Insider Guide: Taos Ski Valley
Taos Ski Valley is a skier's mountain. Not for the faint of heart. It can match steeps with any in the Rockies. And, if storms course far enough south, it's a dry powder snow-pocket nonpareil. Six years of new ownership has smartly overhauled the lifts and base areas of this venerable original-family resort, including high-end hotel The Blake and chairlift to the top of Kachina Peak.
Taos starts at 9,200 feet and rises to 12,450 -- the top of Kachina Bowl. From there, it's 3,200 feet of vertical on 1,300 acres in two giant cirques. Half of the runs are black, and steep gullies, bowls, and glades encircle the trail map. The sole high-speed quad takes skiers and riders out of the base to mid-mountain. From there, fixed-grip chairs do the work.
About a 2-1/2 hour drive from Albuquerque, 1-1/2 from Santa Fe airports. Shuttles run from both airports to the resort. Now, Taos Air flies from Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Diego airports.
The Blake has 65 rooms and 15 suites, all luxury, in the middle of the things. Condos and VRBOs dominate the rest of the on-mountain overnight choices. A half-hour away in Taos, there are almost any options you can think of.
During the ski day, there's Tenderfoot Katie's and Rhoda's at the base; the cozy Whistlestop up on the frontside; and, renowned Bavarian with hearty German dishes and beer. Off the slopes, the Blonde Bear Tavern, Tim's Stray Dog Cantina and 192 at The Blake each excel in their specialties. Down in Taos, the apres-ski crowd has much to choose from, including Medley, Orlando's, Martyrs and Taos Inn headline. Everywhere, the smell and taste New Mexico chiles permeates.
Yes, Virginia, Taos does have easy runs. Powderhorn and Whitefeather get you down the front. Chair 8 serves long groomers. On the backside, the grade mellows and there's plenty to cruise upon. But, yes, the frontside is steep. Famed Al's Run -- the first cut on the mountain -- plunges 1,800 vertical on front shoulder. Tree runs to skier's left show no mercy; likewise for Longhorn on the other side. Visiting powderhounds need to be at first chair because locals have serious deep pow' appetite. Once at top of Chair 2, the huge backside opens up. Kachina Bowl rises above all, with gullies 'tween cliffs, and below it, Hunsiker Bowl. Taos treasures its hike-to terrain. West Basin features gnarly gullies and, farther down the ridge, the Wild West glades go on forever. Or, keep hiking up Kachina ridge and a powder-stash smorgasbord of steeps and trees awaits.
Ski school renowned for getting newbies up on the mountain as fast as possible. Across the valley, snowmobile tours head up into the high country for expansive views of Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Nearby, Enchanted Forest lays out a vast network of cross-country trails. Sightseeing at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge can be combined with a soak at Ojo Caliente Hot Springs.