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TR Taos Ski Valley, Feb. 2-9, 2019, including advanced Ski Week

marzNC

Angel Diva
#1
As some of you know, I’m hooked on the Taos Ski Week and skiing TSV in general after my first trip a couple years ago. Early last fall, I arranged to meet friends for the MLK Ski Week in January. Later on I decided to spend a second week at TSV when different friends would be at TSV. For this trip, we got lucky and caught a powder storm during the Ski Week that ran Feb. 3-8. The highlight for my lesson group was hiking to ski deep powder in steep trees off the Highline Ridge on the sunny day after the snow stopped.

The Divas who were around in early Feb included @Olesya Chornoguz , @nopoleskier , @Whistler Cathy , @floridakeysskibum , as well as @snow cat and her sister.
All the Divas, plus my ski buddy Bill, stayed at the Columbine Inn.

My other friends I met up with who aren’t connected to TSD included DaveB and his co-worker Dean from the DC area. It worked out that Bill and I could help Dave and Dean with transportation to/from TSV so that they didn’t need to rent a car or take the shuttle from the airport. Dave put together a mini-Gathering for another ski forum so there were also a bunch of other skiers I knew as well. Most of them are advanced skiers. Quite a few were skiing Taos for the first time. Several who did a Ski Week hadn’t had a lesson as an adult, or ever.

A Taos Ski Week is six consecutive group lessons, 9:45-12:00, Sun-Fri, for about $300 plus tip. Most students stay with the same very experienced instructor for the entire week. Groups usually have 7 or less students (2 chairs on the quad lifts) by the second day (Mon).

For those who missed it, here’s the TR from my trip in Jan 2019, which includes comments from the other Divas who were there Jan. 20-25.
https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/i...jan-20-25-2019-with-intermediate-divas.23500/

For an idea of how the weather forecast kept changing:
https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/i...-conditions-and-more.23139/page-3#post-381958

View up the canyon road to TSV
TR Taos fun Feb2019 - 1.jpg

Snowy day, official total 5 inches
TR Taos fun Feb2019 - 2.jpg

Looking down from Hunziker
TR Taos fun Feb2019 - 3.jpg

Columbine Inn a mile from the TSV base
TR Taos fun Feb2019 - 4.jpg

Lower Blitz
TR Taos fun Feb2019 - 5.jpg

Kachina Peak, view from top of Lift 2
TR Taos fun Feb2019 - 6.jpg
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#2
NOTES ABOUT SKI WEEK

The ski off on Sunday for Ski Week Feb. 3-8 involved a lot more people compared to mid-Jan. I heard that there were 120 reservations, partially because of a large ski club from Chicago. Unlike in Jan, it seemed that many of the ski club members had done Ski Weeks before. Between the Divas and the people from the other ski forum, that added least 20 students.

Getting ready for Sun morning ski off, start at Whistlestop Cafe (mid-mountain)
TSV Ski off 03Feb2019 - 1.jpg

Instructors in place
TSV Ski off 03Feb2019 - 2.jpg

Initial groups waiting for Monday ski off
TSV Ski off 04Feb2019 - 1.jpg

Based on the Sunday ski off, I was put in a group with Dano. However, my group ended up with Stephanie for the week starting on Monday because Dano tweaked a knee on Sunday. Stephanie is one of the most experienced instructors at TSV, so my group was pretty happy with the change. Our group was mostly Level 8 (out of 10) with a couple of long time TSV regulars who are Level 9 in terms of having more interest and experience skiing double-black terrain. Everyone in my group was comfortable skiing black bumps on Day 1.

Bill decided to work on fundamentals, so he was in a group with Karen that was Level 7 (out of 10). The last couple years he skied double-black terrain with the Level 9/10 group taught by Dan R., who retired after last season.

The instructor @Olesya Chornoguz usually works with wasn’t available. She and a few other Divas worked with Derek, another of the most experienced instructors.

