Eating Out Taos Style | UNITED STATES, NEW MEXICO | 03/06/2008, by lowPro
Ah, spring is in the air. We've got the sun, the snow, and the Wind............. 70 mph gusts took the 10 inches of new snow on Monday and moved it to the far corners of everything. First it blew from the West as is normal, but then it decided to come back. It must have enjoyed New Mexico soooooo much, that it just had to turn right around and blow from the East for a few hours. Funky stuff all around, but never fear, that snow went somewhere northerly, perhaps even as far as Colorado.
Tuesday morning, March 4, we decided to check in on some Northerly aspects, and more protected couloir type of skiing. We thought maybe the Knife, Fork, and Spoon area might have the powder snow we were craving. We skinned uphill through the forest discussing the wind and how it had affected our snowpack, looking at some low angle tree skiing in case we found conditions up higher to be too dangerous. As we went higher, the trees groaned under both the weight of so much snow and the ferocious wind. We wondered what might lay ahead, but the sun was shining and we knew we had safe options, so we climbed on in search of that soft snow bliss we all seek out every chance we get.
As I broke tree line and looked up at the
Wolf's Den, I was amazed at how many directions the wind had blown, and was
still blowing. Conditions were changing by the minute, and safety was first and
foremost in our minds as we neared the bowl. We watched as soft slides rolled
silently down wind stripped couloirs, where the wind then picked them up and
redeposited them at the top to fill in what fell before. Pretty wild
surroundings and conditions, we thought as we stripped skins and prepared to
evaluate our descent.
We dug into the hillside on the top of the
Fork, a north facing couloir. Our pit was on a north facing slope of around 37
degrees and over 7 feet deep. We actually had to throw some snow back in so we
could reach the top and perform our tests. We found a new layer about 6 inches
deep that was recently wind deposited snow. It obviously did not bond well and
broke off without much effort. As we performed our shovel compression tests, we
noticed a layer about 2 - 2 1/2 feet down that wanted to shift a little. As we
finished off our evaluation, I decided to try a shovel sheer test and found
that lower layer to be quite slab like in appearance and action. The 30 pound
chunk that fell off on Eya was our last red flag, we then decided it would be
safer to ski the less steep Knife couloir located right next door. We packed up
and climbed out of the pit, ready to ski lower and escape the wind that was
still blowing like a freight train.
Tele Matt dropped in first, unsure of what to
expect. As he cleared the top, and entered the couloir the snow seemed to
soften up and I knew it was gonna be good. Eya followed next with silky turns
down the left side of the chute and I could see that the snow was softer and
fresher the further down she went. Finally it was my turn, and I let em fly as
I felt the fall line and set my edge into the chute. The snow was chalky and
smooth, kinda like whipped honey, and I knew that I wasn't quite done getting
my kicks in for the day. We all met safely in the trees and and decided that
maybe today would be the day to finally jump the waterfall.
We skied down underneath the Fork and Spoon,
and dropped fresh powder turns through the trees as we approached the final
thrill of the day, a 30 foot frozen waterfall complete with powder landing!
Tele Matt eyed up his take off and we were off, setting out back up the hill to
enjoy one of the finer things in life...... Backcountry Huckin.
I climbed back up, thinking of all the things that could happen, the broken teeth, the maybe not quite so soft landing, the ice glistening and menacing softly. Tele Matt snapped me back to reality when he pointed out his take off and wondered about not seeing the landing. My heart skipped as I eased up to the take off and I launched into the unknown, floating down and out over the ice and rock. "This is awesome!" I thought as I spotted my landing and extended my body into the snow. Waves of powder exploded all around me and I wiggled a little as I dropped into a turn, sticking it and skiing away. What a wonderful sensation, flying!
Tele Matt was next and he did not disappoint. He took off fast and soared out over the cliff like a raven, arms extended out and ready to fly. You could tell he was going further out than expected as he threw his skis out and tried to check his landing. The snow exploded as he touched down and I could feel his energy as he burst back up into the light. He skied down to us giddy with that "flyin feelin".
We packed up and headed down, back to our lives, jobs, and work left undone. We rejoiced in the idea that we had escaped it all once more, just long enough to find that sweet sweet powder snow and maybe learned to fly a little too.