Renowned in the Taos snow sports community for her alpinist accomplishments in the U.S. and New Zealand, 31-year-old Christina Bruno brings both peak and depth experience to the people and cultures of Taos.
Self-described as “caring, tenacious and adventurous,” she is now Snow Sports School manager at Taos Ski Valley (TSV) starting this 2016-17 season. Bruno has distinguished herself locally and abroad in adaptive sports programs and competitive snowboarding, mountaineering and avalanche education.
“Even though the ski valley takes most of my time, the adaptive program I have fostered and developed has a great outreach into the community, especially with the community school group children,” Bruno said. “Each week, we have
adaptive students come with their schools, taking lessons and being included in the program.”
Last season, Bruno passed her trainer’s exam and became the first adaptive snowboard examiner for the New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance (NZSIA).
“I love the creativity of using different equipment and methods in teaching people with disabilities and sharing that knowledge with other instructors.”
Her TSV programming has expanded to include the weeklong Not Forgotten Outreach veteran ski-appreciation week in January, also offering adaptive lessons and mono ski demos to participants. Now in her third season at TSV, she manages all the adaptive programs, adult alpine and snowboard lessons, the race department and video department.
Besides her adaptive skiing specialization, Bruno’s overall love is backcountry splitboarding — basically donning a snowboard split in half to make “skinning” or climbing to unbroken fields of powder or up to craggy peaks possible, all for untracked powder and the embrace of the wild.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, back in the late ’80s, Bruno was just learning to walk at the same time U.S. backcountry skiing and telemark turns were also relative toddlers. In 1991, when she was 5 years old, just minutes away in
the snowy Wasatch Mountains of Utah, avid Utah rider and avalanche forecaster Brett “Kowboy” Kobernik and Voilé CEO Wally Wariakois introduced the backcountry splitboard, turning the snowboard world upside down. Synchronistically and unknowingly, Bruno’s passion was also born.
“I grew up 10 minutes from Snowbird and I was introduced to the skiing world by my family. We went on weekends. When I was 16, my mom started working at Snow Bird and so did I.”
Bruno went to Western State Colorado University in Gunnison for a degree in ski and resort management and outdoor leadership.
“I fell in love with Crested Butte. A lot of my classes were outside and I did a lot of backpacking and wilderness first responder certs (certifications). I did do
river guiding in Gunnison; and on Crested Butte Adventure Treks, we did kayaking and trekking, mountaineering and climbing also when I was working out of Moab and the Northern Cascades in the Oregon and Washington areas.”
She volunteered at Crested Butte adaptive center and found teaching outdoor activities to people with disabilities to be hugely rewarding.
“I love being outside and sharing that with others. I moved to Park City through the AmeriCorps program and worked for five years at the year-round National
Ability Center.” There she taught therapeutic horseback riding, cycling, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding and more.
Looking for a less grueling pace, Bruno wanted a smaller town with a steep mountain. She found Taos through friends.
“What I love about being a woman in Taos and the Northern New Mexico community is that we are diverse and rich in culture.”
Industry development relies on technology and an ongoing dialogue with mountain guides, competition skiers, freeriders and passionate backcountry skiers — and Bruno is part of that dialogue.
“I also work with Custom Cult, a local snowboard company out of Albuquerque who has an online platform to make custom snowboards tailored to your height, weight, riding style and individualized graphics. My profile is one of the riding styles you can create a custom board around.”
She hopes to have the time to compete in some North American qualifiers, but definitely plans to compete in the Crested Butte and Taos 4-Star competitions, as well as in New Zealand’s series of qualifiers. Because it was so fun, she plans
on doing the full series of banked slalom events in the Queenstown and Wanaka areas in Australia. Having competed for the last five years in the Freeride World
Qualifier competitions, she’s had a couple second- and third-place podiums.
“It’s difficult to find time to train and practice with a full-time job, but I love the challenge of competition and putting myself on the spot. I’m definitely competitive and always looking at ways to become a better version of me. The
freeride competitions combine my love of steeps, adventure and self- improvement.”
A “never summer” snow person, Bruno leads Women’s Weekend clinics at Taos Ski Valley every December and coaches the Southern Hemisphere winter’s
Burton “Snowbroads” Women’s camps at the Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand. She works different women’s freestyle camps and women’s weekends because they successfully create a non-threatening environment for women to indulge in their passion or try something new. Afterwards, she says the women often have a group to ride with and can push each other in a positive way.
Bruno recently was awarded a scholarship through the Liz Daley fund and American Alpine Institute, where she will improve her guiding and mountaineering skills through a mountaineering leadership course
in May of 2017. The upshot is preparing her for big plans of splitboarding
and mountaineering in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Time spent in Taos during the other three seasons is just as rewarding as it is during the winter months.
“Part of the reason I love living in Taos is because I feel a special connection with the area,” Bruno says, noting that even in the winter, she goes down to the mesa with Luna, her rescue blue heeler-pit bull-pointer mix, walking in the
Gorge or biking on the rim.
“I love the contrast of the mountains and the desert; the contrast of the terrain and the seasons. It’s really rejuvenating to me.”
Bruno also notes that she has an amazing group of women friends who also love to do backcountry touring. “Really strong spirits who are noncompetitive, warm and caring — just strong individuals.”
Being in Taos is a spiritual connection for her.
“As a community, we celebrate the environment and our traditions
from a variety of backgrounds, but share values of environmental stewardship, adventure, art, culture and connecting with each other. In light of recent politics, I hope we can continue to hold on to these values, our unique diversity and continue to stand strong together.”
Follow Christina Bruno on Twitter@christinabruno6 or on Instagram