Yesterday kicked off the 10th freeride comp at Taos Ski Valley. It’s been dumping here (!!!), so visibility was pretty low, and there were delays.
But the judges, organizers, and athletes were able to complete day 1 of the women’s Snowboarding & Skiing portion of the comp out on West Basin—Emily Weer is currently leading on the snowboard side, and Charlotte Percle is sitting in first place for skiing.
Weather permitting (it’s still snowing right now!!!), the guys will take the stage today.
This Taos comp is a great event and a pretty big deal. To help explain why, we talked to a number of past and present competitors who have made their way to and through this event.
(To watch the live feed, go here: SkiTaos.org/freeride)
A number of exceptional female skiers have competed in the event—Angel Collinson has podiumed here; Lynsey Dyer won the first event in 2005; and the Taos comp holds particular significance for one of our favorite big mountain skiers, Elyse Saugstad.
Elyse happened to be back in Taos this week, so in addition to getting to ski some pow together (bonus: she was on the 15/16 Bibby Pro, I was on my Blister Pros), we got to talk a lot about Taos in general, and the freeride comp in particular:
“Taos is a magical gem in the southwest,” Elyse said. “It has such good, varied terrain that it caters to all types of freeride skiers, making it a perfect place to hold freeride competitions. You can find everything from technical lines, to huge cliffs to drop, to fast and flowy lines.
And Taos holds a special place in my heart because it is the event that kickstarted my professional skiing career. By winning the event it put my name on the map, and a year later, I won the Freeride World Tour Overall Title.”
Blister reviewer Colin Boyd just grabbed 2nd place at the most recent FWT stop in Andorra, and this Taos comp holds a special place for him, too:
“I competed in 2013, and finished 1st in the finals venue on Kachina Peak, and 4th overall. Taos certainly lived up to its reputation as being steep and technical. I remember being immediately floored at the options in both the 2013 venues at Taos. I just wish I had more than 3 runs!
“The US has struggled to provide a complete circuit for athletes attempting to qualify for the FWT, and Taos has certainly been a staple event for those trying to qualify. It was my 4th place result that secured my seat in the 2014 FWT, and I definitely recommend any rider looking to qualify to do this event.”
Blister’s Garrett Altmann is also back again on the Freeride World Tour, and just took 5th place in Andorra. Garrett has competed in a lot of places around the world, and I asked him if anything stood out about Taos as a comp venue.
“The West Basin and Kachina provide some of the more rowdy terrain presented in North American freeride venues. West Basin features several tree-ridden chutes and cliff bands typical of Taos, while Kachina Peak presents a more open face with big mountain features. The two venues complement each other nicely since they each cater to different riding styles.”
“And given that a competitor’s three best results are tallied for a season’s rankings, and given that there are only four 4-star competitions in North America, Taos is one of the best opportunities to gain points if you’re looking to qualify for the FWT.”
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from one of the Taos comps?
In 2012, I injured my ankle early in the season, and wasn’t able to compete before March. So Taos was my only event. I remember being so ill-conditioned that on day one of the comp, I stopped to rest on my poles while traversing through the trees. Needless to say, that move didn’t score well, and I finished 24th—barely making the cut for finals.
But when finals came around, I managed to pull off a perfect 10—the only ’10’ to this day on Kachina—and I finished 7th for the event. It wasn’t my best placing at Taos, but it is definitely my favorite competitive moment.