Places to Go With People Who Ski

The first remedy: Wolf Creek pass.
The first remedy: Wolf Creek pass.

During the dog days of this winter, I contracted a seemingly irreversible condition: severe acute Summititis. Some claim it stems from too much time in a stressful work environment, coupled by picking up some extra (but fun) bar shifts during the already crammed work week. Others extol the lack of sleep and introduction of regular, fond trips to the Goat (the seediest bar in Keystone if not Summit County). Whatever the case, side effects include the necessity of one day a week to recover from the rest of the week (aka Sylva is totally worthless on Sundays), playing really, really hard on the remaining days off and no blog writing whatsoever.

So I was relegated to a series of trips out of the County to reverse my severe acute Summititis. Keep in mind, of course, the following takes place waaaaay back in Springuary (February). But Doctor Tyler decided a long weekend at Wolf Creek Pass and Taos seemed like just the ticket. After all, Taos got slammed on our way over, receiving a highly anticipated 40 inches of new pow pow.

We started out with a late morning and a short stomp on the awkward snow pack at Wolf Creek Pass (30 new inches or so on top of an abysmally thin snowpack made collapsing and whoomphing snow our sidekick). That evening, we headed south through creaky, quirky little towns like Antonito and Tres Piedras, across a breathtaking bridge and through a flourishing, remote community of earthships littering the sagebrush near Taos.

We arrived in late evening to our delightfully out-of-date accommodation in the Taos Ski Valley: Austing Haus Bed & Breakfast. Somehow, I resisted the strong urge to say “weinersnitzel” around every bend. Upstairs — imagine my glee —  a hot tub stood waiting, with a sign that encouraged visitors to shower (oops) and not stew longer than half a hour (screw that). We sat until pickled in the whitewashed, steamed up room decorated with intricately painted flower pots and — like the rest of the joint — open wood beams. Curiously, the Austing Haus was birthed by some Bavarian folks who jumped the pond and built it traditional fashion, using absolutely no metal hardware.

Peace out, Austing Haus...
Peace out, Austing Haus…

We spent the evening peering out of the antique curtains to see if it was snowing, and our hearts leapt in excitement at each gust through the (enclosed) hallway outside our door.

To our delight, the breakfast part didn’t disappoint either: the waffle machine (despite my uncaffeinated attempts to use less oil than necessary and produce food which would not peel from the iron when finished) was delectable, the fruit and sausage plentiful and the eventual coffee strong.

Thus energized, we packed up shop and headed out into a bluebird day nested in a pool of sunlight and high, bright clouds. As the New Zealanders would say, the day was “frosty but fine” with an emphasis on the fine part once the day wore on.

On the resort shuttle, pulled by a big truck: nothing compliments a day on the mountain like clean teeth!
Lift me up, Scotty!
My what big bombs you have…

We skied until almost four, shamelessly lapping (via a short, steep boot pack) the foot plus powder on Highline Ridge. Lucky for us, the gravy on Highline was closed the day before because visibility precluded ski patrol mitigating for avalanches. We were the fourth and fifth people who huffed up to the top.

With visibility better than free Rio margaritas for a year, ski patrol could’ve petitioned for and easily acquired for free the web domain (it’s still available!). As the entire ski area watched, ski patrol proceeded to throw bombs via sleds, ropes and good ol elbow grease all over the Kachina Peak area. Their efforts continued past the time we left, and once in awhile a loud blast made us feel a little like the cow who made a brief cameo on Family Guy:

Anyway, Tyler and I looked longingly at Kachina from start to finish, the question on all of our minds: will they open it? The word from the a.m. was no (and a sign at the top of tiny, old school two-seater Chair 7A said, “Kachina is closed, please don’t hassle our lifties”).

BOOM shockalocka!
BOOM shockalocka!

Eventually, it became evident — as all the clouds wandered away, bored — that Kachina Peak would remain closed. However, Tyler and I happened to be at the Chair 4 lift (which runs underneath one of the main faces of Kachina) shortly before it opened. Again, we managed to be in the first dozen heading up. The ride allowed a bird’s eye view of a massive slide that ran “T to B” (top to bottom) and in some places all the way to the ground just above Chair 4. After a brief stint skating across the debris like Alice in Chunderland, we got a few more glory turns in before everyone else showed up, too and we called it a day.

Then it was back to the Swedish Meatball (aka Volvo) on foot. We headed back to the Slummit, passing an army of ramshackle, weathered trailers and school bus shanties in the sagebrush flats west of Taos Ski Valley, the historic Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Depot in Antonito, and in the distance the sun warming the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. As night encroached fully, we beelined up the San Luis Valley, checking out signs for the infamous Colorado Gators Reptile Park and the UFO viewing tower. And we hoped to maybe see an alien spacecraft but not actually interact with it as so many cows in the Valley are reputed to have done…


At this point, I felt my Summititis had eased considerably. Although I would have future flare-ups, I felt confident I’d found a remedy. Perhaps a mountain bike trip to Moab? Or car camping and riding at Buffalo Creek? Taking Snowflake for a walk in the gnar gnar? Next time on the Sylva Lining, we’ll see if that’s just what the doctor ordered…


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