Third annual Epic North American Mix Capture, Connect, Share Ski Tour, 2019

This is a chronological blog of this year’s ski season.

The beginning:  It’s January 4th, 2019 and in less than two weeks I’ll be heading out for 46 days on what’s become an annual ski adventure.  This year I’ll be leaving from my home near Taos, NM, where on snowy New Year’s Day we showed a 45″ mid-mountain base and great skiing, in my old 2001 pick-up truck headed for skiing in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and British Columbia; then back down through Washington, Idaho, Utah, back into Colorado, and home for great Taos NM Spring skiing with friends both old and new…fun just thinking about it.  Part of the way I’ll be traveling and skiing with buddies, and some of the time I’ll be alone.  If anyone would like to meet along the way you’ll find the complete itinerary below or, if you would just like to tag along virtually, bookmark and check this blog from time to time as I’ll be updating it along the way. Here’s wishing you all an equally great start to the new year!

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MAPS

Taos NM to Red Mountain BC

Red Mountain BC to Taos NM

ITINERARY

Note: Click on “2019 Ski Trip Final” link to download Excel file for itinerary/lodging detail.  Click on resort names for ski area information.

2019 Ski Trip Final

The 2019 Ski Season:

Thanksgiving day through January 3 – Ski Taos Ski Valley

So far the ’18/’19 conditions have presented a welcome change to the year prior, where drought affected much of the Southwest.  The skiing now is glorious at TSV with some of the lightest powder I’ve ever skied. It snowed all day on both Christmas and New Year’s, which is welcome in a town that thrives on tourism…lots of ecstatic vacationers enjoying both the mountain and our Taos Tap Room.  The big question begging an answer is, “Will they open Kachina Peak before I leave for Colorado?”  Kachina Peak offers the third highest chairlift in North America with the hands-down most exciting terrain; a lot of steep* vertical with trees, cornices to jump off, chutes and chokes to navigate and, before jumping in, a sacred place atop Kachina replete with Buddhist prayer flags to help connect with the universe and bolster one’s courage.

*link provided courtesy of “antichicken”

January 4 – 12

Bummer, high speed fall at TSV.  Yeah, going way fast I wiped out resulting in a painful impact injury to my right butt and leg.  The fall caused a bruise the size of a good sized hors d’oeuvres plate.  I’m hoping it’s just a serious hematoma, which means I should recover in due course, but it’s painful and, as I leave on 1/13, I’m concerned about skiing in pain.  Tequila anyone?  Luckily, my main man, Nurse Practioner Abe Basalmo, has started me today on a regimen of Methylprednisolone, which is starting to make me feel better.  Bound and determined to get some serious skiing in, so full speed ahead for takeoff on Sunday.  Thank goodness for Amazon Prime’s two day delivery as that padded seat will come in handy.

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January 13 – Drive to Keystone CO with my buddy Bob Callan

Beautiful drive from Taos to Keystone, CO.  Driving from Arroyo Seco NM we swept up the road moving north to the quaint retail establishments in FT Garland, then on to Leadville and down to Frisco where we diverted to Keystone CO.  All in order, we proceeded to party.

January 14 – 16 Bob and I Ski Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Keystone, CO with longtime friends, BR, Rob, & Willie from Denver, Rick from OZ, Rich from WI, et al.

1/14 & 16 It wasn’t busy at Keystone, but then it again it was for us as we had ten in the group.  A little heading of cats but mostly good fun.  Best news…able to ski!  Celebrated that evening with a grand feast prepared by Rich and Chuck…hire these guys!  1/15 Off to Breckenridge with tour guide par excellence, RW Rozen.  We skied from peaks 10 through 6 taking in the Imperial lift, the highest in NA and back to 9…a great day of zero crowds at Breck…what a difference.  Excellent day.  1/16 Headed to A-Basin this morning (snowing hard) with the remnants of the crew that greeted us on arrival in Keystone.  White out conditions ruled, but we had about 1.5″ of fresh to make it wonderful.

