Weekend Getaway: Taos
Written by Alexa Owen • Sep 01, 2016
It doesn’t take much to recognize that the slopes of Taos are strewn with magic.
Taos Ski Valley has been a North American icon of extreme skiing since 1955, when local backcountry skiing enthusiasts were exploring some of the gnarliest unmarked terrain in the country. Today, the resort has grown to include slopes for all ability levels, a top notch ski school, quaint village area dotted with lodging and dining options, and – as of 2014 – lift access to the famous Kachina Peak, where experts can play on formerly hike-to terrain. In the next five years, the resort plans to invest in a fully developed and modern base village, which includes new lodging, fine dining, and shops. Can Taos Ski Valley keep up with the times while maintaining its small town charm? We certainly hope so.
Taos is enchanting. The primary ski destination, Taos Ski Valley, rises up out of a land steeped in rich cultural history – a blend of Native American and Spanish tones. Taos is home to a deliciously eclectic mix of artists, musicians, and outdoors enthusiasts that create a strong sense of community. You’ll find art galleries on every block, adobe buildings lining the outskirts of the town, and a mystical desert landscape set in the foreground of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.
Taos Ski Valley resides about 30 minutes from downtown Taos, and boasts its own character: a blend of the southwest roots from which it’s grown and an old European charm reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. Because of the resort’s 8,000 foot base elevation and New Mexico’s dry climate, you can count on extremely light, dry snow on powder days. The expert terrain is unmatched in the Southwest, but beginners can also find long, groomed runs high on the mountain. If you find yourself wondering where the best snow is on any given day, ask one of the many old-time locals – they’re the ones dropping into the steepest chutes with ear-to-ear smiles.
Local tip: When you pull up to the resort, it will look like the most extreme mountain you’ve ever seen – there is beginner and intermediate terrain though…it’s just not visible from the base. -- Kayla S.
The closest major airport is Albuquerque International Sunport (2:15 hour drive), which takes direct flights from all major U.S. cities and airline hubs. Santa Fe Municipal Airport is closer (1:15 hour drive), and direct flights arrive from Dallas, Denver, and Los Angeles. Ground transportation to Taos Ski Valley is available from both airports. If you’re driving from Colorado Springs or Denver, plan on a 4 hour drive.
Taos Ski Valley is a member of the Mountain Collective Pass; look into purchasing one if you also plan to ski at a any number of these resorts this season.
Because it's off the beaten path, expect far fewer crowds on the slopes...and because it's off the beaten path, don't expect a massive, purpose-built resort village like that of Vail or Park City.
Fly into Santa Fe Airport, just over an hour from Taos Ski Valley. Twin Hearts Express provides tranportation betwen the airport and ski resort. Arrive by late afternoon for sunset views over the desert landscape en route to the mountains.
Sleep slopeside at the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa, which is located in the center of the base village. Most accommodations are 1-3 bedroom condominiums; for a weekend stay with 2 people, one of the “lock-off” hotel rooms – 1 bedroom/bathroom spaces that can be separated from a larger unit – are ideal. The modern luxury lodge boasts a spa, restaurant, on-site ski shop, and concierge who will go out of their way to help you with everything.
Wine and dine in European style at The Blonde Bear Tavern (conveniently located just inside the Edelweiss). Chefs at the Blonde Bear draw on classic the classic recipes of the European Alps to craft dishes like sautéed chicken paillard and grilled sage-brined pork chop. The menu stays true to its New Mexico roots by sourcing beef from the local Four Daughters Ranch. As for ambiance, you’ll find it warm and inviting: photographs of old-time Taos decorate the walls, and each table is bathed in candlelight.
Cozy up to the bar of the Hondo Restaurant at the Snakedance Inn for a quiet glass of wine. This gem of a spot is by no means a party scene, but the warm European ambiance is an ideal end point after a day of travel.
Sip espresso and indulge in fine pastries at Café Naranja. Their funky but well thought out menu features half European fare and half southwest specialties. Chefs prepare pancakes made from organic Hopi blue corn, as well as classic huevos rancheros with a green chile sauce that will knock your socks off. Be sure to check out the extensive list of loose leaf teas by the pot for something warming and wholesome to kick start the day.
Warm up with a scenic run down Honeysuckle, which cuts through much of the beginner terrain on skier’s left side of the resort. From there, experts can make their way up Kachina Peak, which is now serviced by a new lift. Intermediates will enjoy the Lower Sauffenberg area off #8 Lift; there may be a few more skiers on the slopes here, but we guarantee you still won’t wait in lift lines.
On-mountain dining can be hit or miss at small resorts; at the mid-mountain Phoenix Grill, chefs serve up classic southwestern dishes with consistently good reviews. You won’t find much lighter fare (besides daily soups), but if brisket and pulled pork smoked on-site strike your fancy, this is the spot. The deck is expansive and washed in sun starting around 11 am. Scene is old-school ski area cafeteria loaded with character.
Retreat home to the Edelweiss for custom spa treatments. Therapeutic massage menu includes treatments like hot rocks therapy, cornmeal body scrub, and traditional deep tissue massage. For a truly indulgent treatment, we recommend the Four Hands Massage; two therapists work in tandem to cater to your body’s specific needs. Afterward, continue to detox in the sauna.
Get your ski town dive bar fix at the Martini Tree Bar. Shoot some pool, hang with fun loving skiers, and catch a sports game on TV while munching classic après eats. Local bands play live music on weekend afternoons and evenings.
Venture out to The Bavarian, which boasts authentic German dining and old-town Alps ambiance. The fare is hearty: expect dishes like weinerschnitzel (classic pork cutlet) with mashed potatoes, and spätzl: homemade Bavarian pasta with topped with cheese and fried onions.
Head to The Rathskeller at the St Bernard Hotel for live music and cocktails in a warm, friendly setting. Everyone from the bartenders to the managers are known for their sincere hospitality, and you’ll find a mix of young and old, local and out-of-towners, and plenty of characters willing to share a story or two about Taos back in the day.
If there’s a few inches of snow overnight, get some quick powder runs in the trees off #1 Lift. The trees between Spencer’s and Jean’s Glade are the least dense, and if you keep cutting back toward lift line you’ll get the most turns. If you’re up for a mid-morning challenge, head up #2 Lift and take a right at the summit: the slopes along the West Basin Ridge are some of the steepest in in-bounds North America.
Grab a bite of spicy New Mexican fare at the local favorite, Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina. Lore has it that original owner Tim “strayed” from work at the St. Bernard to open his own place, and the name stuck. They’re famous for two things: strong margaritas made with agave and fresh lime juice, and carefully prepared green and red chile that serves as the staple of the menu’s dishes. Be warned, though: this chile’s got serious kick.
Don’t miss an opportunity to explore some of Taos town’s culturally rich heritage. If there’s time, wander to the Taos Pueblo, a multi-story adobe village still inhabited by Pueblo people today. You’ll find beautiful photo opportunities, as well as time for conversation with the Pueblo craftspeople who run their shops out of some of the rooms.
Continue to downtown Taos to stroll the streets, which are chock full of art galleries and gorgeous boutique shops.