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SNOW OR BUST
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Updated 6 years ago
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6 years ago
Vince and I are setting out on another major western ski road trip for the next couple of weeks. We hope to ski about nine out of the first eleven days of 2012. We depart Northern Virginia tomorrow. We are going to follow the snow, such as there is, during this slow starting ski season across much of the USA. This is our window of opportunity with college break ending in mid-January. We’re likely to hit resorts from Taos to Steamboat and points in between. With all the skiing and the demanding road travel I’m not sure we’ll post in this thread every night, but we hope to report when we’ve got something good.

My wife and daughter are going to fly out and join us for some family fun on the slopes during the second half of the trip. Can we find great skiing in a lean season? We shall see. At least it’s not like we’re leaving behind stellar local conditions. We’ll be in touch.

Happy Holidays!
Jim and Vince Kenney
6 years ago
Good luck on hitting the snow and have fun. Look forward to the trip reports.

Keith
6 years ago
Hope you run into some major snow dumps! Look forward to your reports.
6 years ago
Wishing you a great and fun trip! Have always followed and enjoyed your trip reports. Actually, skiied Solitude during my last years end-of-season trip based on your trip report. Was my wife’s favorite day. Thank you
6 years ago
Jim:

I’m looking forward to your reports. I decided our ski trip until the end of February, hoping things improve. In the meantime, it’s Timberline or bust for me.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
6 years ago
Good luck Jim & Vince. I look forward to your reports. The SW is setting up to be the best region this season. Have you been to places like Telluride, Wolf Creek, Purgatory? Taos is perhaps my favorite in the entire country when conditions are good. Also had great skiing at Santa Fe and Pajarito. The latter is a club, but is open to the public. I believe the access road is restricted to 4WD vehicles.

I will not be heading west until early Feb. Meanwhile I’m hoping for some local snows I can pounce on in mid week. smile
6 years ago
Best of luck guys. Hope you find snow on the slopes and not on the roads.

Let us know how the new skis work out. The differences should be a lot more noticeable than early season at HV.

Not to sound like your Dad, but ya got a more reliable set of wheels than on road trips past?
6 years ago
Hey Jim, I’ll be in summit county late next week enjoying the, ummm, historic conditions. My 18 year old kid will be with me. We have good floor space :-)
6 years ago
Have fun guys. I look forward to reading your stories. See you when you get back. Maybe Blue Knob will have something going by then.
6 years ago
Have a safe trip! Hope the Snow Man cooperates with dumps on the mountain and keeps thr roads sane.
Enjoy!
The Colonel smile
6 years ago
We had a smooth two day drive out the NM, with mild weather and no snow cover until the OK panhandle. We took highway 54 in southern KS for hours. It cuts through the very rural Land of Dorothy’s OZ. The first real mountain we saw was the ancient dormant Capulin Volcano in eastern NM (elev 8860) with an access road spiraling to the summit that was open.

On January 1, 2012 we enjoyed a fine day at Red River Ski Area. It’s a real good mountain with 1600’ VD, five chairs, and 57 trails. Base 8750’, summit 10350’. It was pretty much 100% open, although they had no new snow in the last two weeks. Conditions went from packed powder in the AM to a slightly scraped harder surface in the PM; mediocre western conditions, excellent mid-Atlantic conditions. It was sunny, 45 degs, with little wind - beautiful day. RR has some very challenging terrain, about six runs as steep or steeper than Blue Knob’s Extrovert or Snowshoe’s Lower Shays, but with a longer sustained drop than either. Two we skied of this type were Mineshaft and Catskinner. There were nearby glades that would have been even tougher. It has nice advanced blue square runs down the full 1600’ VD, but only a minimal number of greens. The town of RR directly abuts the base of the lifts and maybe the size of Snowshoe’s village, but more 1960-70s architecture. The area is popular with Texans and seemed like the kind of place you could enjoy a relatively affordable vacation.
Tomorrow Taos.

Happy New Year,
Jim and Vince Kenney


KS HWY 54


Capulin Volcano


Texan love Red Riveer


Mine Shaft


Center Pole Chair


View of Red River from slopes


Cutting up Red River


Red River Video
6 years ago
Jim and Vince, glad you made it across to the Other Mountains safely. Looks like some steep runs and great snow at Red River. Do they have much in the way of snowmaking, or is all that snow from previous storms?