 

 

January 17 – Ski Vail CO and continue with Bob to Aspen

Vail was a blast.  Greeted by 6 – 8″ inches of fresh and made first chair.  Bob Rozen, who knows Vail well living in the area for the better part of 40 years, showed us many of the great tree runs off of Blue Sky Basin…too much fun.  We skied from 9: – 2: PM and then made the trek to Aspen, where we partied in Basalt.  Happy to be here as we’re expecting snow overnight.

We were saddened to hear the news once we arrived in Aspen that we had experienced an inbounds avalanche back home that had claimed two skiers as victims.  We wish their families and friends, and our ski patrol the very best.  Lots of snow in Taos this year and where the accident happened, K3, is an especially fun but avalanche prone part of the mountain.  Taos is steep.  Everyone barters.

 

 

January 18 Aspen Highlands 

We awoke to several inches of fresh pow in Aspen this morning…about 18″..off on an early start to make first chair at Aspen Highlands.  Aspen Highlands was a total blast.  They received from 18 – 20″ and the skiing was phenomenal off of the black double chutes.  Busy with excellent skiers and boarders dodging in out of the trees…long challenging super fun runs.  A bit of a white out on great snow dictated that we should just let’em fly, so that’s what we did.  Alls well that ends well but this mountain can beat a guy up good.  What a blast!!!  Ended the day with drinks at the Jerome and home early for first chair tomorrow.

January 19 Snowmass CO

We packed up early on the 19th for the ride to Snowmass…our logic, Snowmass has some great stuff but it could be skied off early; however, we rightly surmised everyone would go back to Highlands and what a payoff.  Literally fields of virgin powder down through 35º pitches through the trees…no lines, just smiles.  What an incredible day.  It’s now around 5:30 PM and we’re in Meeker CO waiting for the push to Jackson tomorrow where the the new snow looks like it will be phenomenal.  Hobacks, here we come.  There is just something so right about traveling in a storm track to ski…happy days.

 

 

Happy days!

January 20 – Drive on to Jackson WY 

Snowy ride from Meeker CO to Jackson WY.  The Snow King sealed off a corner wing for Bob and me…party on – nice folks here, highly recommend the Snow King; it’s my third year here.  A great dinner at the Snake River Grill and then libations and shooting some pool with some nice folks from Spain prior to the walk home.  I received the nickname the “Assassino”!  As I write this I’m waiting for a 6:30 AM breakfast enabling me to catch the 7:30 shuttle to Teton Village and hopefully the first tram up the mountain.  Fresh snow last night so it should be a great day.  Pics and commentary later.  Have a great day!

January 21 – Jackson Hole WY 

Quite an amazing and exhausting day at Jackson Hole. Arrived well before the first tram and went straight up to ski the Hobacks North and South consecutively, over 4,100 vertical feet down…an hour’s run…deep pow, a great workout, breathtakingly gorgeous. Hit some of the tree-runs off to skiers left on the mountain before grabbing some grub and beverages at the Handlebar then back up the tram. We skied outside of the ski area via the gate at Rock Springs Bowl into Bridger Teton National Forest and vast fields of untracked powder uncertain of our exact location but consistently working our way down steeps and tree runs to stay out of the avalanche zones. A good one and a half hour excursion.  It wasn’t exactly warm but we were burning…lots of work in knee deep powder. Really thrilling. Slacked our thirst at the Mangy Moose and now imbibing at the Snow King prior to visiting Thai Me Up, Melvin Brewing’s Thai restaurant and tasting room. Wishing our buddy J was along for the ride!

 

 

January 22 – Jackson Hole WY

Awoke to a beautiful bluebird day and found ourselves fourth in line for the Aerial Tram to the top of Rendezvous Bowl and off to the Hobacks (so what you ask, it holds 100)…4,000′ of vertical along a vast horizontal tract that ensures your own untracked terrain. Picked some new lines today…really love this mountain, especially off the tram. The snow stayed fresh all night so it was a delight to ski both the open bowls and the steep tree lines and unlike yesterday the visibility was good all day. Off to Big Sky Montana tomorrow and my wishing my great friend Bob Callan safe travels on his way back to NM. As we’re expected some heavy snow starting in the early AM I’m going to try to make it to Targhee and then on to Big Sky…the shorter path through Yellowstone National Park is closed this time of the year.

