his "Level 9" (of 10) group was doing double blacks. One morning they skied off the Kachina lift twice. Didn't get to see him ski bumps too much in the afternoons, but when I did, there was no question he was much smoother.
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#8
With a Copper Pass you get 3 days at Taos and 3 at Purgatory. We were there 2 weeks ago. It's been a long time since we were there last and not much has changed except for the snowboarders. The joy for me was those blue runs that used to freak me out seemed gentle and friendly. I didn't ski any blacks due to a very achy and unhappy ankle.

A guy in our group did ski a run on Kachina lift. He said it wasn't too exciting as the there had been so many skiers up there that the snow was all chopped up. Taos had 10" of snow early in the week but didn't open Kachina until Friday. It appears they only run the chair on weekends. They allow hiking up when the chair is not running. Our friend also said before they let you on the chair they require a little test of your skiing to demonstrate your capable of skiing the face.

I also think they have some of the best skiers I have ever seen, if you're not there during the holidays.
 
#10
With a Copper Pass you get 3 days at Taos and 3 at Purgatory. We were there 2 weeks ago. It's been a long time since we were there last and not much has changed except for the snowboarders. The joy for me was those blue runs that used to freak me out seemed gentle and friendly. I didn't ski any blacks due to a very achy and unhappy ankle.

A guy in our group did ski a run on Kachina lift. He said it wasn't too exciting as the there had been so many skiers up there that the snow was all chopped up. Taos had 10" of snow early in the week but didn't open Kachina until Friday. It appears they only run the chair on weekends. They allow hiking up when the chair is not running. Our friend also said before they let you on the chair they require a little test of your skiing to demonstrate your capable of skiing the face.

I also think they have some of the best skiers I have ever seen, if you're not there during the holidays.
Disagree that the Kachina lift only runs on weekends. It ran during the early Feb week we were there when weather conditions were decent. Meaning the day with fog and clouds that lift wasn't running except for an hour. Also opened later in the day on a windy morning. On the busy weekend, they were only loading every other chair to control the volume of skiers coming down from the top.

When there is fresh snow, the deal with Kachina is that the day after patrol opens the terrain then it's for hikers only. So those who want lift served don't get first tracks. Learned that from the host for the free mountain tour for MCP holders. He's normally a member of the management team and has been at Taos for a few decades.

They learned a lot during the first season that Kachina had a lift. The most noticeable difference is that the entrance to the lift is deliberately difficult to discourage advanced intermediates or even low advanced skier who think it doesn't look that steep from the bottom of the lift. Getting to where you load the lift is an informal "test" but there is no one watching.
 
#11
Taos is indeed quite steep.. I didn't do the lesson but am going to do it next year just to be able to get in (and Out) of the woods safely and experience more of the MT. who knows maybe they can teach this old dog some new tricks? It's not a very big mountain in terms of acreage but it covers all the bases and feels like a Big Mt after skiing all day.. offers Big wide cruisers (I loved) nice bumps in and out of the trees and bowls big and little. The Kachina bowl was very windy/wind blown snow and I didn't venture up there. I too liked that there were good skiers and there were no crowds mid week. Friday seemed busier we had lunch over by lift 4 and after lunch everyone was dispersed again. And AH THE SUN!!!! I just loved the sunshine even the day it clouded up at 230 we had sun all morning. the rest of the week was glorious with sunshine and at the high altitude the snow stayed powdery.. I am looking forward to another Taos trip..
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#12
Disagree that the Kachina lift only runs on weekends. It ran during the early Feb week we were there when weather conditions were decent. Meaning the day with fog and clouds that lift wasn't running except for an hour. Also opened later in the day on a windy morning. On the busy weekend, they were only loading every other chair to control the volume of skiers coming down from the top.

When there is fresh snow, the deal with Kachina is that the day after patrol opens the terrain then it's for hikers only. So those who want lift served don't get first tracks. Learned that from the host for the free mountain tour for MCP holders. He's normally a member of the management team and has been at Taos for a few decades.

