Ski New Mexico Part II: Extreme, and Extremely Close

New Mexico is one of those states you tend to gloss over, assuming there is just desert and more desert with a side of desert. Dirt aside, New Mexico is one great place to visit. Incredible history (Native American, Spanish, Mexican, even Civil War and WWII), and stunning physical geography are but two of the reasons to visit, but it’s that last part…geography that’s so diverse. Yes, there are flat, dry sections, but Northern New Mexico is home to terrific skiing, boarding, cross country skiing and snow mobiling.

The Art of the Extreme
At Taos Ski Valley, one of the many family-owned ski areas, you have one of the top U.S. ski destinations. People often confuse Taos Ski Valley with the town of the same name, but the ski area is a 20 minute drive outside of the art-centric town. Known as one of the most difficult and challenging places to ski, their top run, Kachina, starts at about 12,500 feet and many runs have near vertical faces and are rated black and double-black. But no worries, they also operate a highly regarded ski school and Taos does have beginner and intermediate runs as well – but even these are a little more extreme than most. 
What seems like all of Taos...but which isn't

Taos is set up like a small Alpine village with some lodging located at the base, including the St. Bernard Hotel, and there are a few hotels and condos just down the road, a five minute drive away. As you arrive at the main quad which runs you up the mountain, at first glance it seems short and a little unimpressive, and that’s because standing at the base you can’t see the other 80 percent of the impressive mountain where the majority of skiing is. There are a handful of gear shops, and gift shops and five restaurants on site. Of particular note is that the outside deck at St. Bernard Hotel (built in 1960 you stay for a week which includes skiing, instruction and all meals – it’s a such a cool place) is open to everyone and you can sit in the sunshine with views of Al’s Run, a mogul filled steep drop, and take in the scenery. If you do, order the St. Bernard Special to drink, a happy concoction of hot cocoa, Meyer’s Rum, Kahlua, whipped cream and a floater of Wild Turkey; potent but comforting, it will warm you up in no time. I could easily have had a second cup and skipped skiing all day.

Ski by Day, Pampered by Night
At Ski Santa Fe, the only day-use facility in the region, the benefits are that it is about 30 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, therefore you can ski for the day, then head back to town for pampered lodgings (personally I love La Fonda, but Hotel Chimayo is also a smart choice), excellent food (Check out Tabla at the Hotel St. Francis, also a cool bar scene there), art galleries, and museums (the New Mexico Museum of History is pretty cool).  There are 77 runs at Ski Santa Fe, all set amidst stunning and mature Aspen trees, Douglas firs and spruce trees giving this spot some of the prettiest runs. First established in 1947, this family owned-facility has drops of 1,800 vertical feet, and if you are over 72 years of age, you can ski for free! There are two restaurants on-site and a French pastry chef bakes up some killer pastries. 

They also offer an Adaptive Ski Program for skiers with disabilities so everyone can get on the slopes. From the top of the high runs you are just over 12,000 feet, and there is the peculiar juxtaposition of standing on snow covered Alpine mountains and taking in the stunning views of the desert region below you including Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and you can peek into Colorado. They are currently expanding and updating their facility and they have brand new, immensely comfortable Head boots, certainly the most comfortable ski boots I’ve ever had on my feet.
The views atop Ski Santa Fe

Regardless of where you may choose to ski in New Mexico – and there are 11 resorts and ski areas in total – it is always a smart idea to try something new. Therefore if you’ve never considered this region, it’s time to rethink, re-boot and relax, all in Northern New Mexico. I had a blast. You will too. For a brief video I shot at Ski Santa Fe, click here:

www.SkiTaos.org, (866) 968-7386
www.SkiSantaFe.com, (503) 982-4429

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