THE 10 RULES OF THE RIDGE
COMMANDMENTS FOR ASCENDING TO ALPINE ENLIGHTENMENT
There’s hardly a better group of people to dole out advice on Taos Ski Valley’s notorious ridgeline hikes than the Ridge Runners themselves—a dedicated tribe of skiers and riders that eschews chairlifts for bootpacks to access some of the steepest terrain in North America.
To access the Ridge at Taos Ski Valley requires a short but lung-punching hike above Chair 2 that hovers around 12,000 feet. From there, hikeable terrain spiders to the east and west, unlocking chutes and bowls and tree stashes that would seemingly take a lifetime to explore in detail. They are the most wild and rugged lines in Taos that take a bit of effort to get to—and not just from the physical realm.
Mental stamina is a mandatory asset and a philosophy that governs the rules of hiking the Ridge. Well…maybe not rules. In a place that carries the torch of Wild West lore, “rules” would imply that the wild can be tamed. No, they’re more of an unspoken list of expectations. And as Ridge Runner member Michael Wagener explains below, they will forever change your respect for the mountains.
1. YOU WILL FOREGO YOUR COMFORT ZONE
There are no ropes, there are fewer people, it forces you to push your limits, and it’s not easy. The bootpack can be the most dangerous thing. You can get cliffed out when you’re skiing. But getting to Taos isn’t easy. Skiing in Taos isn’t easy.
2. YOU WILL HAVE A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
It’s a stairway-to-heaven bootpack. You’re standing there on the rooftop of New Mexico, hiking among the highest peaks in the Southwest, and you’ve earned your right to be there. You’re as close as you can get to the heavens.
3. YOU WILL BE WELCOMED
If you’re up there hiking, you’re part of the group. As long as you want to put forth the effort, we’re gonna take you to our special places. It’s a way to start conversation and have new ski buddies.
4. YOU WILL ENTER A FANTASYLAND
The snow is fairy dust. When you ski through it, a cold smoke hangs in the air. The sun hits it and sparkles like a million diamonds floating among the most beautiful peaks in New Mexico.
5. YOU WILL GET SCHOOLED BY SOMEONE HALF (OR TWICE) YOUR AGE…
There are some of the best little groms in the world who are able to hike up the Ridge and ski it. Then you have people like [Hotel St. Bernard owner] Jean Mayer who’s 80-years-old and has been doing it for 60 years.
6. …BUT YOU WON’T LET IT PHASE YOU
People are very kind. If you feel like you’re going to slow for the people behind you, slide off to the side and wave them on.
There are no egos.
7. THE TERRAIN WON’T DISCRIMINATE
It doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy or a ski bum: you’re all on the same level. All that stuff goes out the window and you’re just a skier or rider. It puts people back to their truest sense of self.
8. YOU WILL TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR SNOW
This is dry powder at its finest. Our wonderful high alpine desert gives us amazingly light snow, and it stays untracked for days on end. It’s not only the best snow on the mountain guaranteed, but it’s probably the best anywhere in the Southwest.
9. YOU WILL UNLEASH YOUR WILD CHILD
Taos has this eclectic mix of artists and outdoor enthusiasts, and the common thread through whatever you do is that everyone is a free spirit. The Ridge allows you to be all that.
10. YOU’RE HERE TO SKI
It’s the gnarliest terrain on the mountain, and that’s why you hike the Ridge. This terrain makes you a better skier and rider. No doubt about it.