Photos by Liam Doran.
First, we are not going to dedicate this story about Taos to green chili. Now, don’t get us wrong. We love green chili, but it seems to be the easy fallback when it comes to out-of-state writers talking about The Land of Enchantment. May we suggest you focus on red chili (because you won’t get red chili like you get here outside of New Mexico), or live a little and go Christmas (red and green chili). But enough with the food (don’t worry, we will get back to it). What any story about Taos should focus on is, first, how damn good the steep skiing is here, and, two, how this might be the only ski town left with some authentic funk to it. Things are changing, though. The ski resort, long a family business, is under new ownership. But the coming changes should only improve things for green-chili-seeking visitors.
Ski and Ride
The steeps are the big attraction at Taos Ski Valley’s 1,294 acres of stunning terrain. Core skiers seeking a vert fix, tourons looking for a bit of a rush and even local families all head for the ridge. Up until 2014, the faithful had to hike every step to those turns, but the new Kachina Peak Chairlift whisks skiers and boarders (who were not allowed here until the spring of 2008) up to 12,450 feet, making it the fourth highest in North America and opens up 1,000 verts of double-black action. While the new chair may have perturbed some locals, most think it has been a very good thing. The obvious line here, Main Street, sees a lot of traffic and can get bumped up quick. Head skier’s right to Hunziker Chute and Dogleg if you want a rush. Or yo-yo the K Chutes to skier’s left (don’t get too sketched out; we have seen aggressive nine-year-olds ski K3, K4 and K5). Oh and there’s still plenty of hiking for turns to be had here. If you want to sweat a bit, bootstep up to Highline Ridge and West Basin Ridge. The resort has also expanded the glades in the hike-to Wild West. Steeps and boot-packing not your thing? No worries. Hit the power cruisers off of Lifts 4 and 7. It’s hard to go wrong. If you are here for an extended stay, consider purchasing the Taos Card ($98-$42, depending on time of year and age), which gives guests $19 off the single-day ticket rate (and every seventh day is free). Taos is also part of the outstanding Mountain Collective pass program. For more details go to skitaos.com.
One of the knocks on Taos Ski Valley used to be that the accommodations were better in town than up on the hill. That’s all changing in a very big way. January 2017 marks the opening of The Blake at Taos Ski Valley (named after founder Ernie Blake). The 80-room capstone to the resort’s $300-million-dollar renovation project will inject some high-end class to the scene here. Or stay in Taos itself (though you may be kicking yourself when you don’t wake up slopeside on a powder day). The Taos Inn (taosinn.com) is right in the center of the action and you can chill out with a cocktail and live music post-ski-day here in the famed Adobe Bar. If you want a touch of funk, the Laughing Horse Inn (laughinghorseinn.com) maintains the town’s old hippy vibe—you cook your own meals here with other guests.
Now the part when we don’t talk about the green chili. At the mountain base area, The Bavarian is the place to be if you like your beer with a touch of dirndl kitsch. Down in town, Guadalajara Grill is the real deal for classic New Mexican eats. Or go upscale at the Love Apple for foodie-pleasing deliciousness.
Don’t Forget Santa Fe
Don’t overlook Ski Santa Fe in your rush to get to Taos. This 660-acre gem, tucked into the Sangre de Cristos just 16 miles from the artists on the plaza packs a punch with 225 annual inches of the white stuff and a dedicated local vibe. The stand-out run is Gay Way, a big, wide-open blue with stunning views of the city below, but don’t miss the trees here on a powder day (or tour out of the resort to Big Tesuque).