 

 

January 23: Left at 6: AM hoping to make it over Teton pass due to the big snow expected. Very few vehicles going my way so I ended up making the first chair at Grand Targhee where they had at least 24″ of fresh adding to an 84″ base…indescribable. The visibility was sketchy because it was snowing so hard but once I got my deep pow legs underneath me it was beyond a blast. My face literally hurt at the end of the day from smiling so much. Anyway, not many photos as it was just too wet, but scads of great memories. After a long 5.5 hour drive from Grand Targhee through West Yellowstone and Gallatin Park I finally made it to Big Sky. Tomorrow will be epic…it’s just snowing and snowing…I’ve been here a short while and my truck is already buried…and at 22º it’s warm for Big Sky. Three days of good skiing expected and then I’m off to Whitefish. The Taos avalanche keeps coming up on chair discussions but people here are very sympathetic. They harken back to similar inbound accidents at Jackson and almost to a person they mention that at the end of the day skiing can be a dangerous pursuit and every skier assumes personal liability, especially in the steeps, i.e., read your tickets! Any avalanche that takes lives is a tragedy, but I wish more people would remember the contract they sign when they sign their waivers.  Hope Kachina is back in operation in Taos!  Bon voyage to my most excellent friend Bob Callan!  Bob, great skiing with you and having more than our fair share of laughs!!

 

 

January 24 – Ski Big Sky MT

January 24: Just finished first lift to first tram skiing day at Big Sky. Since arriving here, I’ve explored the mountain a bit more than my first visit and this place is, well, big. As I’m staying at the Lodge at Big Sky, so walking distance to the lifts, I started hearing so many bombs going off this morning I thought I was in a remake of the “Longest Day.” The snow is spectacular and today’s temperature, which based on the feel of things had a daytime low of around 10º, is not only tolerable, but it ensures fresh snow tomorrow. But what a beautiful place to ski with powder runs through the trees all day long. A couple of Deschutte’s Fresh Squeezed at Scissorhand Bills, and it’s time to kick back. May blow off Banff and track the big snow to Kicking Horse from Whitefish and Fernie. We’ll see. First, another big day at Big Sky tomorrow!

 

 

January 25 – Ski Big Sky MT

Awoke in Big Sky to heavy falling snow, started my day skiing in falling snow, ended my day skiing in heavy snow and it’s still snowing hard. I have a 7-hour good weather drive to Whitefish for a day’s skiing there before crossing the Canadian border and moving on to Fernie in BC. I’m guessing the trip will take considerably longer. So, I’ve rerouted myself from Fernie directly to Kicking Horse, just hoping there are no avalanches on Canada 1…been there, done that. Big Sky is a great mountain but either I’ve missed the excellent restaurants or we’re spoiled in Taos. Tried the Peaks last night at the Summit, purportedly one of the better hotels at the resort and I could have tacked the entree to my boots as new soles and walked back to my hotel. Still, another great day of skiing deep pow, trees, and huge soft bumps. Big Sky sports an “8 pack” complete with a shield that automatically retracts before landing. So many fun places to ski here. OK, time to pack and get ready for the slog to Whitefish tomorrow!

 

 

January 26 – Drive Day Whitefish MT

January 26 – Awoke early, in time to defrost the windshields, grab coffee and a bagle and navigate snow packed curvy roads from Big Sky into Bozeman while still dark. From there west and north to Whitefish. What a gorgeous ride, skirting the entire western flank of Glacier National Park, with many state parks interconnected along the way. Over McDonald’s Pass huge lakes dotted with ice fisherman…hopefully beers in hand. While the roads out of Big Sky were sketchy, the ride north of Helena, so beautiful, was a delight 93 N all the way into Whitefish. Arriving early, I had a beer at the Whitefish Lake Lodge bar…stunning view, then journeyed to the ski area to get some info. I need to start and end early, so probably only six hours on the mountain. A very kind expert skier gave me the low down, i.e., where to park, where to ski, the shortest lift distances between varied tree runs, etc. So, a beautiful ride through Montana, south to north, and some fun skiing before taking my sanitized Tundra across the border. It’s my understanding the Canadians want to build a hedge, so extreme caution must be taken!  No, I’m not driving tonight.

