Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Taos for its seasonal variety of sports and ways to enjoy nature. One such outdoorsman, Steven Vigil, engages in several of the best features Taos offers at various times of the year - from chasing hot air balloons to working at Taos Ski Valley.
"I love being outdoors. I love what I can accomplish outside, and I'm out there as much as possible," Vigil said.
His adaptation to the warm weather included a spot on the Pueblo Balloon Company chase crew. The hot air balloons ascend from above the John Dunn Bridge seven days a week, depending on weather and bookings. During the busy portion of the season, Vigil's work day begins at 5 a.m., with flight take-off at 6 a.m. When the season slows, Vigil shows up for duty at 6:30 a.m. and observes flight time at 7 a.m.
Vigil's duties include helping the pilot decide about flight conditions. The crew sends out pie balls (balloons) to test the winds. If all appears well, the crew pulls and spreads out the balloon envelope. It's also time to pull out the basket and activate the burners.
The chase crew finds the balloon after landing, deflates the envelope and packs it up. Steve Vigil's day as a chase crew member ends after the crew packs up and delivers clients back to their pick-up spot at the Walmart parking lot.
Pueblo Balloons participated in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, not as a part of the event, but as a private company providing rides to customers. The Taos-based balloon company also participated in the same manner for the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally. "The hot air balloon activities are largely dependent on the weather. As much as I love the balloon situation, I have no aspirations to be a pilot. It's too hard. I like what I do now," said the chase crew member.
When asked about his most exciting balloon moment, Vigil said "It was the day when the balloon took off by the river. The road leading up to the take-off spot was a small two-lane road, and the balloon was 240,000 cubic feet - the biggest balloon in Northern New Mexico - in a small area. This happened in July, and he said it was cool and really exciting. Vigil enjoys the balloons, but he especially likes the camaraderie of his co-workers and his supervisor Kris Braeden.
Vigil joined the balloon business in April. Balloon season lasts throughout the year, depending on the weather. However, on Thanksgiving Day, Vigil plans to return to employment at Taos Ski Valley. He began working at the ski resort on a part-time basis, when he was attending high school. He worked at guest services for three years. Following his 2016 graduation from Taos High, Vigil began full-time work in the parking lot. "I ski, but I'm not very good," said Vigil, "but to me, the Ski Valley means the people and the scenery. I enjoy that very much."
His duties at Taos Ski Valley include helping people with their parking needs, making certain that skiers embark the shuttle safely and checking the path to the shuttle to allow skiers a clear route. Parking lot employees also help skiers by digging out cars stuck in the snow and jump starting their batteries. "I've always felt welcomed at the Ski Valley. It feels like I'm working with a big family and always have a good time. I'm looking forward to that," Vigil said.
Vigil's other outdoor activities are for personal pleasure, not business. Fishing remains at the top of his list. He likes all kinds of fishing - fly-fishing in lakes and spinners at rivers. He prefers catching rainbows or German Browns at lakes because they fight the hardest. "I like the fight, especially with a fly rod. I can't bring the fish in right away, but I think this helps me improve my skills," Vigil said. "I like to think of ways to catch fish. I think of places, lures and baits. I fish as much as I can, usually two to three times a week. My personal record is five times in one week. Sometimes, I use catch-and-release for smaller fish or varieties I don't like. For this, I use fly-fishing. With this method, it's easy to release, because it doesn't hurt the fish's lips too much, and it preserves the fishery for others."
Vigil admits that he never went hunting except for rabbits. Once, he went scouting, and has enjoyed target shooting. One of his most incredible Christmas gifts was a Gamo Whisper Silent Cat high-powered air rifle.
During Vigil's middle school years at Roots and Wings Community School, he became immersed in the outdoors. The students attended a 7-day camping trip in the Questa area. They studied land, plant life, hiking, climbing a peak and visiting a lake.
Vigil lives with his mother Yolanda Madrid Vigil in Lower Las Colonias. He also spends time with his sister Vanessa (who is married to Phillip) Kim and his nephew Noah Kim.
One might say that Vigil works to support his truck, a red Chevy Silverado 1500, 5.3 engine. He follows YouTube guidelines to fix his truck. "I try to use it as a truck, and that means for fishing and drives to the mountains, but I also keep it clean. I wax my truck often. If I'm taking someone with me to the mountains, that person must help me keep it clean," said Vigil.
Vigil has modified his truck's engine and its exterior look. He has plans for more upgrades. Vigil hopes for more aggressive tires "to help with muddy situations" and rims, at a cost of up to $2,000. "With the money I earn, I'll be able to complete some of my plans."
An active outdoor life, a red Silverado truck, a good green chile cheeseburger and Northern New Mexico music all keep Vigil's life interesting. His outdoor enjoyment changes seasonally, and Vigil views this variety as, "fun and never boring."