What I Did on My Winter Vacation, Part II: Taos and Monarch

From the greater Phoenix area, I headed back the way I came, up that one highway that probably has a number toward Holbrook. It was still pretty:

Although it also spat snow somewhere in those mountains, a true harbinger of the two weeks to come. Which is good, since I cannot abide a false harbinger.

I spent New Year’s Eve sleeping at an Air B&B place. It was like a casita at a hacienda about a mile and a half from the Taos Wal-Mart, which is not a super-center, because the city wouldn’t let them build a super-center there (I learned this while in Taos). Snowed maybe a half-inch that night (I was sleeping, it was fine), then I went…

Wait, key point in here: part of this winter break was motivated by the fact that last April I bought a 2016-17 season pass for Copper Mountain, which comes with three free days skiing at certain places, including Taos and Monarch.

Right, so then on New Year’s Day I skied at Taos. Most of the state of Texas was still there (excepting Shamrock).

It wasn’t skiing great, but it was a first ski day of the year. Alarmingly, it turned out that New Year’s Day was a blackout day for my reciprocal season pass, meaning I ended up having to pay money like a sucker. Also, even after you take the tram from the parking lot to the lifts, you still have to walk another 500 yards to get to the actual lifts. So hard. I didn’t go there to get exercise.

Anyway, I ended up calling my Aunt Debbie who lives in Taos and met up with her and Uncle Paul for dinner that night (as well as breakfast the next morning). It was good. Had some great New Mexican food at Guadalajara and more New Mexican breakfast at Michael’s. I’m not sure why I’m choosing this point to start shouting out restaurants in my blog, but here we are. I met Michael while we were at Michael’s, as well as his wife who insisted that I looked a lot like her nephew, particularly due to the beard. I don’t get that very often, so I enjoyed the novelty.

^^ My Aunt Debbie and I. I’m on the right.

Debbie also helpfully instructed me on the right way to pronounce the name of the town I was heading to next, Salida, pronounced Sa-LY-da as if the Spanish language weren’t actually a thing. It turns out it was named after the Spanish word salida, meaning exit. Coloradans!

Well anyway, drove from Taos up to Salida. I’ve driven that road at least a couple times before, but only in summer. It’s way cooler/prettier with some snow on it.

And then I rolled into Salida. I stayed at the… I dunno. Salida-Monarch Inn? Something like that. It was a good value motel that appeared to be owned by someone with a pretty grand vision for interior decoration (relative to value motels). Just saying that it was way more stylish than any budget motel I’ve ever stayed at. Recommended.

Skied a day at Monarch. Monarch’s a little ways from Colorado’s population, so it has a nice, under-visited vibe going on at it. All the lifts are old-school slow lifts (all but one’s a two-seater IIRC), but that suited me pretty well.

Yeah, so it’s the time of year where I just keep putting up lazy ski vacation blog posts.

Here’s a picture.

It snowed a few inches the night before, so the hill was very good. Some flat light, but plenty of trees to break it up. The cafeteria had three things on the menu: hamburger, hot dog, pizza. The pizza was remarkable though. On the way out, I stopped by the gift store to get my trophy mug and asked the worker there that, of Wednesday or Thursday, which should I ski? (Because I needed to work one of those two days.) She helpfully got on her computer, checked the Internet, and suggested that Thursday should be pretty (her word) “epic”.

So I went home, ate a pb&j, and then sat around the hotel all day Wednesday working on an upcoming data collection.

Wednesday night, it snowed so much that the highway up to the resort was closed all day Thursday. So: they closed the ski resort on account of snow. I watched the Colorado DOT website all day. It’s pretty amazing — you can track the movements of each of the state’s snow plows, including their speed, direction, and the area they’ve covered in the last half-hour. Uh, plus they tell you whether the highways are open (mostly they’re open, just not the one). This is what the Highway 50 camera showed for Monarch Pass:

It was sort of like a harbinger. Anyway, I therefore got to spend a bonus day hanging out at the hotel and in Salida. (I wasn’t the only one.) Pronunciation aside, Salida was a cool little town with enough real people living there to help balance out the hipsters and their cupcake shops.

Those are real ice chunks in the river btw.

Also btw, Salida is at about 7,100′ in elevation. Monarch Mountain (the ski resort) has its base at 10,780′. These are high places.

Things opened up again on Friday, so even though I was supposed to be in Frisco by Friday night, I thought I should check out Monarch again. I felt pretty bonded to the place for only ever having been there once.

This is what the drive looked like at the lower elevations. I’ve been living in Oklahoma, which is a flat place and one where compact snow and ice doesn’t happen. Anyway, 45 minutes both directions, but the resort was having a pretty good day.

I should also just mention: as inconvenient as it was to miss out on one of my planned days of skiing, as a tourist-skier, I never get this lucky. New snow? Unheard of. Ten inches of untouched powder? Never seen it before. It was pretty amazing.

And then I left, because I was supposed to be skiing again the next day at Copper and, anyway, the roads were supposed to be dodgy.