Where Has The Soul Of Skiing Gone? Answer: Ski Taos

Juarez trail sign at ski Taos Photo by: Local Freshies®

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

We get it. For most skiers and snowboarders soul doesn’t matter. It’s about who’s the biggest. Which resort gets the most powder. Or even which one has the fastest lifts. Maybe it’s because we’re getting older, but that’s not what we care about anymore. We search for experiences that are different and more soulful. We’d rather savor a sick line that we had to hike to instead of lift bonging a high-speed racking up vertical. While many things have changed over the years, the soul of skiing is still alive and well when you ski Taos.

The Iconic Sign

If there’s one thing that’s burned into memory after visiting Taos, it’s the sign placed at the entrance of the village. It reads the following:

“DON’T PANIC! YOU’RE LOOKING AT ONLY 1/30 OF TAOS SKI VALLEY.”

The original goal in the 1960’s was to reduce the anxiety for beginners and intermediates staring up at the daunting Al’s run and mineshaft. Instead, it got me excited at the prospect of what was to come. Only 1/30th?!? Jeez… that’s a lot of terrain. I couldn’t wait to get on the slopes.

True Fall Line Skiing

snowboarder at Taos Ski Resort enjoying the soft snow
Photo by: Local Freshies®

Getting whisked up the mountain via the newly installed high speed, our jaws drop. It’s like a giant playground. Everywhere you look the terrain is just itching to be ridden. Chutes to the right that remind me of ski films from my childhood. Below them low angle groomers that follow the topography with banked turns begging for you to lay out some massive carves.

It’s Bigger Than The Stats

For those engineering minded folks, don’t look at the acreage statistic and annual snowfall numbers. First, the snow is some of the highest quality fluff we’ve ever skied anywhere. More on that later. Secondly, it packs more in its nearly 1,300 acres of terrain than some 4,000-acre ski areas we’ve visited. Why? Because of its natural topography dividing each trail so you can’t sidecut or traverse to ski many at once. Once you’re locked into a trail, many you have to ski to their bottom.

Terrain

Compared to other resorts where there’s a ton of traversing and cat tracking (you know who you are), Taos is more pick your line and ski it. What do we mean by this? Besides the natural division of trails at Taos, dozens require you to hike a ridge. This ensures only the most dedicated skiers and snowboarders will enjoy many of the runs. Yet another plus is that it keeps the quality of snow up to snuff for weeks after a storm.

Beginners

Ski Taos’ expert heaven is rightly earned, but there are some areas that you can enjoy as a beginner. Honeysuckle meanders its way down to the backside where you can enjoy a refreshment at the Bavarian. Off of Lift 1, you’ll find White Feather, a roaming trail that makes its way back down to the front. Although there is some beginner terrain, if it’s your first-time skiing or snowboarding, consider starting at Red River or Angel Fire before graduating to Taos. You’ll have a bit more elbow room and a more relaxed atmosphere to hone your skills.

Intermediates

Those that are this level will be in heaven at Taos. Lift 8 provides nice, banked groomers to let the skis rip. For those looking for nicely spaced glades, you’ll find some off Lift 7 along with some more fun trails to explore. Pretty much anything marked a blue you’ll enjoy.

Experts

Standing on the top of Juarez at ski Taos
Daniel Gibson preparing to take the leap over the border and into Juarez – Photo by: Local Freshies®

We’ve skied and snowboarded all over the continent, but Taos is by far Jaime’s favorite. Nothing even comes close. Everything is an adventure. Each run has its own feel and character. For those that are looking for nicely spaced glades, you can’t go wrong in Wild West Glades. For some steep narrow chutes that you’ll have to straight line a full thousand vert down a sheer vertical pitch, pretty much anything off of West Basin Ridge will turn the puck factor up to 11. We could go on and on about all the tasty lines ski Taos offers you… just know you won’t be disappointed.

Contemporary Makeover

No matter how much you want to stick to the past, you have to change with the times. Since 2014, Taos has been under going a major makeover upwards of $300 million in investments. Think of it less as losing its Southwestern-meets-Europe vibe and more as a refresh.

Much Needed Upgrades

Taos
The Bavarian Lodge in Taos – Photo by: Local Freshies

Some of the improvements includes modernizing and renovating the dining areas at the Bavarian and Phoenix Grill. Refining the lodging experience by constructing The Blake providing a luxurious place to stay mere footsteps from the lifts. The purchase of high-capacity snowmaking equipment, including new pumps, 30 new tower guns, and 50 new hydrants allow more terrain to open during the early season. And of course, lift upgrades such as installing a high-speed to transport visitors quickly from the base area. 

The Kachina Lift

One of the changes that’s a bit controversial with the locals was the addition of the Kachina lift. We get it. It had to be done. Most visitors don’t want to take an arduous forty-five-minute hike to get to terrain that good. Looking up from the base of it and seeing moguls the size of VW bugs, I can only imagine how amazing it must’ve been before the lift arrived. Fortunately, there are a host of other zones that you can still hike to instead.

When To Go

Ski Taos has some STEEP terrain which means it needs quite a bit of snow before you can ski a lot of the good stuff. From locals we spoke to, the magic number is 60 inches of 5 feet. With that being said, Taos is a good candidate to visit in March. The snowpack is at its deepest. The sun is higher in the sky. And it’s the snowiest month of the season for them.

Where To Stay

foyer at Palacio De Marquesa in Taos New Mexico
Image appears courtesy: Palacio De Marquesa

Be forewarned the base of Taos Ski Valley is at a dizzyingly high 9,321’ above sea level. I still remember my only bout of altitude sickness in Telluride, and it’s no fun. Give your body a chance to acclimate by staying in the town of Taos (6,900’) for a day or two and drink plenty of fluids. From five star accommodations to two hundred year old B&Bs, here’s the best places to stay at on your next vacation.

Unlike Anywhere

People who ski Taos know that the resort is home to some incredible skiing. Along with this world class mountain, it blends seamlessly with the local culture and a nice helping dish of international flair. Founded by a passionate Swiss skier and surrounded by restaurants started by Frenchmen and Austrians, it has an Alps feel to it. And yet, you drive down to Taos and you’ll find a deep history of Spanish and Native cultures.

Describing this place, you would think it’s “trendy.” Far from it. Taos is what it is… an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Home to buildings where people have lived for more than a thousand years. An art colony. Ski Taos embraces their past and looks towards the future. Once you visit, you’ll get it. But until you do, it’s mere words.

20 thoughts on “Where Has The Soul Of Skiing Gone? Answer: Ski Taos

  1. After living in Taos for 19 years, this article is spot on. Possibly the best that I have read that has provided the essence of the Taos ski area. The only thing he missed was the total absence of lines for the ski lifts.

    1. Larry,

      Aw shucks that really means a lot to me. I put my heart into every article and try my best to not just talk about a place in facts but the full experience and hearing that I got it spot in really means the world. I hope you have an amazing winter filled with pow refills and lots of smiles.

      – Alex

  2. Skied Taos in 2021 for my first time. Totally agree with your summary. I fell in Love ❤ with the Taos there is definitely a feel to this Mountain you must experience to appreciate. Just Something about the Taos Soul..??

    1. Kenny,

      Aw shucks Kenny thank you so much. It’s insane how the place plays on your heartstrings. I didn’t expect to be so enchanted by it after all these years of visiting more than a 100 resorts. I’m glad you got experience and keep the stoke alive.

    2. Baloney. The new owner has completely turned tail on his promise to keep Taos Ski Valley as it was and make only necessary deferred improvements. It is increasingly like every other white bread ski resort; this year, thanks to mother nature, without snow.

      Let’s see whether the St. Bernard survives the exploitation. The very person, Bacon, who said he’d change nothing is likely to ruin the St. Bernard–just as he did the Bavarian (via “improvements” to plant and menu)
      over the past few years.

      P.S. I’m a multi-year season passholder and have skied there since 1982.

  3. Went to Taos in April 73. Arrive at the base at 3.00 am. We put sleeping bags down in the parking lot and stared up at an unbelievable amount of stars. One say it snow a foot and a resort bar serve free beer because of it. It’s a fantastic area and looking up at Al’s run got the heart pumping.
    I recently booked at trip for late Feb. I can’t wait to be enchanted at age 66 like I was at 18 by the skiing and the the town of Taos. Can’t wait!

    1. Hey Mark,

      That’s awesome! Thank you for sharing such an amazing memory. Unfortunately, I don’t think they serve free beer if it snow more than a foot anymore 🙂 But the skiing makes up for that. Be sure to get a Bizcochito (the state cookie) at Michael’s. They sell out quickly, so you might have to reserve a cookie but it’s worth it. Think sugar cookie meets a biscotti flavor.

      1. Been skiing Taos for the last 20 years. Bought a place there 14 years ago to enjoy the summers as well as the unsurpassed skiing! Best article I have ever read that captures the true essence and flavor of the place. Unlike any place I’ve skied in America. You have to experience it to understand the vibe! Well done

        1. Tad,

          That means a lot and thanks for the kind words 🙂 You’re a lucky man to own property there. We’ll probably end up there in the long run as well. If we do, we’ll be sure to take some laps with you.

  4. Just got back from our annual ski trip to Taos. 2 years ago was our first time there and fell in love. I grew up skiing in the north east and Taos is on a whole other level. I actually tried snowboarding for the first time on that first trip and it was after a 20” dump, it was absolutely amazing. Taos is magical for sure

  5. Can’t wait to return. I started skiing Taos in 1969 when Al’s Run had a Poma lift that could pick you right up off the ground at loading. In the years that followed they’d be so apologetic if there was a lift line, they served hot chocolate. There were hidden glass Porons of martini stashed at secret tree bases for the instructors emember to share with their class on the last day of ski week. Once the powder was skied out we’d hike Kachina Peak for more. The tree skiing too is incomparable. Yes,Taos had a soul! I plan to return for the first time since the lift to Kachina Peak was built and hope it’s everything I remember with the much needed upgrades! This was a great job capturing the essence of what makes Taos a one of a kind experience.

  6. Alex, a good article related to this magical area. I grew up skiing the mountain and it never disappoints. The only real issue is that lift lines that were non-existent in the past are quickly growing. This past weekend was crazy at Lift 1 even at 10:30 am. While it’s nice to see the popularity of TSV increase, there does need to be better management of the demand. The issue being infrastructure. Lift 1 is the only high speed lift and once it gets wound up the slower lifts can’t handle the feed volume from Lift 1. It takes a few hours for that to happen. Call it local griping, but I don’t want to see it turn into Tahoe or Vail with one hour lift lines. Been there, done that.
    – Dan

    1. Hey Dan,

      Sadly, I think with more people having a flexible schedule the lift lines at any great mountain like Taos are going to get longer. The reason Tahoe and Vail are so bad is because of how close they are two millions and millions of people. With that being said, I just can’t see Taos EVER having those issues unless Albuquerque becomes even bigger… or least we hope it won’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.