January 27 – Ski  Whitefish MT, then drive on to Fernie BC

January 27 – Whitefish was fun; however, more of a family mountain as opposed to a challenge.  Way too warm today as the temperature was 33º at the summit and by the time I made the drive to Fernie BC it was a balmy 44ºF.  The scenery in far Northern MT is spectacular; however, immediately after crossing the northern border into BC it gets better, significantly better!  So beautiful in Southern BC.  I’ll be skiing Fernie tomorrow and expect the sights to be outstanding…hoping for snow to help the skiing.  Here are few pics from Whitefish.

 

 

January 28 & 29 – Ski Fernie BC

January 28 – Up and at it early today.  Wow, Fernie is in a gorgeous range with some remarkable vertical for mountains that top out below 10K’.  Without realizing it I found out my skiing was free here thanks to the Epic pass…7 days complimentary.  Skied mostly the expert runs through the trees despite the lack of snow, which given that it’s BC is relative…most places would be exuberant to have what’s considered mediocre here.  Lucky to spend some time with the staff at The Fernie Brewing Company…nice little tap room with some tasty beers.  They sent me to the Brickhouse for dinner…great choice.  FBC serves 3oz tasters in flights with all proceeds donated to various charities.  Oh, would that we were in a similar position financially…not yet I’m afraid.

January 29 – I explored the rest of the mountain today and found some good tree skiing.  Fernie is really a great mountain…very scenic with terrific vertical, but it’s hard to get into one’s head that it tops out around 7K’.  Visited downtown Fernie before heading back to my hotel…packing for Kicking Horse tomorrow where the snow is supposed to be superior.

 

 

January 30 & 31 – Ski Kicking Horse BC

January 30 – February 2, Days 17 – 20: So a little catch-up is in order. I arrived in Kicking Horse BC on January 30, good roads from Fernie, BC so I had time to stop for a few pics along the way. The Kicking Horse Lodge is located right on the mountain, literally steps from the gondola. A bit more luxury that I’m used to on these road trips but the price was right. I didn’t want to go far, and Golden BC isn’t exactly a nightlife oasis, so I headed to the Peak’s Bar and Grill for drinks and dinner and ran into some youngsters who were lots of fun. They gave me the low down on the mountain, its expanded significantly since last I was there, and invited me to a “celebration of life” gathering that night for one of their friends who died after suffering head trauma from colliding with a tree. I respectfully declined and, though they offered to serve as my companions the next day I suspected they would be in no shape for first-chair.
Fortunately, I ran into a wonderful guy named PeterRaiche, who lived right on the mountain, knew it intimately, was a great skier, guide, and all around fine-fellow. Hope he makes it to Taos one of these days…he’d do well. He was gracious to be my guide for the entire day, and we had a blast. It snowed a couple of inches overnight, but everyone was excited because much more was in the forecast.

February 1 – Revelstoke Mountain Resort

February 1 – 3: Another fellow I met at Kicking Horse from Montreal, also an excellent skier who was scheduled for a heli-trip the next day, joined me for breakfast and told me his trip canceled due to weather. It was snowing hard and he had read a report that suggested I should leave ASAP to get over Roger’s Pass before they closed it or it avalanched. An easy decision as I had been there once before…time to go. It was a most challenging drive. I can’t recommend Kicking Horse more, what a fun place to ski. I made it to Revelstoke early enough to get a half day of skiing in, but the visibility was terrible, and I was worried my trip here would be dashed due to the warm temperatures, though it was snowing hard. No worries in that department, the snow was fantastic today, so I’ll stick around to ski some more tomorrow and then head on to Red Mountain BC on Monday before my planned arrival in Spokane WA on Wednesday. As it’s been snowing non-stop here I don’t have many pics to share but here are a few from the drive from Fernie, Kicking Horse and today at Revelstoke. Sad to be heading south soon but happy to be making my way home to Betsy. Tired legs but big smiles; the skiing in BC is great, and the people are a joy.

