Competing in my first big-mountain competition at Taos six years ago, we arrived early to check out the venue and acclimate. We got a half-hour head start with the patrollers to get to the top of 12,481-foot Kachina Peak—and the locals still beat us to the top. Watching the locals pounce on the opening, I skied as quickly as I could down one of the open chutes to the flats. From the bottom, I noticed cliffs and spines scattered across the face.
This is the kind of white-knuckle terrain athletes will be skiing in the Taos Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships, which take place March 10-13. Now in its second year as a Freeride World Tour qualifying event, competitors who place in the top three secure a spot to compete in the tour’s more notorious events in Sochi, Squaw Valley, Chamonix, and Verbier.
Skiers from countries such as France, Canada, Japan, and the United States will overrun the artsy Southwestern community of Taos to compete for the big-mountain competition’s $12,000 purse at Taos Ski Valley. The competition will take place on the West Basin Ridge and off Kachina Peak. In addition to the out-of-town contingent, the Taos locals seem to always make an impression. “We’ve seen local athletes do very well here and they’ll be looking to uphold local pride at the 2010 edition of this event,” says Taos’ Alejandro Blake.
Tom Winter, chief of race and event organizer, agrees. “There’s no doubt that this is the largest and most prestigious event in New Mexico and it has also become one of the most important events on the freeride circuit in North America,” Winter says.
Registration opens Monday, November 2, 2009. Keep checking this site for updates and news on the event.
For a place to stay, check out the Abominable Snowmansion hostel in Arroyo Seco, the closest town to the ski resort. This hostel won Best Cheap Digs in Skiing’s 2010 Resort Awards.