As he checked everyone out on Sunday morning, Dano took my group down the bumps on Lower Hunziker without stopping at the top. (My 7/8 group in Jan did Hunziker towards the end of the week.) We finished the morning on Tell Glade (no trees, just bumps under Lift 8). He emphasized the importance of a flat skis in bumps, as well as early pole plants. The drill he did early in the lesson was “windshield wiper” double pole plants. I’d done the same drill with Trey in Jan, but with a different verbal description. Dano planned to go over a variety of drills over the course of the week. The idea is that you never know which drill(s) will make the most sense to a given skier.

One of the other ski forum members, PJ, was in Dano’s group on Day 1. He knew me a bit from a Mid-Atlantic gathering several years ago. He was younger than most of the group and had more energy. Dano decided he should move up to another group on Mon.

Stephanie has a very different teaching style than Dano. On the one hand, she is very intense but also more personable and relaxed. Given the good snow and the fresh snow, she opted to spend most of the week on tactics instead of technique. We ended up doing more drills on Friday, Day 6, than any other day. I have a great time learning which black trails are fun in good conditions. Also learned a few short shots that aren’t obvious from the trail map. For much of the week, the goal was to stay in the trees. During the snowstorm, that meant better visibility and less wind. After the skies cleared, the best snow was in the trees.

An example of terrain that’s not obvious without following a local or an experienced instructor was going left on Staub. Staub is a black tree area. Going straight the terrain is steeper. Going left first leads to slightly mellower terrain. Turned out that Bill’s instructor hadn’t done that section before when he suggested the idea after I showed it to @Olesya Chornoguz one afternoon. Before going in with Stephanie, Bill and I had skied the steeper section.

By Day 3, there was fresh snow. The storm dropped several inches of relatively dense powder, which was just what was needed to build base. Some areas were getting pretty thin. On Day 4, it snowed overnight and all day. Officially there was 5 inches, but it was much deeper in some places. Stephanie took the group into trees. We learned the easy way to get into Lorelei (black) and then into the lower section of Lorelei Trees (double black steep at the top). It kept snowing all Wed afternoon.

Day 5, Thu, was frigid and clear. Stephanie really wanted the entire group to hike to Highline Ridge. She’d wanted to do Wild West Glade (other direction) during the snowstorm but decided to stick with lift-served trees. On Thu most of the West Basin was closed due to a Jr. Freestyle competition. The hike was worth it but took a lot of effort because of the high altitude. After the hike and powder turns, we took a break in the ski patrol hut instead of taking the time to go down to Whistlestop. Our last run that morning was Lorelei to lower Lorelei Trees.

On the last day, Fri, Stephanie didn’t have an afternoon lesson (she often teaches kids in the afternoons). She offered end the official lesson at 11:30 and then take anyone interested to do a hike to a secret location. I opted out, partially because I was driving to Albuquerque later that afternoon. Had I been staying at TSV Fri night, probably would’ve done another hike. We spent more time on technique given that everyone was a little tired, or saving their energy for the hike.

On Fri afternoon, I chose to meet up with Dave for lunch and ski with him afterwards. We both wanted to eat early at the Bavarian. No one else we knew made it over to the Bavarian by noon. In general, the folks we knew ate lunch somewhere at the main base. We wanted to stop skiing relatively early to get ready for the drive. As I learned the first year, there are advantages to staying over Fri night when doing a Ski Week. One of my group mates invited the group, and any of our friends, over to her condo for aprés and that would’ve been fun.
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
#3
My instructor, Stephanie, really wanted to take her group on a hike. The best skiers in the group were eager to go. I and two other women were willing but not overly excited about the effort involved. The most hesitant was an older woman, AP. She’s in her late 60s and has been staying at the St. B. doing a Ski Week annually for about ten years. The day of the snowstorm (Wed) we ended up skiing in trees instead of hiking. But the next day was clear, cold, but not too windy. AP was going to skip the hike, but after a warm up run down Bambi (blue groomer off Lift 2), Stephanie convinced AP to do the hike.