I’ve often thought about aiming for Taos one day, so I’m especially interested to hear what the two of you think about it.

Safe travels and good skiing,
Woody
6 years ago
Great looking turns! Compared to what we have here on the Right coast those conditions looks excellent
6 years ago
Taos teaser, more photos, video, and commentary later when we have better internet connection.

Friendly groomers below extreme Kachina Peak 12481’


Hikers on Highline Ridge, great snow and big lines everywhere at Taos Ski Valley


73 yr old local Charlie Henderson (left) leads us down double black diamond Lorelei Trees


town of Taos plaza


Taos Video

PS: we’re staying in Sun God Lodge, Taos, $44 per night via Priceline, clean, decent rooms, but wifi isn’t their strong suit.
6 years ago
Taos

We had a great pair of ski days at Taos. The weather featured intense New Mexican sunshine with no wind, and though high temps were in the mid to upper 30s it felt warmer. Conditions were great, packed powder. We wore a couple of light layers under a thin shell and had a blast. Very un-January-like.
Taos has got to be ranked in the top tier of US ski areas for challenging terrain. Everywhere you look there are big time bump runs and above the lift served layout an array of hike-to ridges that range from double diamond to “if you fall, you die” extreme. Taos has some nice blue square groomers too, but even their greens have got a little tilt to them :-)
On the first day we met a very spry 73 year old local named Charlie Henderson who didn’t break a sweat leading us down a bumpy double black diamond glade called Lorelei Trees. In the afternoon Vince skied Al’s Run which is 1600 vertical feet of continuous steep bumps, while I hit the groomers.

On our second day as we contemplated attempting the hike-to Highline Ridge Vince made an interesting remark about his friends that get cocky about skiing any black diamond run in the mid-Atlantic. “If they only knew what rates as a black diamond at a place like Taos.” Around 10:15 AM we began the hike to the ridge from the ~11,800’ summit of the highest lifts at Taos. It’s only about 300 yards and maybe 150’ vertical, nonetheless, it took Mr. Flatlander 15 minutes of huffing and puffing. But it was worth it. The views are fantastic and there are some runs off Highline Ridge that are within the ability level of “normal recreational experts”. On the other hand, while up there we took a peek down a run called Oster on the more difficult West Basin Ridge and it looked like a mandatory no fall zone to me. Panic attack scary, especially in early season coverage. We eventually skied some great snow on a glade off the Highline Ridge called Corner Chute.
Later in the day we skied possibly our steepest run of the two days, a 600’ vertical glade near the lift-served summit called Castor. It had a nondescript entrance off a sweet groomer called Bambi. I reverted to survival form, but Vince skied it well. Eventually I skied part of the bumps of Al’s Run with Vince and finally we took a long, nonstop combination of greens and blues from the summit to the base for a full 2600 vertical foot descent. It was two minutes before they shut down the lifts. I was cooked, but Vince skied Al’s Run one more time while I hit the water cooler inside the base lodge. Oh to be young again.

It is officially not a lean season at Taos. Although no fresh snow for us, by local standards they have a reasonably good early season base due to lots of snow before Christmas. 90% of their designated trails are open and 50% of the hike-to ridge slopes and chutes. Only Kachina Peak was totally verboten. This place is a bumpers paradise and we saw dozens of big soft mogul runs. Their ten year plan includes a chair to the top of ~12400 Kachina Peak adding 600 more vertical feet.
The Taos layout has ~2600’ vertical, 110 trails, elevations from ~9200-11800’. On paper it’s seemingly a mid-size Western resort, but that would be a misjudgment. This place skis big, real big. An expert or aspiring expert would not get bored here in a week or…maybe a lifetime. They tell me the ski school is full of great skiing gray haired instructors who came long ago and found their own personal shang-ri-la.

Now we have an off day to pick up my wife and daughter at DIA airport, then on to family skiing at Steamboat.


Happy trails,
Jim and Vince Kenney

BTW, you can view all our pics in full size if you right click and copy image location then paste the URL in your browser window.


