Taos Ski Valley is a family owned resort nestled deep within the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Northern New Mexico. The resort boasts steep terrain, wide-open bowls, and uncrowded slopes. Taos has always been family owned and operated by the Blake family. They are dedicated to continuing the success and legacy of the ski resort built by Ernie and Rhoda Blake starting in 1954. Alejandro Blake and his family were key in organizing and hosting the 2013 Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships. Also key in making this 4 star world qualifying event such a success was the amazing staff, the exceptional terrain, and the athletes’ performance.
The Taos experience is not to be missed. The quaint southwestern city is a rich, culturally diverse area with many locals being of Native American and Spanish decent. Taos Ski Valley, just outside of town offers terrain for all types of skiers and riders. One can cruise the nice groomers or hike just a short distance to some extreme and exposed terrain that happens to also make great venues for big-mountain competitions.
The Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships started February 28 with both the first and second day of qualifying being in the West Basin venue. The third and final day of competition, March 2nd, was held on Kachina peak. The three day event featured men and women snowboarders and skiers. Each athlete earned a cumulative score which determined the winner. Each day of competition a number of athletes were eliminated. The field was cut from 24 female snowboarders to 5, 26 female skiers to 13 , 43 male snowboarders to 16, and 57 male skiers to 20 for the finals day on Kachina Peak.
The West Basin offered several different route options. The face was the longest route. It was hidden in the shadows most of the day, but offered some great cliff jumps. Another option used by the skiers but not many of the riders was the heavy timber area. Lastly, there was a steep set of sunny cliff bands with some nice exit chutes that many snowboarders chose as their competition line.
The climax of the event was a beautiful, sunny, finals day. Venue inspection began at 8 am as athletes made the 30 minute walk up 12,481 foot Kachina Peak in an effort to scope their line, smooth their runways, and warm up their legs for the one-run final. Originally, the idea was to leave the venues fresh, allowing only for a visual inspection. Because of the variable snow conditions and previous wind event, organizers decided an actual on-snow inspection would be the safest idea for athletes.
Around 10 a.m. with the sun high in the sky the venue gleamed and sparkled as the female snowboarders kicked the competition off. Five women snowboarders competed on Kachina the final day. Alta Snowboard Team rider Kaitlin Elliott received the highest score of the ladies riders, 8.17. She rode consistently well throughout the competition and her cumulative score was the highest which earned her a first place finish. Kaitlin has several second place finishes, but this is her first win. We are super pumped for Kaitlin.
Kaitlin’s Winning Run
Following the female riders were the lady skiers. Those gals really put on a great show rippin’ through the powder. Two ladies often seen skiing Snowbird made it to the finals. Hannah Follender and Desiree Touchette. Congrats Desiree on a 5th place finish.
AST rider Jesse Maddox probably had one of the craziest runs of the whole competition. First, he hucked a front-flip off the top cornice of his line into the steep, wooded entry of a “no-fall-zone.” He then made quick work of some steep terrain above nasty exposure. After a nasty approach, jumping off one of the biggest cliffs in the venue and nearly taking out a cameraman, he spun a backside rodeo 7 off the Red Bull money booter. The action was non-stop and the crowd went wild. Jesse earned his personal best finish of 11th place. Way to represent. A 40-photo-secuence of Jesse’s run taken by Dave Watson is viewable on www.snowboardfreeridetour.com.
Another Alta Snowboard Team rider, Matt Carter, scored in with his 13th place final finish. Matt had the pressure on from the get-go blowing the edge out of his board just minutes before his first qualifying run. After a quick board change and a race to the starting line he qualified 12th. The second day he qualified 11th and his final run down Kachina Peak earned him the lucky number 13. Matt managed to stay on his feet throughout the competition and his consistent scores kept him in the top 15.
Local knowledge of the mountain proved to be a true asset this competition. Local patroller Justin Bobb won the men’s snowboarding division. Bobb earned it with some pretty sick lines. Justin is a nice person and an awesome representation of how snowboarders at a resort can be respectable super shredder employees.
Drew Peterson won for the men skiers and as always the skiers hucked it huge. It was mine blowing watching the skiers go so big.
The AST had a whole list of athletes competing at Taos and we had an awesome time hanging out in the warm New Mexico sun. The AST women snowboarders were Kaitlin Elliott, Camila Brown, and Rose Struble. The AST men snowboarders were Jesse Maddox, Matt Carter, Mica Brownlie, Zaine Salerno, Jordan Nelson, Wade Williams, and Nick Diachun. Way to go Team.
The hospitality given to us while we were in the “Land of Enchantment” was unending. El Pueblo Lodge in Taos is a sister lodge to Alta’s Peruvian Lodge. We stayed at the El Pueblo after the long days of riding. The accommodations were lovely. The lodge staff were amazing hosts and really made us feel welcome. Check them out at www.elpueblolodge.com.
In conclusion, Taos was spectacular. You might have missed the 2013 Saloman Extreme Freeride Championship, but it is not too late to ski or ride Taos Ski Valley. They just received new snow, so it is prime time. www.skitaos.org www.taosskivalley.com