A Mountain is There, Climb It.

I had two more days at Taos before I needed to hit the road again. The weather forecast was sunny, clear and warm. Warm for skiers is like 35 degrees. There’s nothing more glorious than a bluebird day on a ski mountain. And in New Mexico, the air is dry and crisp so the vistas are crystal clear. And knowing that my Solo Ski Sojourn was nearing an end made the next two days even more precious.

I skied the entire mountain from lift to lift, checking out the runs that made me happy. Lower Stauffenberg, Bambi, Porcupine, Totemoff, Japanese Flag, Kachina Bowl-Mainstreet, Hunziker Bowl. I had lunch at the Phoenix Grill on the backside at the base of Lift 4. I worked at racking up vertical feet. I knew even if I had a big day, I had to have really, really, big days to meet my goal.

Kachina Peak, Elevation 12,481.

I saw those big downward facing vent structures on the ridges of Taos, like the ones at Wolf Creek.  I wondered again what they were. I knew most places had platforms with canons that shot into the mountainsides to try to break avalanches free to create a controlled slide. This time I asked a ski patroller who explained that the tube is called a Gazex, that uses oxygen and propane which explodes and triggers avalanches. Mystery solved!

After lunch I made three runs off Lift 4 and Lift 7. I checked my SkiTracker on the chair to see how I was progressing, and my worst fear was realized—my tracker had accidentally shut off. Probably bumped it at lunch. I was so sad and mad. I estimated losing 3000 vertical feet. At least I didn’t lose the whole day!

I turned my tracker back on, finished my day at 20,899 VF without the lost 3K. I was at 474,326 total. Only 26K shy…but I had never skied that many vertical alone before and I knew I had only one more day at Taos and possibly one day at Santa Fe.

I was reminded of when I was pregnant with my first kid Tom, and sicker than a dog. I was throwing up every morning, crawling to the bathroom, and then down the hallway to eat a cracker or two before going to work. I was also going to night school to get my MBA. I only had six months before finishing my degree, but I was so sick! Co-workers told me to drop out of school, that I could finish the degree later. But in my heart of hearts, I didn’t think I would ever finish if I didn’t do it right then. I was so close!! So I plugged along. There are pictures of me writing papers with my Apple Macintosh on my lap in bed. I didn’t graduate with honors (as my husband did—he was selected as one of the top students in our class) but no one has ever asked what my grades were anyway. I got the degree and I’ve always been happy that I fought my way through.

That’s how I felt about hitting 500K. I was so close.

The next day I got to the mountain early. Taos only has one high speed lift which originates at the main base and goes up to mid-mountain. I had taken one run down Porcupine, approximately 1600 vertical. I stayed with Lift 1, high speed to get as many laps in as possible. A high-speed lift is about twice as fast as a fixed chair lift, which doesn’t seem that much more, except when you think it can move twice as many people up the mountain. And it can get you up the mountain twice as fast. High speed lifts have virtually eliminated lift lines at resorts.

The next chair ride I shared with a dad and his son. They helped me figure out how long it would take me to hit my goal if I just skied Porcupine all day. Like 17 runs and if I didn’t stop at all, I could be done by 12:30.

It looks like a porcupine, doesn’t it kinda?

So that’s what I did. It wasn’t the most scenic day, but I skied Porcupine until the quills came off. I ended up with 16 runs that put me at 27,256. There’s probably some rounding errors, but who cares? I ended the day at 501,582 vertical feet. And if you add the 3K I had missed, I was well over! It did take me until 2:45 pm and when I finished, I could barely walk. My back was worn out, and carrying my skis to the truck about killed me.

I drove down the mountain with a smile on my face, my seat heaters turned on high to loosen up my back.

Goodbye, Taos. Check that one off the list!

Hit 500K! Hooray!

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