Skiing in Taos, New Mexico
How much fun can one possibly fit into their first ski weekend in Taos, New Mexico? This past week I not only made my first visit ever to Taos, New Mexico, I also experienced my first days skiing their famous Taos Ski Valley. If I was a poet, I would share my exciting experiences in a poem, especially for the sake of time…there was so much fun that took place. If you’ve been Taos, you know what I’m talking about.
My trip had a special element to it – spontaneity. When my friend Manda joined me on Friday we decided to abandon the icy, bare slopes of Colorado for Taos Ski Valley. After all, Manda grew up there for a time and it was only going to be a 4-5 hour drive from where we were. So we took off. The drive was beautiful, with the scenery changing from mountainous to desert. Yet even when the desert became more prominent, there were mountains off in the distance, reminding me that our destination was going to put us in some nicely snow-covered peaks.
If I could describe Taos in phrases and bullet points, here’s how it would go (imagine a beat in the background, but I won’t sing it for you):
- Green chile every meal
- Adobe architecture
- Spanish culture influence
- Dry, cold, starry nights
- Poets, Writers, and Skiers
- Folklore and art
- Margaritas and tequila
- Rock’in live music
- Amazing steep skiing
Who wouldn’t love a weekend full of those things? I look back and can’t believe I got to pack so much in! May sound exhausting but it was that energizing fun that keeps you going back for more. Our first night was checking into our cozy adobe home that we found on the way down on Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO). Last minute deals can be the best on your wallet and your accommodations. For the price of a studio we got a one-bedroom located walking distance to everything in the town center. We didn’t dilly-dally at the house though and headed back out for dinner at Orlando’s. The special I savored was a mouth-watering plate of enchiladas stuff with zucchini, squash, and onions, topped with grilled shrimp and smothered in melted monterey-jack cheese and green chile and red sauce…whew! Makes me hungry again just describing the dish.
Our night was just beginning. We later stopped in at the famous historic Taos Inn for a great margarita made with fresh lime juice and none of the sweet mixers that margs have downgraded to now-a-days. We grabbed seats at a little mosaic tiled table in the Spanish style interior courtyard that made up the Inn lobby. This gave us a great vantage point for enjoying the talented music of a group called the Chimney Choir. Based out of Denver, the group consists of two young men and a young woman: Kevin Larkey, Kris Drickey, and David Rynhart. Their rich Bluegrass sound dabbles in sounds that vary between American and World folklore. What was most impressive was the incredible and adaptable talent of each band member – each song had them changing instruments, from the acoustic guitar to the keyboard to the synthesizer to the harmonica. They even incorporate unique pieces like a Samsonite suitcase and occasional dings on a typewriter. I’ve always said, if a band can perform well live, they have great talent. The Chimney Choirhas amazing talent and experiencing them that Friday night was one of the highlights of my weekend in Taos. We then finished out the night strong with a tasty beer at Eske’s Brewery.
Then the skiing began! Saturday consisted of leftovers from Orlando’s for breakfast (yes, the food was that good) and we casually made it onto the slopes by 10am. Right away I was thrilled with the feel of fresh snow to ski on…a good amount of real snow…and I noticed pretty quickly that Taos has some steep terrain. This reminded me of Telluride where I learned to ski about five years ago. At the top of these black diamonds, you feel a somewhat sick thrilling feeling that you’ve been deceived by what I call “front-range” ski areas in Colorado. Their black diamonds are like the blue runs at Taos, which leads to the realization that the Black Diamonds in Taos are more like the double-black diamond runs in places like Breckenridge, Keystone, and so on. To put it simply, Taos is steep skiing!
The challenge and push that this presented for my skiing abilities was great and I thoroughly enjoyed wearing myself out Saturday and Sunday on everything from groomed runs to huge moguls. What I did not accomplish on this trip that I now have as a future goal is to do the hike-out to ski Kachina Peak. To hike out to the end of the ridge and onto the peak takes an estimated time of 45 minutes to an hour. Along the way you can cut the hike shorter and drop in along the steeper chutes that drop down from the ridge or persevere to the peak where you ski all the way down the “Main Street” run which is an expansive open bowl that is actually more like a double blue run. That will be the terrain level I’m aiming for! Keep in mind, and this is a complete disclaimer, this is second-hand information I’ve gained from the Taos locals and my expert-skier friend Manda.
Saturday night was another live music night, but this time enjoyed at the Alley Cantina in Taos town center. The rock and blues music inspired people to dance, which Manda and I definitely took part in after enjoying delicious green-chile cheeseburgers and coconut-covered chicken fingers. Each day after skiing we finished with a nice drink at the St. Bernard bar at the base of the main lift for Taos Ski Valley. The downstairs bar attached to the St. Bernard Inn embodies the essence of an Austrian-European style pub, with dim lights, dark-wood bar, and copper fireplace raging hot and bright.
Recounting the memories and having them fresh in my mind makes me miss the town and ski area of Taos already…and I literally just got back! I look forward to going back again and hope that you get to visit as well. Have you been to Taos before? Was it to ski or just to enjoy the town or both like my experience? I’d love to hear about fellow experiences and appreciation for Taos so bring it on! And if you haven’t been, I highly recommend that you go and soon.