Come for the steeps. Chill with the spätzle. New Mexico’s world-class mountain dishes out ski and snowboard satisfaction.
“Don’t Panic—You’re Looking at Only 1/30th of Taos Ski Valley.”
The words may send a tinge of anxiety through you as I crane your neck to stare up the intimidating terrain above. But I don’t the view from the base send you running to the lodge for an early après. Taos Ski Valley may be famed for its spicy steeps, bumps and chutes—67% of the mountain is rated expert (30% Black diamond runs and 37% double blacks)—but it really does offer something for everyone with open bowls, screaming blues, 300+ inches of snow and a funky, authentic vibe. It’s also the perfect place to up your game. No matter what you are seeking, we suggest you pack a little courage and head south to experience the low-key spirit of our favorite resorts in the Rockies.
Earn Your Turns……….
No trip here is complete without exploring the mountain’s spectacular hike-to terrain. Though you can take the new high-speed lift to top of Kachina Ridge—which was bootpack-accessible-only until 2014—you can still get the true ‘ridgehead’ experience via a 30- to 45-minute hike along Highline Ridge to the summit of Kachina Peak. From your perch at 12,481 feet, drop Main Street, a popular bowl often referred to as the mountain’s easiest double black diamond (it’s all relative, right?). Or, if you’re feeling festive, hit the steeper, more technical gullies of K1 to K5. Plunging into any of the other chutes on the Highline Ridge traverse—Hidalgo, Juarez, Nino’s Heroes—will deliver a jolt of adrenaline. Those seeking even rowdier lines—think cornice drops and narrow chutes with 35-to-40-degree sustained slopes—should head to West Basin, a vertiginous, nuanced ridgeline that’s just a 10-minute hike from Lift 2. Head further down the ridge to float down Meatballs or Wild West Glades, a never-ending exploit through some thick-but-navigable forested terrain, where you’ll feel completely alone even though you’re in-bounds.
Once you’ve exhausted yourself with laps on that classic hike-to terrain, ride the lifts. Don’t call it rest time, however; both intermediates and experts will enjoy the sweeping turns in Hunziker Bowl, feeling the burn while crushing the never-ending bumps on Longhorn, and flowing through the steep groomer Upper Totemoff to Lower Totemoff. If you love trees, hit Walkyries Glade and Lorelei Trees where perfectly spaced ponderosas and lippy rollovers offer a magical forest tour. If you’re brave and don’t mind being heckled by fellow skiers, show off your stuff on the legendary Al’s Run. The anxiety-inducing trail is one of the most iconic bump runs in North America. It’s steep, unforgiving, right under the lift and offers no bailout (the adjacent trails are every bit as tough). Some say no trip to Taos Ski Valley is complete without giving it a shot. You decide.
Soak It Up………………
Once your legs are toast, the resort has you covered. Staying at the new Blake Hotel (skitaos.com/lodging/blake), conveniently located right at the base of the mountain, means you spend more time skiing and relaxing, and waste less dealing with parking. Grab your planks from the ski valet, walk out the door and hop on a lift— no stress. The Blake, a modern hotel rooted in New Mexican history and culture, seamlessly combines luxury with extreme comfort: A steam room, outdoor hot tub, fluffy robes and a huge bed with tons of pillows all make you feel like Julia Roberts (who has a place in Taos, natch). Each guest feels at home thanks to the stellar staff who each take time to chat and learn names, to dote on your pup (welcome to stay) and to make sure all your needs are met.
From the Blake you can easily wander over to Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina (timsstraydog.com), a fun, upbeat bar and restaurant where the locals hang and discuss the day’s exploits. Enjoy delish Northern New Mexican fare, including flame-roasted red and green chiles and legendary margaritas, while chatting with folks who’ve lived and skied here for decades. Head over to the 192 inside The Blake for a drink and dessert by the cozy fireplace; don’t miss the big cookie—warm gooey goodness served in a small cast-iron pan with a scoop of ice cream. During the day, you can reach the Bavarian, a restaurant and beer garden located at the base of Lift 4 directly from the slopes. One of the best decks in skiing, hot pretzels, spätzle and German beers on tap make it the spot for lunch or dinner, especially if you can hit it on Swiss fondue night during the winter.
Need another reason to love Taos Ski Valley? It was the first ski resort ever designated a Certified B Corp, which means it meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, sustainability, public transparency and legal accountability. You can feel good about choosing to spend your precious time and money here. bcorporation.net