Top Ten Unheralded Extreme Ski Slopes

Beyond Black: The World's Top Ten Unheralded Steeps
By Peter Oliver & Alistair Wearmouth

Perhaps by dint of some unquenchable frontier spirit, Taos Ski Valley doesn't try to pass itself off as anything but hardcore. The town of Taos lies some 18 miles away in a rugged landscape of red-brown desert and austere adobe dwellings. The brawny element of skiing New Mexico-style extends to its powdered steeps. Snowboarders, about as welcome as a preacher in a saloon, are kept at bay with the throwing down of a modern-day ski gauntlet: "So quit whining and ski it."

Roughly half of Taos' terrain is rated black diamond, and 19 of those 36 slopes are considered double black diamond. That makes for some supremely radical terrain. Even better, so the story goes, Ernie Blake, Taos' founding visionary, declined to construct a lift to the top of signature 12,481-foot Kachina Peak. "Americans are too lazy," Ernie reasoned. "The hike is good for them."

In Taos, as skiers make that calorie-burning, hour-long hike to the summit of Kachina, they often overlook the series of chutes that descend from the ridge along the way, known collectively as Highline Ridge. Long? No. Steep? Well, put simply, don't attempt this chute without the help of a guide or confident local. Cornices, trees, and rocks will eat up the foolhardy and unprepared.

Resort Facts

Web: www.skitaos.org

Phone: 1-800-347-7414

2004-05 lift pass: $55


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