The hike starts at the top of Lift 2. Normally can go either way. One way accesses the West Basin, ending at Wild West Glades, and the other way heads towards Highline Ridge and the peak of Kachina. We had to do the Highline Ridge because most of West Basin was closed for Jr. Freestyle competition.

The only way I can do a hike that’s more than five minutes is by putting my skis on my back in some way. While using a backpack is one option, what I’ve used more often is the Mountain Goat Ski Tote. It’s a set of straps designed to carry skis that can roll up and easily fit in a jacket pocket. Haven’t used it that often, but always glad I have it when I do. I didn't have it with me on the snowy day, but was prepared the next day.

The hike isn’t that long, but does go up a fair amount. There are steep sections where it’s not possible for anyone to pass. AP and I were the slowest in our group. I needed to stop several times to catch my breath. I would stop at places where people could pass. Then I encouraged AP to keep going until she reached me. I could rest a little more while she rested. She wouldn’t let our instructor carry her skis initially. But after the first half, she did hand over her skis. Once we got to the open area at the top, Stephanie happened to see her husband and quickly asked him to carry AP’s skis the short way where we would click in. The last part is relatively flat and open. Not sure exactly how long it took, but I’m guessing it was at least 30 min, if not a bit more. Even the last section that was relatively flat took 10 min. Then it was another 10 min before we started the fun powder turns.

During my first trip to Taos (two years ago), my friends and I hiked up to the Ridge just for the view. That was after only a couple days at altitude and was really tough. Even without carrying skis.

Stephanie took us out to the second gate. We dropped in just before the gate. We traversed over to an area called the Kitchen Wall, which means going towards Kachina. The area we skied is separate from where the avalanche in January slid off the K1-K3 chutes.

After stopping at the trail signs for North Face, Treskow, and Twin Trees, we headed down into the trees. Big trees, but widely spaced . . . with LOTS of soft snow. After a few turns in the trees, we could head to an open area for more powder turns. The snow was knee deep on the taller skiers, thigh deep for me. But easy to do the right moves with the guidance of an instructor. When it’s that deep, not that hard to keep from going too fast. Had no problems skiing in the snow with my Stormrider 85 skis. Powder skis not required. GREAT FUN!

View of Highline Ridge from Feb 2017, lots of snow that winter
TR Highline Ridge.jpg

We made it! All women except the Texas grandfather in the red jacket.
TR Taos hike 07Feb2019 - 1.jpg

See the skier at the edge of the trees?
TR Taos hike 07Feb2019 - 2.jpg

Lesson group enjoying deep powder turns
TR Taos hike 07Feb2019 - 3.jpg
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
#4
While there is plenty of terrain at Taos, about 1300 acres, it’s a relatively easy layout to learn. There are three lifts on the front side, and essentially two lifts on the backside, with a short connector lift (7A, center pole). Lifts 7 and 7A are old and do not have safety bars.

Between the two Ski Weeks this season, I had a chance to cover more of the black trails. Haven’t done them all yet, but enough to know that I could ski any Taos black terrain. That includes Al’s Run under Lift 1, which is long but is not that steep and has more regular bumps than some of the other blacks. In addition to Walkyries Glade that I skied before, I got to ski Lorelei to lower Lorelei Trees, and Blitz to Blitz Trees or West Bowl. Stephanie was focused on tactics any time we were on black terrain. Learned a lot that will come in handy on future trips to TSV.

I took a couple adventure runs after lunch during the snowstorm. The first was Spencer's to Lower Inferno with the hard chargers from the other ski forum. Don't usually ski big bumps that fast, but after working with the Taos instructors it was pretty fun. Later I went with Bill and and @Olesya Chornoguz to Rhoda’s based on advice from one of the senior instructors. It was a good way to stay out of the wind and have a bit better visibility because Inferno is a narrow trail. Snow was deep and there will bumps underneath. There weren’t many of people besides an instructor group. We had a good time working our way down one section at a time and finished on Inferno.

