Skiing the bomb cyclone: Taos and Wolf Creek

After six hours of driving, all roads to the Denver Airport were closed and every hotel room booked. I cranked up the heat in the car, shut it off and tried to grab a few hours of sleep before white-knuckling up I-25 at 3 a.m. to return my car and hopefully head home.

The travel part of chasing snow can be trying, but the floor of my Ford Explorer rental couldn’t have felt comfier after two remarkable days of skiing Taos and Wolf Creek.

Stormy day. Deep day. (MSJ)

MSJ’s trip to the southern mountains was quick. It involved one day at a place very foreign to me and another at a place that feels like home.

Taos, New Mexico

I flew to Denver and pointed it south, making our way to Taos, New Mexico.

Taos Ski Valley base area. (MSJ)

Taos isn’t your typical Swiss-inspired ski town. Instead, it’s a shot of southwestern life chased with a healthy dose of snowy mountains. It’s an unusual place, but it makes for an incredible ski experience.

The mountain had 9″ of creamy snow when I parked and jumped on the trailer-style parking shuttle that felt right out of the Minnesota State Fair.

Taos has the fancy, gleaming base hotel, a ski/gift shop and the fixings of your typical modern ski experience, but it still somehow still feels no-frills.

Taos is a playground. (MSJ)

There is one chair that shoots up into the alpine to connect to the others. Once up there, there are plenty of options. The terrain from the chair is all good and especially the trees. The southwestern-type trees aren’t as robust as the typical northern pines. Therefore, the trees feel farther apart and create more options and pockets of snow in the trees.

A hike along the Rio Grande Gorge. (MSJ)

If working for your turns is in the cards, the hike-to terrain is perfect at Taos. One bootpack trail gets to up to two different ridges with fantastic, soft turns. The Kachina Peak chair, sadly, did not open during the storm.

“Dennis,” my Taos home, sheltered me under stormy skies.

The snow, the terrain and the hill were all excellent. I shared chairs with happy spring breaking Texans and took snowy, refilling laps all day.

That night, I went over to the Rio Grande Gorge for a hike before I found my home at Hotel Luna Mystica, which is a series of decked out airstreams and trailers. My trailer, named “Dennis”, was the perfect place to recharge before heading to Wolf Creek for first chair.

Wolf Creek, Colorado

Taos was brand new to me and has earned itself onto my must-return list, but Wolf Creek has been the object of my eye for years now.

Parking is free, there is no hotel, there are few luxuries or comforts. Just chairlifts – chairlifts that take you from the top of Wolf Creek Pass into Colorado’s best snow, hands down.

49″ of news snow at Wolf Creek Wednesday, March 13. (MSJ)

The day I skied Taos, I woke up to Wolf Creek reporting 22″ of snow. Then, Wolf Creek had to keep some lifts closed that day for lightning. So, when I arrived for 8:30 a.m. first chair (Love that early chair!) there was 19″ more inches on top of what fell the day before. And it dumped all day. Free refills.

You do the math.

The espresso bar at the summit is a favorite. (MSJ)

The turns in the Waterfall zone of Wolf Creek were spectacular and the crowds, of course, were virtually nonexistent, because it’s Wolf Creek.

The snow never stopped falling and the last turns of the day were the deepest.

From there, my nightmare travel misadventure started. I drove through a hellscape of frozen, crash-riddled roads, slept in my car at a Kum and Go in Colorado Springs and white-knuckled up a questionably open road to the airport only to sit in the terminal for 4 hours and sit on the delayed plane for another 2 hours. Not fun.

Whatever my travel misadventures, however, the deep, deep turns make it all worth it. I won’t remember that trip for my time sleeping in the car. I’ll remember it for finally getting to see Taos and for renewing my vows with Wolf Creek.

One thought on “Skiing the bomb cyclone: Taos and Wolf Creek

  1. Pingback: How is this still real? Delta will fly you MSP-DEN roundtrip for less than $100 – Midwest Ski Journal

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