I had only been back to skiing for a few years – and still using my 1990’s gear! – when I began following snowsports-related websites and social media accounts. One Thursday afternoon, my phone flashed headlines touting a hearty powder dump, promising excellent conditions at Taos Ski Valley in Northern New Mexico. I did a quick check of frequent flyer miles needed to get to Albequerque (the nearest airport I could fly nonstop from O’Hare) that weekend. It turned out that American offered what I call a “cheap flyer miles” fare that weekend. That is, by taking a late Friday night flight to ABQ and early Monday morning back to Chicago, I could get a round trip ticket for not many miles (something like 20k miles or less round trip.) That prospect got me excited because often, airfare is the one of the heftier costs of cross-country travel. The scheduled flight times were also convenient for me – I only need to ask for a half-day vacation on that Friday. I texted my boss Thursday night at 9pm asking for the time off. After seeing his reply, “Of course! Have fun!” I instantly began planning the 72-hour adventure.
First, I needed to secure those airline tickets, lodging, and a rental car. I opted for a small AWD vehicle at a reasonable rate (below $30/day.) Taos is over 3 hours away from ABQ so I planned to drive the hour or so after landing to spend the night in Santa Fe, and then get up early, grab breakfast, and hit the road in time to get to the mountain for a half-day ski (after 12:30pm, cheaper lift ticket.) The problem I had was choosing lodging in Taos, the town (slopeside would have been out of my budget for this impulsive trip.) I settled on a small B&B that happened to be listed on an Expedia site. Not many chain hotels in that area made the planning a bit tricky, so I trusted the online reviews for the spot I chose.
What to pack? I had ski attire, sort of. Let’s just say, it was stuff from the Eddie Bauer Outlet that was *passable* as ski attire! I also had a new-ish helmet, goggles, gloves, ski socks, etc. What I did NOT have were SKIS. I thought about hauling my well-loved, but very outdated Rossignol long skis and good ole’ single-buckle Nordica boots, but then I considered I had no time to waste in bag claim while facing a late night drive. Plus, it might be a good chance to try out “the new style” (shaped skis, aka parabolics.) These were just coming into the mainstream as I was exiting the sport in the 90s. I had been skiing well on the old gear in Wisconsin for the past few years, so I was in no rush to change. But when I wanted to get a tune up, I realized that they (more precisely, the bindings) were so out of date, no shop would touch them. Rentals it would be.
I booked a chain hotel near the airport in Albuquerque, to stay in Sunday night so I could drop off my rental car that night, and take a shuttle to the airport at the crack of dawn Monday morning.
I actually tied up some loose ends with the bookings on my lunch break while at work Friday! By 2pm, I hurried home, grabbed two bags and began wildly flinging clothes into them.
Once in the security line at O’Hare, I knew this last-minute trip – totally out of character for me, often indecisive and hesitant – was a reality. The young fellow in front of me in line was carting ski boots and I asked where he was headed.
“Big Sky,” he replied, a clear note of delight in his voice.
“I’m going to Taos,” I said. “They just got some nice snow today.”
That was the moment I thought, “Am I now one of those people who drops everything to chase powder? ” It was both intimidating and exciting.