Surrounded by sacred wilderness and infused with the cultures of the Native Pueblo, Hispanic and European peoples who have defined it, Taos Ski Valley (TSV) is steeped in legend and mystique. The vast, rugged terrain and generous, free-spirited community call out to a different kind of adventurer — a mountain lover with a passion for outdoor thrills and a taste for cultural discovery.
TSV is undergoing a facelift, including a brand-new hotel, but is open for business, as are shops, restaurants and bars.
The village was incorporated in 1996. It is the highest residential home in the state at 10,388 feet above sea level. The last official census put TSV’s human population at 69, but they share the valley with a much larger population of elk, deer, bears and bighorn sheep.
Extensive construction is taking place this summer, so activities will be limited, but still active and fun.
TOP OF THE WORLD
TSV’s easiest and most relaxing way to escape summer’s heat and enjoy the mountain scenery is a scenic chairlift ride on lift No. 4 by The Bavarian Restaurant. At the top, experience unobstructed views of New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak, and Kachina Peak and abundant wildflowers. There are several picnic tables at the top for a great lunch spot. The lift runs June 24 through Sept. 4, Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In September, the lift will run on Saturdays and Sundays only. For more information, call (575) 776-2291.
A charged camera battery is a must when hiking to Williams Lake. Photo by Scott Gerdes.
ON TWO WHEELS
There is no chairlift service for mountain bikers this summer, but there will be biking on the popular Northside Trail (ridenorthside.com). This self-guided, fee-based mountain biking area is on 1,200 acres of private recreational development. As a mapped and signed trail system designed especially for mountain biking, Northside is a looped trail network with spectacular overlooks, single and double track routes through pines, aspen and meadows. The terrain is best suited for the intermediate and higher level rider.
For the more adventurous, one can pedal to the top of Frazer Mountain, 12,163 feet, the highest point on the property at an average grade of less than 10 percent.
Northside is open dawn to dusk from late June through October, weather permitting. Access permits are for sale at many locations in Taos Ski Valley or at the trailhead kiosk. Permits are also sold in Taos at Taos Cyclery and Gearing Up Bike Shop.
Singletracks.com selected Northside as one of the 20 most scenic mountain bike trails in the Western U.S.
The Resort Center has a rejuvenated look and feel. Restaurants are creating new menus in a commitment to providing more choices for healthier and selective diets with food coming from New Mexico sources, including organic produce and sustainable fisheries. TSV eateries include German-inspired The Bavarian Lodge and Restaurant; Northern New Mexican cuisine at Stray Dog Cantina; the Pizza Shack; Black Diamond Espresso; and Bumps Market, a full-service convenience store.
Getting to Taos Ski Valley:
From Taos, follow Paseo del Pueblo Norte through El Prado. Go right onto State Highway 150, drive through Arroyo Seco and continue following State Highway 150, about 19 miles.
Williams Lake Hike:
1,000 feet are gained in altitude (start at 10,000 feet)
It’s always chilly at night in the mountains. So if you’re out after sunset, it’s wise to bring fleece or a sweater.