Taos has some beautiful intermediate groomers




A skier tackles the very challenging Stauffenberg Chute of the extreme West Basin Ridge


Taos base area


Steeling our nerves for the Ridge hike


West Basin Ridge


Highline Ridge with Kachina Peak to the left


Vince above Juarez on Highline Ridge


Vince in Corner Chute


Hunziker Bowl


Castor
[img]http://i981.photobucket.com/albums/ae292/dsckiphotos/DSCN1883.jpg[/img]

Vince on Al’s Run
[img]http://i981.photobucket.com/albums/ae292/dsckiphotos/DSCN1892.jpg[/img]

The previous video failed to upload. Here it is properly uploaded.
Taos Ski Valley
6 years ago
Taos is my favorite place ever. The Ski Week lessons are fantastic. My first time down Castor caught me a little off guard. I was just following the instructor when I noticed a "You must be able to self arrest" sign go by.

The stuff on the ridge is very doable, but don’t undersell the steepness. My wife and I hiked up to Juarez (one past Hidalgo that you show in the photo). I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but this map puts all those runs at 40+ degrees. Nothing to sneeze at.

http://3dskimaps.com/taos/
6 years ago
Love Taos.

Though beware the snow covered pillows which may contain boulders underneath. Taos RIP’ed my old Volants from the 90’s. Cracked an edge. Not even gear geeks could bring them back.

Does it still have the don’t worry sign on the lift riding up under Al’s from the main lodge?
6 years ago
Day One at Steamboat: Let me start by saying we are seeing sub-par conditions for Steamboat by this time in January, more like Steamboat in early December except every day is a windless springlike 40 degrees on the mountain with beautiful sunshine. We’re still skiing in light under layers and a thin shell and slapping on sunblock. There are worse fates cool Even with a sub-par snow-pack we’re enjoying approximately 15 chairs, 70 open trails, 3600 vertical feet, and 1000 acres of terrain. Trail surfaces are like a good day at a mid-Atlantic ski area, but alertness is required for the stray rock or weed showing through on some open trails. Reminds me of Blue Knob. crazy We wouldn’t object to a fresh dump of Steamboat’s signature champagne powder. We had an instructor/guide on our first day at Steamboat named Marc Bertrand, he’s PSIA level 3 and did a great job showing us around and providing many great tips.
We’re also having a blast with the dining, shopping, and people watching offered at a world class resort town including steaks at the Ore House Restaurant and perusing western wear at F. M. Light Mercantile. We hope to check out the Texas Musicfest occuring in town this week. In a sense Steamboat is a bombproof ski vacation destination because there is so much to see and do here. I’m bent on showing my wife Kathy a good time on this phase of our trip and we’re staying at the beautiful and decidedly upscale condos of Champagne Lodge at Trappeur’s Crossing about a half mile shuttle ride from the gondola base at the slopes.

Happy trails,
Jim and Vince Kenney

Pictures:
Hot Cakes trail, these boulders can offer fun pillow lines in powder conditions


A tree run from Storm Peak, the town of Steamboat Springs is below


family shot


one of Steamboat’s smaller half pipes, note statue of Billy Kidd in left foreground


competitive Steamboat mogul skiers training session


wide groomers and plenty of bumps even in lean conditions


more bumps at Steamboat
6 years ago
Day Two at Steamboat (1/6/12)
Texas Music Fest week, an annual thing in early January draws 4-5 thousand skiing music freaks from the Lone Star State:


Billy Kidd gives a terrific, free 1pm clinic many days of the season. He’s serious about teaching some fundamentals and very gracious:


Morningside area:


Colorful kids, playful terrain:


Suzy and the Gray Jay:



Day Three at Steamboat (1/7/12)

FINALLY new snow, about 6-7 inches that freshened everything and opened up some of the low angle tree runs in the One O’Clock area

One O’Clock glades:



Vince and pow:



Skiing in the aspens:


Skiing in the fir trees:


Snow above the boot buckles:


Snowshoe excursion:
[img]http://i981.photobucket.com/albums/ae292/dsckiphotos/DSCN2033.jpg[/img]

