Like many of the small communities that dot the mountain passes of Northern New Mexico, the Village of Taos Ski Valley was born from timber and ore mining. Skiing came later.
In the 1600s, Spaniards extracted ore from the rugged terrain until their limitations caught up with them. The area was re-opened to industries in the early 1900s after new mining methods were invented.
Three mining companies were operating in the valley in the early 1900s and mining continued to be the primary activity until 1906 when it declined due to other limitations — this time because of the weather.
The village sprung shortly after World War II when Orville E. Pattison purchased land in what is now part of Carson National Forest. To the south, the village is bordered by Wheeler Peak Wilderness.
Swiss German ski pioneer Ernie Blake initiated the development of the area in the mid-1950s. That vision cascaded into a demand for homes, lodging and commercial outlets. Seeing the need and opportunity, the Pattison family began to sell land parcels in the 1960s. Water rights were later purchased and harnessed for human use.
In its 50-plus years, Taos Ski Valley has become synonymous with steep-and-deep skiing featuring various terrain, short lift lines, tree-skiing and gullies, cheese fondue and German brews found at The Bavarian Lodge & Restaurant.
A hot spot for aprés ski, The Bavarian hosts live music and events on its popular deck at the bottom of the breathtaking Kachina Basin. Other establishments perfect for relaxing after a day on the mountain are the 192 at The Blake, The Blonde Bear Tavern in the Edelweiss Lodge & Spa, Hondo Restaurant & Bar at Snakedance Condos, Hotel St. Bernard’s Rathskeller Bar, Rhoda’s and Stray Dog Cantina.
Taos’ 12,481-foot Kachina Peak, which is lift accessible, is a playground for experts looking for face shots, moguls, cliffs, chutes, cornices and steep glades. And if challenging skiing makes your muscles quiver, that’s OK, because there are miles of groomed slopes. Beginners will be pleased to discover they can experience all the iconic views of the valley, since the green runs aren’t relegated to the bottom of the mountain. First timers also have ample facilities and “learn to ski” zones located at the base of the mountain, taught by some of the best in the biz, ensuring a comfortable learning experience.
This ski haven is often described by guests as “down to earth,” having “a Swiss alpine vibe” and “welcoming.” There are typically more skiers than snowboarders. And the snow? The high elevation (9,200 at the base), combined with New Mexico’s arid climate, yields bone-dry champagne powder.
Taos Ski Valley has been undergoing a renaissance of sorts since billionaire hedge fund conservationist Louis Bacon purchased the resort in 2013, including The Blake 80-room hotel, new gondolas, a high-speed lift, restoration of the Río Hondo, public charter flight service to and from Dallas-Love Field and Austin International airports to Taos Regional Airport through Taos Air (skitaos.com/taos-air) and condominium construction.
The place for kids to hang out or learn to ski while parents hit the slopes also got a face lift. The Río Hondo Learning Center is where to go for lessons (ages 3-14), day care and the evening program Taos Bound.
Besides the challenging, beautiful slopes, another popular and often lauded feature of Taos Ski Valley is the Ernie Blake Snowsports School instruction program. It features annual Snowsports Weeks. The program concentrates instruction over six consecutive days of 2-hour morning sessions in order to take skiers and riders to their next level of expertise. The standard Snowsports Week runs every Sunday-Friday during the season.
Special events at the top of the Taos’ world include the popular New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks, the annual Brewmaster’s festival and a number of skiing and boarding competitions. Ski and board season begins Nov. 28. See the following schedule for a complete list of goings on this winter. And for more information on skiing, any program or establishment at Taos Ski Valley, visit skitaos.com.
Average annual snowfall: 300 inches
Average days of sunshine: 300+
Total acreage: 1,294 acres
Number of trails: 110 total
51 percent expert
25 percent intermediate
24 percent beginner
Number of Lifts: 14 total
1 high-speed quad chair
4 quad chairs
3 triple chairs
1 double chair
4 surface lifts
Base elevation: 9,200 feet
Summit (Kachina Peak) elevation: 12,481 feet
Vertical drop: 3,281 feet
Uphill capacity: More than 15,000 skiers per hour
Snowmaking capabilities: 100 percent of beginner and intermediate slopes
Hours of lift operation: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Information: (866) 968-7386; skitaos.com
TAOS SKI VALLEY SPECIAL EVENTS
Nov. 28: Opening Day, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dec. 7: Christmas Tree Lighting at the Plaza, 3-7 p.m. (tentative)
Dec. 13-14: Public Demo Days (base area of Lift No. 1), 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Dec. 14: 24th Annual Brewmasters Festival, 4:30-7 p.m. (21 and older event)
Dec. 21: Santa in the plaza
Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks, 5:30 p.m
Jan. 11-12: Femme de Freeride, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Jan. 21-26: 7th Annual Not Forgotten Outreach Appreciation Week, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Jan. 30-Feb. 1: Winter Wine Festival
Feb. 6: B Inspired Day
Feb. 15: Shred the Love (K2 Bumps Challenge and Paint for Peaks)
Feb. 20-23: Taos Junior Freeride
Feb. 26-27: Taos Junior Telemark Freeride
March 3-7: Taos Freeride Championships
March 7: Rally in the Valley
March 7: Founders’ Day Celebration and Fireworks
March 13-14: Ben Myer’s Ridge-A-Thon
March 20-22: USSA Southern Series Championships
April 4-5: Closing Weekend celebrations