Insider’s Guide To Taos Ski Valley
So many lines through the trees at Taos Ski Valley. (Taos Ski Valley/Facebook)
The name is old school. So are the fixed-grip lifts, the 60-year old ski school, the “cattle car” parking lot shuttles, the local lifties. Even with a brand-new hotel going up in its midst – and snowboarders now on the hill -- Taos Ski Valley retains much of what founder Ernie Blake envisioned.
Deals. Rack rate is $98, with the usual age and multi-day discounts. Mountain Collective works here, and $40 Taos Card drops daily to $79. Some hotels package in tickets, and Taos one of few with a morning half-day ticket. “The mountain forces you into ski school,” said Ernie Blake, and his instructors always aim to get you comfortable on the mountain as soon as you can. Ski Weeks attract many.
Trails. Local bumper sticker says, “TAOS – A four-letter word for steep.” First, an expanded beginner area around the base serves newbies well, and plenty of greens and blues serve up groomers on both sides. But steeps and extremes are the main dishes here: Alpine chutes, expansive bowls, narrow gullies, plus lots and lots of trees. Must-ski trails include leg-burning Al’s Run, Longhorn and Spencer’s. The trail map only suggests routes down a mountain full of secret lines and stashes. Kachina Lift at 12,400-summit gives easy access to 150-acre Kachina Bowl and popular Hunziker Bowl. Hikers still have West Basin and Highline to themselves, each with a short but steep hump off Lift 2.
Eat and Drink. Front and back base areas dish out hearty skiers’ fare, with more nearby in the village. Front-side Whistlestop Café serves to refuel at midday. Can’t-miss Bavarian Restaurant goes full-on German with wiener schnitzel and goulash during the day, and classic fondues and European for après-ski cuisine. And, of course, 18-ounce steins of Bavarian beer. Hit Taos proper for famed red and green chile dishes that are more flavor than heat.
Stay. The Bavarian has a few rooms, and a bevy of condos cluster around the base. Classic nights can be had at the St. Bernard Hotel, known for fondue and fireplaces. The Blake Hotel is set to open Feb. 1. With 65 rooms, 15 suites and valet parking, it’s upped the overnight ante while fitting into the Alpine style. Down in town, the choice of where to stay is considerable.
Insider Tip: Powder days bring hordes of locals up, so the key to your own freshies is to get to the lift before opening and map out routes ahead of time. Or, cozy up to a ski bum but get ready to rock the steeps and trees.