A Quaint German Ski Resort in the Desert

It’s 100 miles of high plateau desert sprawl from Alamosa to Taos, New Mexico. To the west, mountain peaks peppered the horizon, but we were heading south. It feels strange when you consider it was nearing the end of March and we were in search of a special kind of skiing. Sure, we could have left Denver and gone to any number of mountains just an hour or two from the city - mountains with dinner table fame, like Vail or Aspen. Instead we were heading to Taos, a mountain founded in 1955 by a German fella by the name of Ernie Blake. Taos is a stop on the Freeride World Tour, which means this place is serious business for people who enjoy riding the knife edge between sanity and danger.

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The goal of our trip was to create and capture coverage of Spyder’s outerwear catalog for next season. We only had a few days to do it and four ski models to do it with. The brief is everything from ‘lifestyle’ to ‘action’ with the hope of great weather and views but also great ski conditions. Without good conditions the plan was to create photos where people couldn’t tell: that’s the difference between capturing action and creating action. 

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We were told the snow forecast is usually a vague brush stroke and weather is fast moving like a wave that rushes up from the valley below so plan for the worst and hope for the best. The first few days were gorgeous spring ski days, soft corn sliding under our edges, fun skiing but not the epic deep powder that skiers dream of. As we started to knock off the shot list, we discovered the little eccentric gems this place offered for photos. The terrain at Taos from other North American mountains. 

Once the snow rolled in and dropped a solid amount, we saw how the terrain worked to our advantage. We contacted the marketing department and arranged “early ups” for the next morning.  We got a head-start up the mountain before the public to get these beautiful untouched early morning powder shots. I know, the perks of being a photographer. 

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These trips aren’t the editorial expeditions you read about in magazines, the feature here was the product so it took a different approach to capture. When the snow finally rolled in we adapted and started picking off the good powder lines. 

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When the dust settled and our minds had rebounded from being hyper-aware and creative for seven days straight, we got to sift through the images and find the ones that will be part of the marketing campaigns for that following year. Sometimes the process is daunting, but with this instance I couldn’t wait. The five-hour drive back to Denver gave me ample time to reflect while editing images, to remember all the moments the group had laughing and goofing off, and the candid moments that felt greater than all the rest. 

I always enjoy when I come upon one of my images in the back of a magazine or in a shop window when I least expect it. It brings me back to the moment it was created, giving me the feeling like I have a secret - knowing the magic that went into it. 

Dag Larson1 Comment