Thursday, June 25, 2015

Taos, New Mexico

Best For: Art-loving skiers and boarders with a taste for steep runs and green chilies 

Executive summary by darmansjah

In the world of classic ski towns, Taos is a unique gem. Originally an ancient, high-desert pueblo at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico, the city was populated in the early 20th century by artists and writers who were attracted to the Native American and Hispanic culture, stunning natural surroundings, and the region’s 300 annual days of crystalline sunshine. In 1955, a German immigrant named Ernie Blake founded Taos Ski Valley 18 miles outside of town in a narrow valley engulfed by precipitous peaks. Today, the Swiss-style chalets at the area’s base exude an old-time European character while the town itself feels like a funky Southwestern artist’s colony.

Still run by the Blake family, the mountain offers some of the finest steep skiing and boarding in the U.S., with powder that rivals Utah’s for lightness. You can ski double diamonds top to bottom here. The most challenging terrain—and best powder runs—come on the hike-access West Basin and Highline ridges and the area’s highpoint, 12,481-foot Kachina Peak (check in with ski patrol before attempting). Taos operates one of the country’s most highly regarded ski schools—for beginners and the already skilled—which is good because the terrain demands it. There are no high-speed lifts here, which somehow suits the mountain’s almost mystical, apart-from-the-world vibe.

Nightlife in the bohemian town of 5,716 is limited, but there are plenty of art galleries, coffee shops, and inexpensive restaurants serving delicious, green-chili-smothered New Mexican food in town.

Ask a Local 

Taos ski patroller and avalanche forecaster Rey Deveaux has been skiing at Taos for over 50 years. He also owns and manages the Gearing Up bicycle shop in town. Here are his recommendations.

Best Digs
Budget: The cheapest, funkiest place to stay is the Abominable Snowmansion.
Swank: El Monte Sagrado is a four-star hotel that is eco friendly—it recycles its grey and black water and produces a some of its own electricity from photovoltaics and a geothermal system.

Best Eats
Cheap: Try Ranchos Plaza Grill for authentic northern New Mexican food. It’s moderately priced and next to the historic San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church. The cheapest good spot is Taos Diner 1, at the north end of Taos.

Gourmet: Sabroso Restaurant & Bar in Arroyo Seco has great food, service, and atmosphere.

Best After-Ski Party Spot
Doc Martin's at the Historic Taos Inn has nightly entertainment, an outdoor seating area, and the best mix of visitors and local flavor. Best place to "mix it up" and dance is at the Martini Tree Bar at Taos Ski Valley.

Best Rest-Day Activity
Take a drive and visit the sacred Taos Pueblo, home of the Taos Pueblo Indians, an ancient tribe still mostly living the traditional ways. Then go out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the one of the highest bridges in the U.S., with beautiful views and spectacular geology.

Taos’s Classic Ski Run
The classic ski run at Taos Ski Valley for experts willing to climb ten minutes is Stauffenberg, named after the Nazi army officer who plotted to assassinate Hitler. It’s a classic steep chute with hundred-mile views! For something mellower, try Honeysuckle, a long groomer that’s sunny and scenic.

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