 

 

February 4 – Drive Day to Red Mountain BC (change of plans) via Nelson’s “Whitewater”

February 4: Awoke early enough to catch the 7: AM ferry from Shelter Bay to Galena Bay, so I changed plans and made a beeline for Nelson’s “Whitewater,” a much-recommended mountain by a good friend of mine from Taos. He was right; what a blast! Nelson is a little like Telluride with less cash and would appear to be a great place to call home. Lot’s of friendly locals here proud of what they have. Took just a short break for lunch and toured the whole mountain, double challenging tree lines, well-spaced glades, and enough of a fresh dusting to make it all comfortable and fun. I headed into Nelson to visit their local craft breweries and met some more nice folks, especially Mike Kelly, one of the owners and the head brewer of “Crossroads Brewing” who I shared some beers with while getting the tour. Anyway, another first for me and a great time. Off to Trail Brewing in Trail BC after this post then skiing Red Mountain tomorrow, which is just up the road.

 

 

February 5 – Ski Red Mountain BC

February 5 – Red Mountain today was the coldest day of skiing I’ve had this year. Though no real wind it became apparent the quicker you declined, the colder it got. Jumping into the trees and bumps to generate some body heat didn’t work either; the snow was generally unseasonably crunchy, so it just became an exercise in pain exchange. All of this made for a two beer early lunch to warm up. Back into the USA tomorrow with a short visit in Spokane.  I’ve skied here before and they have some terrific terrain, but snow appears to be a problem.  That’s compensated for by some really nice folks.

 

 

 

 

 

February 6 – Drive to Spokane WA

February 6 – Slippery and very cold/shaded/icy pass crossing to the US border today. Beautiful drive down the Columbia River then south to Spokane. Staying at one of my fave budget hotels, the Montvale, directly across the from Fox Theater on First Ave. Just back from a walkabout, such a pretty part of town. Ended the evening with the owner and staff of Whistle Punk Brewing…good stuff and fine folks.  Off to Sun Valley early to arrive late tomorrow; long drive.

 

 

February 7 – Drive to Sun Valley ID

February 8 – Wow, what a spectacular drive from Spokane to Ketchum/Sun Valley Idaho. It took me around 10.5 hours as virtually all of it was up, over, and through mountains including as many as 10 passes with the snow getting better with each passing mile. I have high hopes for skiing Sun Valley and then Utah.

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February 8 – Ski Sun Valley ID

February 8 Well, my timing was poor for Sun Valley as the snow I wanted came the afternoon I was scheduled to leave and was accompanied by dire travel predictions. So, I “got out of Dodge” early and headed on to Sandy Utah, which is the closest town to the bottom of Little Cottonwood Canyon, the path to Alta and Snowbird. I did ski Sun Valley for a day and it was just “OK”, but it’s always a wonderful place to visit.

 

 

February 9 – Drive Day to Salt Lake City UT

An uneventful drive in the potato belt of Idaho until just outside of Salt Lake City where I encountered bumper to bumper traffic for the long crawl to my hotel.

February 10 – 12 Ski Alta/Snowbird  and Park City UT

Unfortunately, traffic in Salt Lake City is getting to resemble Denver…just too many people. Despite leaving early Sunday morning for Snowbird it was a grueling slow drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon; however, I made a lucky turn into “Parking Lot 4″ (next time you go it’s the place. It’s a very small lot and apparently much coveted by the locals because I was surrounded by them. They showed me how to go up and over an enormous snowbank where, once on top, you could clip into your bindings, and ski off the top right to the lift ticket windows, too perfect. High winds dampened the fun a bit as the tram was closed for the better part of the day. However, there was lots of pow to ski and I explored parts of the mountain I never skied before. That night, Alta and Snowbird received about 15” of fresh snow. Unfortunately, they announced the road would be closed until an undisclosed time but not before 8: AM, so I decided to drive to Park City…where I had problems parking. Really, they need to fix that or change the name as one would expect plenty of parking there, right? Anyway, it was a long drive over a short distance, about 1:45 minutes (only 45 getting back) due to the huge amount of traffic around Salt Lake City, one of the primary reasons the city is often clouded in smog. Park City itself is not the most challenging of mountains. I spent the better part of the day in McConkey Bowl, which is marked double black for most of its runs, but they must use a different rating system than back home because it was pretty easy.  Alta turned out to be the prize.  I actually left for Alta my final day here and exactly one month into my trip later than normal but was informed by the locals that Tuesday is “the day” to ski as it’s normally not very crowded. They were right.  Worried that I would have trouble parking I was pleasantly surprised to park within 50 yards of the Collins chair, which whisked me up to some truly amazing skiing and deep powder. What a great day…I fell in love with Alta all over again. Tomorrow, and with another storm front bearing down, I’m headed on to Crested Butte CO.