They learned a lot during the first season that Kachina had a lift. The most noticeable difference is that the entrance to the lift is deliberately difficult to discourage advanced intermediates or even low advanced skier who think it doesn't look that steep from the bottom of the lift. Getting to where you load the lift is an informal "test" but there is no one watching.
I was at Taos a few weeks ago, and was there the day they opened the Kachina lift for the season. Well, I was also there the day before that, and we hiked the peak. It was super nice because it hadn't been skied much, since it was all hike-to and only for the previous week. It's pretty cool up there.

Then the next morning, we lapped and lapped Kachina the easy way. I was there a year ago, and it was a huge mogul-fest, but this was super nice. The snow was magnificent, but it was still pretty rocky. The week after, they gained about 25" of base in 5 days, so I bet things got better soon.

I don't have many photos. Yes, the entrance to the lift requires a bit of a sidestep up and around to the other side rather than loading at the obvious point. I also heard the other things referenced, as they try to keep things under control there. (Some of you may remember we had quite the experience with a guy who fell the whole way down last season, and almost died.)

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Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#14
Awesome, glad you had a good time! My boyfriend and I are doing it for sure next season and I can't wait.
Let me know which week you might do it - I really want to do ski week again next year, besides I really want to ski off of Kachina lift and/or Al's run, steep moguls be damned lol. Well it could be I will be super lucky to be there during big snow dump and ski like it @pinto pics, but realistically it most likely be big moguls on a steep open bowl for Kachina like what I saw this past week.
 

Jenny

Angel Diva
#15
Let me know which week you might do it - I really want to do ski week again next year, besides I really want to ski off of Kachina lift and/or Al's run, steep moguls be damned lol. Well it could be I will be super lucky to be there during big snow dump and ski like it @pinto pics, but realistically it most likely be big moguls on a steep open bowl for Kachina like what I saw this past week.
You're braver than I am. I'd like to see the view from Kachina, but I seriously doubt I'd be skiing down. More likely I would be curled in a ball and whimpering.
 

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#16
You're braver than I am. I'd like to see the view from Kachina, but I seriously doubt I'd be skiing down. More likely I would be curled in a ball and whimpering.
I hear you on fear, I froze up in Walkyries glades a few times, had to side slip and side step in a couple of places until I could turn. We shall see what happens next year..

Taos's terrain is no joke, that is true, most skiers who ski there are really good, I saw a part of freeride competition while I was there - teenage girls 12-14 yrs skiing West Ridge chutes and was mightily impressed. I will probably never ski stuff from West Ridge, well never say never I guess, but it's unlikely, at least in the next 5 years or so. :smile: From what I understand @pinto has skied some stuff from West Ridge and wanted to say that after seeing West Ridge terrain with my own eyes I think that is very impressive.
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
We were there on Wed, Thurs, and Friday. I can understand Kachina closed on Wednesday because visibility was poor everywhere on the mountain. Thursday was sunny and it was still closed. They opened it on Fri. Locals claimed resort was "milking it" to save on employees.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#18
I hear you on fear, I froze up in Walkyries glades a few times, had to side slip and side step in a couple of places until I could turn. We shall see what happens next year..

Taos's terrain is no joke, that is true, most skiers who ski there are really good, I saw a part of freeride competition while I was there - teenage girls 12-14 yrs skiing West Ridge chutes and was mightily impressed. I will probably never ski stuff from West Ridge, well never say never I guess, but it's unlikely, at least in the next 5 years or so. :smile: From what I understand @pinto has skied some stuff from West Ridge and wanted to say that after seeing West Ridge terrain with my own eyes I think that is very impressive.
Well, I will say it was not nearly as scary this year, all filled in with 10" fresh snow on top, as last year, when it was filled in but no new snow. That's West Ridge behind me here, and yeah, the entrances can be a little tight, but you can see that once you're out, it's not bad at all.

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I love it, though. Gives you a rush, and it's easy on your body. In addition to Taos, I've skied at Crested Butte, Aspen Highlands, Jackson Hole, and Snowbird this season already, some of the steepest stuff around. Plenty of 40-degree-plus terrain, in deep soft snow. It's like floating, there is almost no impact. My knees feel great.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#19
I found some more photos of Stauffenberg (the widest of the runs there) from last year. I guess it is pretty steep. This is one of my favorite photos I ever took:

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You don't have to go straight in, I slipped in a bit on the side there, but these guys were scouting it for a freeride comp.

This is my nephew. Grew up in Silverton, so "steep" is relative.
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