Next up, Copper Mtn, then perhaps Beaver Creek.
6 years ago
Glad you guys finally got some powder!
Denis - DCSki Supporter
6 years ago
Looks great. I like the upper mountain at Steamboat a lot. Especially the Chutes and the Bar U E lift. Aspens are over rated, they do not protect the snow from sun and wind like conifers. Just give the trees and the tree wells they hide a wide berth. Good idea to have a partner too. Below the chutes is a half square mile or so of beautiful low angle powder. I fell through a snow bridge over a stream while alone in there and was lucky to get out. After day one I downloaded on the gondola at day’s end. The lower mountain tended to mashed potatoes by late afternoon and was clogged with skiers with more enthusiasm than ability, all unaware of anything around them. I did not mind downloading. The mountain is so big and has so many different environments, each as big as many resorts as a whole.
6 years ago
Gotta get to Steamboat sometime. Looks like a great family vacation Jim.
6 years ago
January 9, 2012: a very fine day at Copper Mountain ski area. The back bowls are closed, so are the black diamond runs off the Alpine chair on the lookers left front side of the mountain due to lack of sufficient snowpack. Vince and I consoled ourselves with a day of extremely nice cruising on Copper’s outstanding array of nice green, blue, and easy black terrain served by the American Eagle and American Flyer lifts. These section has good snowmaking coverage and was nicely enhanced by a six inch snowfall on Sat/Sun.

Vince


Sierra lift terrain


Skirting Jupiter Bowl (not open yet)


Sierra lift terrain again


Bumps, Copper style


Copper Mtn, CO




Video of Vince working on his bump technique
Tomorrow we ski Beaver Creek, first time ever for either of us. We are psyched!
6 years ago
January 10-11, 2012

We skied Beaver Creek yesterday, Jan 10. Extremely photogenic day, then we returned to Denver to send wife and daughter on flight back to DC early this morning, Jan 11. Intended to return to BC for second day of skiing today, but stuck in Denver due to traffic gridlock from small, but slippery snow storm - reminiscent of what we see in DC sometimes. Flights got off safely for wife and daughter:-) Instead Vince and I will flex and ski some fresh snow at BC tomorrow, Jan 12, delaying our return drive to Northern VA by one day. We have the time, so I uploaded a bunch of photos from BC below

Day One at Beaver Creek: On Jan 10 we took a free mountain tour of BC at 10 AM (intermediate level group of a dozen skiers moved pretty fast) and it was well worth it for anyone skiing here multiple days. BC is huge, even though not all terrain is open (particularly gladed areas), there is still 1000+ acres of skiing now. The mountain tour hosts pumped us full of hot chocolate and conditions felt pretty dang good. We skied many parts of the mtn from elev 11400 to 7400’, there is a huge vertical at BC. Only significant trail pod we did not ski was expert bump area of Grouse Mtn, which we were told was thin and firm. We may try to get there on our second day at BC.

BC mtn tour starts atop the Centennial lift straight up from the heart of the base village


View of Vail’s Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin (right background)


View of Grouse Mtn trail pod

Fun groomer thru Arrowhead section of BC turned into Chinese downhill for tour group:-0


The best word to describe the ambiance of BC is POSH, this is the slopeside Ritz-Carlton at Bachelor Gulch, they had a live guitarist playing John Denver tunes beside the chair lift at noon on a Monday.

Skier-mover at BC base area (they also have escalators to the slopes, which I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit I liked. We took a lunch break at the Osprey restaurant, yellow bldg in back.

Lunch break at the Osprey beside the Strawberry Park express chair, you don slippers while dining blush

Gorgeous Beaver Creek Village, wife and daughter very much enjoyed a day strolling around here during the day.

