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The Taos You Don’t Know

Senior Travel Editor, Amanda Stuermer  

Instagram: @amandastuermer

Photos: Taos Ski Valley + Liam Doran

“I found out that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it. It entered into one's deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities. It made one feel good. That is, alive.”―Mabel Dodge Luhan

The Magic of Taos

Artists are not the only ones to fall under the magical spell of New Mexico. Alpine enthusiasts have been making the pilgrimage to Taos Ski Valley since the first lift, a Bridger-Boseman J-Bar, was installed in 1956 by Ernie Blake, the Swiss ski pioneer who, with his wife Rhoda, dreamed of creating a European ski experience in the sun-drenched, snow-capped mountains of Northern New Mexico.

 In 1957, Jean Mayer, a French national junior ski champion who later worked with U.S. special forces to guide refugees across the Hungarian and Czech borders into Austria and Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution, came onboard to help bring the Euro-infused dream to life. With the Blakes running operations, Mayer went to work developing a top-shelf ski school along with the St. Bernard, a restaurant and hotel famous for European hospitality and French cuisine. Together, they blended the sophistication and elegance of the Alps with the laid-back vibe of Northern New Mexico.

Six Decades Later

The resort, along with the St. Bernard, has changed hands and is undergoing renovations. Financier and conservationist Louis Bacon bought Taos Ski Valley with a plan to create a sustainable business without compromising any of the magic. 

As part of that plan, the resort went through the rigorous process of becoming a certified B Corporation, a designation that requires an annual third-party certification of social and environmental performance and public good. It seems to be working. Taos is now the first and only B Corp ski resort in North America, and the magic is just as strong.


Ernie Blake knew what he was doing when he chose Taos as his dream locale. Taos’s 3,131 feet of vertical drop makes it one of North America’s steepest mountains. The ski resort offers 1,294 acres of terrain, accessed by 14 lifts and 110 trails. The mountain stretches from a base of 9,350 feet to a summit elevation of 12,481 feet. 

Big mountain skiers and riders worldwide consider Taos Ski Valley a rite of passage. Upon arrival, one immediately comes face to face with Al’s Run, Taos’s trademark colossus. It is dizzyingly steep and dotted with monster moguls that plummet right into the base of the resort. 

Fear not; Taos also has its share of groomers and cruisers. Indeed, there is even a sign at the base of Al’s Run that reads: DON’T PANIC! YOU’RE LOOKING AT ONLY 1/30 OF TAOS SKI VALLEY. If, like most folks, you’ve come for that 1/30—the full monty—you can choose any one of the heart-pounding descents off of Kachina Peak, Highline Ridge, or West Basin Ridge. 

Note these are also used by the Freeride World Tour Extreme Ski Competitions. For a milder ski or ride experience, try green runs like Honeysuckle and Whitefeather on the front side or blues like Lower Stauffenberg or Firlefanz off of Lift 8. 


After a few days of steeps and deeps, your wobbly legs will beg for a rest. The good news is there’s plenty of magic to be found off the mountain as well. Wind your way down the ski valley road, and you’ll inevitably pass through the funky, gallery-strewn village of Arroyo Seco. Stop by Sol Food, a café that specializes in farm-to-table, organic, and antibiotic/hormone-free ingredients, for a vegan breakfast burrito and a Sherpa chai before browsing the local shops. 

Then head to the Millicent Rogers Museum, where you’ll find an impressive collection of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo arts from the Southwest, including more than 1,000 pieces of pottery from the prehistoric to the present that represent every major pottery-making center in the region. The jewelry and textile collections are equally stunning. 

No trip to Taos is complete without a sampling of red and green chili. Head to Orlando’s New Mexican Café just north of town for a build-your-own bowl topped with both (Christmas, as the locals say). After lunch, you’ll want to visit the Taos Pueblo, the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. Built by the Northern Tiwa tribe, the pueblo is made entirely of adobe and has been continuously inhabited for 1,000 years. 

Another Taos must is sipping a Cowboy Buddha Margarita at the Adobe Bar. Dating back to the 1930s and located in the Historic Taos Inn, the Adobe Bar is lovingly known as the “Living Room of Taos.” Post-marg, it’s an easy walk down Bent Street to dinner at perennial favorite Lambert’s of Taos, where everything on the menu, from breads and pastas to ice creams, is handmade fresh from scratch from locally sourced ingredients. 

PRO TIP: Give your legs—and the rest of your body—a true rest and head to Ojo Caliente, the country’s first health spa, which opened in 1868. Spend the day soaking in a variety of communal pools, rich in lithia, arsenic, iron, and soda. Trust us, your thick, slow densities will melt away, and you will feel good. That is, alive. 


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