 

 

February 13 – Drive to Crested Butte

Rough, even at 7: AM, getting out of Sandy UT (Salt Lake City) on a Wednesday, go figure, but other than some snow and sleet South of The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a generally great day from SLC to Grand Junction to Crested Butte…and clean air! I love skiing the areas outside of SLC but I wouldn’t want to live there because of the air quality; in short, it sucks.  It started snowing hard a soon as I made the turn from Gunnison to Crested Butte. I immediately drove to the mountain and arranged to have my skis tuned and picked up there tomorrow. Predictions for new snow at the time I checked in to my hotel downtown was for up to 20″ out of this storm…so hopefully, my good luck with snow this trip will continue. Here’s a pic that was taken just north of The Black Canyon of the Gunnison looking south towards Gunnison. The snow started as soon as I started over Cerro Pass!

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February 14 – 15 Ski Crested Butte CO

Well, today marked the last day of skiing before I return home to Taos…and more skiing.  Twenty different ski areas in all, it’s been a great, albeit exhausting, trip.  My trip coincided with near continuous contact with various storm tracks that dumped plenty of snow along the way, and Crested Butte was no exception as they received 17″ since I arrived. Gray clouds were the rule for much of the trip so I’ll be happy to get this broken down body back to the blue skies of Northern New Mexico and Taos and my wonderful wife. Crested Butte is a beautiful mountain and a seemingly warm and friendly community. Similar to Taos in many ways it has some excellent restaurants such as Soup-con (Soupson) and Prime on Elk, both of which I enjoyed, along with a thriving cultural scene. Glad to have had the opportunity to experience Crested Butte again. There is more snow in the forecast for tomorrow, but hoping that it won’t be too challenging of a travel day. I didn’t take many pics because the light was just too flat (with the lone exception of a little sunlight today), so you’ll have to take my word for it…a lovely place to visit.

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February 16 – Drive to Taos

White knuckle white out leaving Crested Butte. It was not too much to endure with Betsy waiting for me though; home and skied out with close to 4,000 miles of intense winter driving behind me. Great to be back in Taos. At 35 days a bit shorter than initially conceived, but chasing the snow paid off as I had it in copious amounts almost everywhere I went. I awoke this morning to probably another 4″ at Crested Butte, and it was snowing hard all the way to Monarch Pass, so they did get at least 20″ out of the storm while I was there. I think I’ll stay home for a while and alphabetize my coupons, or perhaps take up knitting…something more sedentary perhaps. Nah, just a little rest from a very active vacation is all that’s needed. Thanks for following, hope you enjoyed it.

February 17 – April 14 – Ski Taos Ski Valley NM

It’s been nothing short of a fabulous season at Taos Ski Valley.  Kachina Peak has been especially fantastic, with routine laps, lap after lap all across its varied expert terrain being the norm.  Thanks to the great crew at TSV and the foresight of management to install our Kachina/#12 chair a few years ago; this was the year it all made sense.  We are still sporting a 90″ base at mid mountain, with closer to twice that up on Kachina, so the post-season hike to ski tribe should be in for a terrific extended season.

OK, it’s time to move on.  Betsy and I leave for a six week getaway to Africa and Europe the day after closing, so here’s to the next great adventure.

Thanks for visiting!