“The Beav” is an extremely photogenic mtn


Bumps under Birds of Prey chair

Birds of Prey World Cup GS start point
[img]http://i981.photobucket.com/albums/ae292/dsckiphotos/DSCN2198.jpg[/img]
A freeze frame from Vince’s video of the Golden Eagle GS course, it was hard for us to capture how steep this sucker was, boggles the mind to think the pros tuck it at high speeds.
[img]http://i981.photobucket.com/albums/ae292/dsckiphotos/EagleDownhillPOV.png[/img]
Good soft bump coverage on Lupine trail off Larkspur chair (they’re all express chairs here)
[img]http://i981.photobucket.com/albums/ae292/dsckiphotos/DSCN2209.jpg[/img]

Very nice terrain park layout at BC:
[img]http://i981.photobucket.com/albums/ae292/dsckiphotos/DSCN2214.jpg[/img]

Happy trails, Jim and Vince Kenney
6 years ago
For the season’s lack of snow so far, conditions out there seem pretty good…
6 years ago
Ya I’ll bet Vince can’t wait to get back for our "appointment" at Wisp next week.
6 years ago
Finally heading home. We’re in Ohio this morning. Will try to enter some concluding thoughts and photos on trip this weekend. Last day of skiing was Jan 12 for a second day at Beaver Creek. They got about 5 more inches new snow on the 11th. Good skiing.

Happy trails,
Jim and Vince Kenney
6 years ago
Welcome back Jim. Conditions are beginning to improve here too. You must have brought winter back with you. Thanks for the running TR. I look forward to reading your full reports.
6 years ago
We’re back in Northern Virginia safe and sound.
Photos from last day (Jan 12, 2012) at Beaver Creek:

Beaver Creek escalators from village to lifts

Early morning BC corduroy

Goshawk trail:

Larkspur bowl:

Extreme snowboard carvers at the Beav:

Steep groomer on Grouse Mtn:

The kiddie hill/tubing park at BC is served by a covered magic carpet and its own gondola! They also have dozens of state of the art grooming machines.



Video clips: on Goshawk trail in steep Birds of Prey section of BC, skiing Larkspur Bowl, mashing moguls near Rose Bowl section: Beaver Creek, CO

Trip trivia:
We drove over 4,700 miles on this trip and spent about $650 on gas, highest gas was in Ohio at about $3.40 per gal, lowest in Taos, NM $2.73 per gal. We could have flown and rented a car, but I like the flexibility of driving. We added a detour for NM skiing just a week before departure due to reports of good local snow conditions and we stayed in CO for an extra day because of losing a ski day stuck in Denver snow-day traffic.
My wife and daughter flew out to join Vince and I for part of the trip. We scouted expedia.com for a few weeks back in the fall and bought $136 rdtrp fares from Delta (Nat’l-Denver airports) when cost dropped for a short time from $300+
We used priceline.com and old fashioned Roomsaver coupon magazines to get good discounts on some motel stops. We used liftopia.com for discounted advance purchase of lift tickets at some stops. One area was even flexible enough to allow us to change a two-day liftopia ticket into two one-day lift tickets when we changed our itinerary.
Best meal of the trip: steaks at the Ore House in Steamboat Springs.
Best unscripted moment: children’s Christmas Pageant at Holy Name church in Steamboat Springs
Nicest splurge accommodations: condo at Trappeurs Crossing, Steamboat, CO
Best snow: Taos, NM and second day at Beaver Creek
Best meal on the go meal: cheddar and bacon bagels from portable grill cheese machine plugged into car ashtray
Driver’s favorite music cd: Tom Petty’s greatest hits, including the song Runnin’ Down a Dream
Toughest drive: from Denver Int’l Airport to BC when three inches of snow crippled Denver traffic and made Vail pass pretty snowy too. Honorable mention, drive from Steamboat to Straw Park Hot Springs, thankfully someone else was driving the steep, unpaved route.
Diciest on slope moments: view from top of West Ridge at Taos and trying to hold an edge extra firm hardpack on World Cup GS run Golden Eagle at Beaver Creek.
Diciest off slope moment: approximately 7:30PM on 1/6/12 at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, during our family soak a flock of sedate bathers sharing the pool with us suddenly turned naked and rowdy eek

Favorite portraits: Vince on Highline Ridge at Taos,



Jim at Beaver Creek,



Family at Steamboat,



2007 Chrysler minivan, our home away from home for 16 days,

[img]http://i981.photobucket.com/albums/ae292/dsckiphotos/CopyofDSCN6888.jpg[/img]

I plan to file detailed individual reports summarizing our experiences at Taos, Steamboat and Beaver Creek in the next couple of weeks.

Happy trails,
Jim and Vince Kenney

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