In the mood for a spring hike, Terry and I headed up to the Taos Ski Valley, NM today. We love to hike in the mountains there and also wanted to see if we could observe the progress being made on the installation of a brand new chair lift that will ferry skiers up to Kachina Peak, the highest point in the ski valley.
Ever since the Ski Valley opened in the 1950s as a downhill ski resort, those brave enough to ski the steepest terrain had been forced to take the highest lift as far as it would go toward the top of the mountain, then hike an additional 45 minutes to reach the peak terrain. This year marks the year that a lift will be installed to reach Kachina Peak. Once it is completed, this will be the third highest ski lift in the country. The only two higher are located in Colorado. Construction started about two weeks ago.
The Ski Valley has been posting pictures of the progress of this momentous accomplishment for the past two weeks. Two bull wheels, one weighing 12,000 points, the other, 6000 pounds, have been driven by heavy machinery over a road made of 60 inches of packed snow up to their destination. Accomplishing this before the spring thaw allows the large machinery to get the equipment in place without ruining the wilderness terrain as much of the vegetation is still covered in snow.
Our mission today required no small amount of effort, however. Starting our journey at 10,000 feet above sea level, rather than traversing a hiking trail, we followed the tracks of the delivery truck up several actual ski runs. Wearing snowshoes and hiking up steep terrain, we gained approximately 1000 feet in elevation. After about an hour of hiking what felt like it was straight up hill, we decided we had gone far enough. I’m sure the bull wheels lay at least another hour ahead of where we turned, so, exhausted, we headed back down.
While we were not able to see the equipment for the new lift, we did see and follow the tracks made by the delivery vehicle as we traveled on the same snow road it had followed. In addition, we found a sign indicating a construction area so we knew we were getting closer. Finally, we could see Kachina Peak ahead in the distance; the destination of the new lift. And, though our mission went unaccomplished, we had a great workout, an exhilarating hike and saw some breathtaking scenery. All in all, not a bad day. Seeing the new lift will have to wait for another day.
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