Jean Dewart and Norbert Ensslin
This joint Ski
Club / Mountaineers trip went from the Pajarito Mountain ski area to
the Valle Grande visitor center, and was organized by Jean Dewart on
behalf of the Los Alamos Ski Club and by myself on behalf of the Los
Alamos Mountaineers. Several members of the Nordic Ski Club
and the Sierra Club also joined in. This ski tour was a
pre-approved "sanctioned group event" on the Valles Caldera National
Preserve, and we would like to thank Rob Dixon, Recreational
Director, for his support in making this trip possible.
We ended up
having 33 skiers on the trip, with about 15 others on the wait list
who would have liked to have come along. We met at the ski
area parking lot between 7 and 7:30 AM, and departed in 5 subgroups
led by Dave Brown, Mario Schillaci, Jean Dewart, Dennis Brandt, and
myself. Having subgroups helped spread people out along the
trail, and made it easier to ensure that no one was left behind at
any point. Jean and I also took turns acting as the final
"sweep". Despite the large number of people, the trip did not
feel crowded. After some initial queuing to get down the steep
parts of the jeep road, skiers were pretty well spaced out along the
jeep roads in the valles. The route was roughly 11 miles long,
and all skiers arrived at the Valle Grande visitor hut between 1 and
2 PM. A combination of 2 rented vans, 3 cars left overnight at
the visitor hut, and 2 cars that came in during the day was used to
pick everyone up and return them to the ski area. We are
grateful to Dave Brown for arranging the 2 shuttle vans with Tom
Riepe of Great Southwest Adventures, and we would like to thank Tom
and his wife for coming all the way over from Santa Fe to help us
Skiers crossing the
Rincon de los Soldatos on the way down into the Valle Grande.
Photo by Britton Donharl and Aaron Anderson.
The weather was
just perfect for this tour. The temperature was mild, but not
so warm as to make the skis clump up. There was no wind, but
trail breaking was easy in the valles because of the wind slab that
formed during several windy days earlier in the week. In those
forested areas where there was some significant trail breaking, the
skiers followed the trail made by Nick Brown, Jeff Hoffman, and
other strong skiers in Dave Brown and Mario Schillaci's lead groups.
From the route's
high point at the exit of Canada Bonito, there is a net elevation
drop of about 1100 feet to the Valle Grande visitor hut, much of it
on steep narrow jeep roads right after the high point. But
everyone made it down the jeep roads and through the entrance gate
without too many falls. After that, we had enjoyable easy
cruising up and down the gentle swells in the Valle De Los Posos,
with fine views of the surrounding mountains. Once we crossed
the saddle between the Valle de los Posos and the northeast arm of
the Valle Grande, we had several miles of gradual descent on a road
into the main part of the Valle Grande – a pleasant surprise!
Dave Brown found a beautiful sunny place to have lunch, and then
everyone struck out for the visitor hut.
All of us had a
great time on this trip. Many people said that this was a trip
they have wanted to do for years. Given the large number of
skiers who came on the trip, and the many others on the wait list,
this would probably be a popular trip to do again in future years.