Afterwards we went over to the backside. Had great fun making powder turns in the fresh snow on a wide groomer off Lift 7. Only 4-5 inches but seemed deeper. Everyone else had gone in for the day, so we had the trail to ourselves.

Bill and Olesya after the short hike to Upper Hunziker
TR Taos snow Feb2019 - 1.jpg

Bill and Olesya on Lift 7A, center pole, short ride, no safety bar
TR Taos snow Feb2019 - 2.jpg

A few inches on a deserted groomer, Totemoff
TR Taos snow Feb2019 - 4.jpg

Snow piled up on the cars left at the Columbine
TR Taos snow Feb2019 - 5.jpg
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#5
Every time I visit TSV, I learn a little more. This time we had dinner in the village while it was snowing. That made it obvious that the brick surface around the plaza that was installed when the Blake was built is heated. That includes the area in front of Taos Sports and Katie’s (cafeteria) that leads to the stairs to the locker rooms. Quite a smart investment. Knowing any snow landing on the plaza melts makes a difference when looking at the webcams pointed at the base.

One change for 2018-19 is that The Martini Tree (upstairs bar/restaurant at main base) is only open Fri-Sun. Same for the Phoenix Grill, which is now in a small building outside the Pheonix Lodge. The Lodge is a big open room that can clearly be used for functions during the off-season. The Phoenix Grill has very basic food, like hot dogs and chicken soup.

The options for sit down service for lunch at the main base include Rhoda’s (next to cafeteria), Hondo (inside Snakedance, door next to Snowsports), and the St. Bernard. All serve pretty quickly and aren’t that pricey. The St. B. lunch special is always quite good and there are good burgers from the grill on the deck. If nice enough to eat outside, don’t have to do any stairs. On the backside, the Bavarian is open for lunch every day. Can eat inside or on the deck.

Snow melting on the heated bricks
TR Taos snow Feb2019 - 3.jpg
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#6
TSV is clearly continuing to evolve based on the change of ownership a few years ago. The next big construction at the base will start this summer as the first condo building goes up next to the Blake. Here are the differences I noticed between Feb 2018 and Jan/Feb 2019.

* Lift 1 is a new detachable quad, ends about where Lift 5 used to unload
* New heated restroom building next to expanded Bavarian deck
* Phoenix Lodge renovated, only open Fri-Sun
* Phoenix Grill is outside the Phoenix Lodge
* Snowsports desk moved to Snakedance
* Renovated public locker room and restrooms
* Season pass office moved to Taos Tent (not next to locker room any more)
* Separate MCP/Ikon office across from season pass office, closes at 2:30
* Renovated rental set up in Taos Sports (much better flow), demo skis all outside

* Different grading at the base above the St. Bernard, easier walk
* Different entrance to Porcupine off Lift 1
* Lift 4 open, most of the days, on hold a few mornings (2018 had very low snow even in Feb)
* Black and double-black terrain open (2018 had very low snow even in Feb)
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#7
For this Ski Week, my ski buddy Bill decided to work on fundamentals. He did two Ski Weeks in the previous seasons with Dan R. that were clearly Level 9/10 since they skied mostly double-blacks. Dan R. retired after the 2017-18 season. Bill was in a Level 7 group with Karen. While he could have moved up, he opted to stay. When we skied blue and black bumps together in the afternoons, he was actively thinking about how to put together all the technique tips he'd heard from instructors for his skiing or tips that were given to the other students in his group. Quite a change since the first semi-private lesson he took with me at JH only five years ago (he was over 60, loved skiing bumps on straight skis at Aspen every weekend in high school).

Bottom line is that advanced/expert skiers who do Ski Weeks on a regular basis always have more to learn from the very experienced instructors at TSV. There are Level 8/9/10 skiers who do an annual Ski Week for 10, 20, even 30 years.
 

Olesya Chornoguz

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#8
This was my third ski week in a row. Our instructor was Derek G, who is a very experienced instructor and is really good. First few days we did a little bit of carving drills - carve uphill, lighten up the inside leg before the snow fell on Wednesday. We also did a pole plant hop drill, which is not only helpful for improving pole planting in bumps, but is also helpful for warming up on a cold day. :smile:

Derek worked a lot with us on tactics of skiing bumps. While sometimes you can on turn on top of the bump and side slip down that doesn't work great on irregular shape bumps. The alternative tactic is to traverse/absorb/side slip until see a nice bump to turn on. He also went over skiing the outside of the 2ndt bump below if it shaped like a track/ramp/salad bowl and make sure to smear your turn, another tip is to be patient with your turns, not to throw your skis sideways - I tend to do that, so need to work on being more patient with my turns. I also got a tip of muscling my turns less. We skied several blue bump runs - Lonestar, White Feather gully. When the snow fell on Wednesday/Thursday we skied Valkyries glade, a 1/3 of the famous Al's run, ten we exited into lower Inferno and finished with Ernie's Booboo. These are all black diamond ungroomed runs. We also skied Japanese Flag glades and Rio Hono glades - short easy blue square glades, lots of fun!

I think the biggest breakthrough for me this year was how much more confident I felt on Taos black trails this time. I skied Valkyries trees almost every day an had a blast! The very first time I skied Valkyries 3 years ago I was gripped by fear, to be fair the snow was firm and the bumps were big.

I am starting to trust myself and my skis to make turns in tight spaces in trees, and I realized if I am starting to get scared I just side slip or do falling leaf until I can turn. So definitely big confidence boost this year. I am not sure if my technique has improved that much this year, - I think I already have good fundamentals from many lessons I took, but I definitely feel a lot more confident on challenging terrain.

My goal for this year' Taos trip was to ski Al's and to ski a Taos double black this year, but since Kachina was closed I will have to wait until next year to ski my first Taos double black. I did ski Al's run, not all of it, but about a third, which was the easier section and I had fun doing it.
 
#10
Clarification by third ski week in a row I meant I took ski week every year for three consecutive years. I didn't take 3 ski weeks back to back. :smile:
Three Ski Weeks in a row would be hard to process.

My history with TSV so far:

Feb 2017: a week of skiing but no Ski Week, 1-shot lesson with a friend, lots of snow, 100+ inches

Feb 2018: Women's Ski Week, highest level but essentially no black terrain open because it was a low snow winter

Jan 2019: Ski Week during MLK Week, level 7/8
early Feb 2019: Ski Week, level 8/9

There was one week between the two Ski Weeks this season. My groups were quite different. The combination was very effective for me. That was pretty obvious today skiing deep powder and cut up powder at Targhee (14 inches fresh).
 

floridakeysskibum

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
I’m so glad I joined you guys in Taos this year. It worked out perfectly to visit with mom first then take a short flight over to Albuquerque and drive up. So exciting to drive through the desert and see snow on the tips of mountains, and know that’s where we are headed.

I enjoyed Derek’s teaching. He made everything very easy and liked his terminology as well. “Turn magic ski” ....wait for it ....wait for it....wait for it... and finally and still my all time favorite, is the ssssmmmeeeerrrr. My roommate was worried that I was having a nightmare, and I was just awake enough to respond that I was skiing min my dreams . Gaining more confidence in larger bumps, recognizing a line, and sticking to it for the most part was a nice accomplishment for the week. But my helmet goes off to the Valkyrie tree runs. I wish we could have done that combination for the entire week. A little groomer, a little powder, a lot of bumps, then into the trees followed by groomer back to do it again. My legs enjoyed the change of pace, pitch, and terrain, and so did my enthusiasm!!

Great trip, great company...here’s to many more to come
 

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