When I was 11 years old, I went on my first ski trip outside of Alaska. My aunt and uncle loved going to Sun Valley in Ketchum, Idaho. They went there for a veterinarian conference to pursue further education, and had sessions in the mornings, so they signed me up for ski school. I had already been skiing in Alaska plenty of times, but the Sun Valley Ski School really developed my skills to a new level. My aunt passed almost two years ago and I wanted to keep the ski trip tradition alive, so when a group of friends from high school were planning a trip to Jackson Hole, I immediately bought the Mountain Collective pass. The pass provides lift tickets for 2 days at 23 mountains worldwide, and half price tickets for additional days at those mountains. Since Jackson Hole lift tickets are $200+ per day, I figured the pass would pay for itself if I went to one other ski area. You have to buy this pass before the ski season starts, and there’s a limited number of passes available. I intended to ski at Jackson Hole and also at Taos Ski Valley, as I have always wanted to check out Taos. A McCarthy neighbor spends winters in Taos, so I figured I could crash on his couch and ski a few free days either before, or after the guys’ trip. Maria also wanted to go on the trip, but my friends were being weirdly sexist and said, no women allowed. I called them out on it, but they were being pretty close-minded. I don’t get it, but I also don’t have kids, and I think Maria is a pretty cool lady on top of that. So, I figured I would just ski with her instead. My schedule actually made it hard to meet them when they planned to go, so I decided to do my own thing and started planning a ski trip with Maria. It’s funny, but the guys never made it to Jackson Hole. They all bailed.
Our new ski trip plan was amazing! Maria and I flew into Albuquerque, rented a car, drove to Taos, skied two days with friends who met us there, then drove to Colorado. Skied a day at Arapahoe Basin, then drove to Basalt, and skied one day at Snowmass and then another day at Aspen. Drove for about eight hours to Jackson, WY and skied two days at Jackson Hole with another friend. Finally drive to Bozeman, Montana and skied two days at Big Sky Resort, before dropping off our rental car and flying back to Anchorage, Alaska.
I brought my plein air painting kit with me on the plane. I always label the paint as “Clown Cosmetics” just to mess with TSA. The first ski day in Taos we met up with our friends: Ian, Lucas, and Denise. We skied tough and went all over the mountain, including up to Kachina Peak at 12,500 ft altitude. We had beers and bratwurst at the Bavarian Restaurant on-mountain dining lodge. It was a great day with friends on the mountain! We had a nice dinner at ACEQ, right next door to the SnowMansion Taos Adventure Lodge where we were staying in Arroyo Secco — a small community about 15 minutes from the ski village.
The next morning I mixed up some paint and transferred it to my small on-mountain palette. The yellow tube had a hole in it from rough baggage handling and I was battling to keep our room paint-free. I carried a small backpack on the mountain and skied hard until about 1:30pm. I broke off from the group and went to a place I found that was great for painting. About 45 minutes of frenzied, outdoor, cold-fingered painting later, I packed it up and met Maria and Denise back at the Bavarian. On route to meeting them, I toured the whole mountain, since I made a wrong turn after painting. We all went back to Lucas’s amazing cabin about a mile from the village for Aprés Ski. He had some excellent Bosque Brewing IPA and an interesting home-brewed stout. I enjoyed them both, then we went up to the ski village for pizza and beers. The village is really new and pretty cool, but the pizza was a grease bomb, so we told Lucas he could have all the leftovers.
Here is the little painting I made right on the mountain at Taos Ski Valley, of Kachina Peak. The size is 7″x5″, oil on birch panel. You can purchase it at my Etsy shop. I’m selling it for the price of a lift ticket at the ski area, which is $90.
Stay tuned next week for the following segment in the exciting adventures of plein air painting on ski resort mountains in the USA, when I talk about painting at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado!