Taos Ski Valley: Old soul on its way back

Renaissance. Revitalization. Rebirth. Taos Ski Valley has seen great change in the last few seasons — a re-polishing that’s brought shine back to this New Mexican gem, a lustrous yet intimate 1,200-acre resort situated in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Taos Ski Valley has always been one of those spots: soulful, mysterious, hidden away, on every skier’s list. Its big mountain terrain, surrounding beauty, and 300 days of sunshine are the stuff we strive for. Now, as it emerges from a $300-million renaissance, Taos is re-topping our must-ski lists.

Let’s start with what’s new—there’s a lot. With conservation philanthropist Louis Bacon’s purchase in 2014, Taos terrain has been updated and improved. A lift up Kachina Peak takes the “hike” out of reaching one of the world’s most iconic sets of ski runs. It also presents a view of the Sangre de Cristos that’ll blow your helmet off. But if you’re not terribly fond of the steeps, fear not. Taos has abundant intermediate terrain and recently re-shaped Strawberry Hill, a secluded and consistently smooth beginner area made for skiers and snowboarders just learning to turn. A new pulse gondola (La Gondolita!) transports guests between the resort’s plaza and its state-of-the-art Children’s Center, which now has streamlined check-in services and comfortable places to kick back and watch the kiddos. A new high-speed quad lift at the main base area whisks skiers up in just minutes, ensuring everyone making turns on the mountain more quickly than ever.

Taos Ski ValleyBack at the base, the Resort Plaza is now anchored by The Blake at Taos Ski Valley, an 80-room hotel and a planned collection of private residences adjacent to Lift 1, only steps from the slopes. Its architecture is a mix of Bavarian and Native American style that pays homage the region as well the resort’s European ski roots. But it’s the art inside that’ll stop you in your tracks: Emily Henry, Geoffrey Gorman, E. Martin Hennings, and iconic ski photos by Dick Durrance. The décor in this “alpine guesthouse” is sophisticated and Southwestern. Its restaurant, 192 at The Blake, is the place for après-ski—craft beer, cocktails, Chef Patrick’s signature shared plates—all served by a warm and crackling communal fireplace.

More tasty treats are in the offing in the future for Taos, including an ice rink in the plaza, and, for summer, a via ferrata course and lift-served mountain biking. But at Taos, the future is inspired by the past. And oh… what a past! Taos Ski Valley owes its roots to founder Ernie Blake. He spotted potential for a ski area in the 1950s while flying his Cessna low through the Rockies—Taos is located at their southern edge. In search of a ski slope to develop, Ernie settled on snowy Kachina Basin, situated less than two hours from Santa Fe and about 18 miles from the village of Taos. Ernie and wife Rhoda and their kids lived in an 11-foot trailer (with no electricity!) while they grew their dream. It was Rhoda who was in charge of fitting guests with rental skis… Ernie wasn’t as “handy” with mechanical things. The Blakes’ determination to create a lasting ski legacy is the thing we love most.

And there’s the nut of it—the part that resonates: Those in charge of the renaissance of Taos are trying very hard not to lose its intrinsic intimacy or spoil its ethos. Among their mottos: True and Improved and Growing Better, Not Bigger.

Taos Ski ValleyTaos Verde is a program that’s contributed to Taos Ski Valley’s status as the only ski resort in the world to become B-Corp Certified. It’s a groundbreaking initiative designed to make business a force for good by requiring certified businesses to have strict economical, social and environmental standards. In addition to its work with the local community creating economical opportunity for the entire region, the ski resort incorporates leading sustainable business practices focused on energy-use and land stewardship, which has led to it reducing its power consumption by nearly 11 percent in two years. Its goal: a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Also of note: The Blake at Taos Ski Valley now has LEED Silver certification thanks, in part, to geothermal heating and cooling systems.

Wait… let’s not forget: The nearby town of Taos is a treasure in itself. Settled a thousand years ago by the Taos Pueblo, it’s a community built on a beautiful plateau with snow-capped mountains all around. Locals will tell you Taos is a place where many roads end, including the Santa Fe Trail and the El Camino Real. As a result, it’s a true melting pot. Its adobe-style architecture has housed artists such as Mabel Dodge Luhan and Georgia O’Keefe. Author D.H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover) lived and worked from a Taos ranch. Today Taos is filled with markets, cafés, galleries, and shops. Its cuisine—tamales, enchiladas, chili rellenos—is delicious and spicy hot. One tip: chili in Taos comes in either red or green; ask your waiter for “Christmas” (both) if you can’t decide on one.

 

So yes… for Taos Ski Valley, renaissance is an excellent term. Taos is a very old soul that’s on its way back.

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