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In common with many major western North American ski centres there are two Taos's. There is a legendary town that has existed for over 400 years and there's a legendary ski area that has existed for more than 50 years. The two are 30km (17 miles) apart. Both exist today as partners, the ski area a major winter asset to the town of Taos, and the old town a major factor in attracting destination skiers to the area - besides the great downhill. The historic town of Taos was established by early Spanish settlers in the sixteenth century who battled with the Native American inhabitants on and off through to 1696 when they finally won permanent control. Like all of New Mexico, has a very strong Spanish influence to this day and is one of few North American ski areas outside Quebéc that takes the trouble to publish promotional documentation and even its web site in two languages. Part of Spain until Mexican independence in 1821 and then part of Mexico until conquered by the US in 1848, Taos has belonged to three different nations. In the later nineteenth century discoveries of gold and copper in the high peaks encircling what is now Taos Ski Valley brought thousands of miners to the area in an 1880s 'rush'. Even Taos' famous mountain man, trapper and Indian scout, Kit Carson, staked claims in the Twining Valley (as it was called then). The Twining mining camp was a place of hardship, endured mostly by miners' dreams of riches. The mine itself was plagued with difficulties and faulty machinery, the local Frazer Mountain Copper Company collapsed due to embezzlement of funds and murder. The next chapter in the history of Taos began in Sepember 1889 when two artists stopped in the town to have a wheel on their cart repaired, liked the place so much they decided to stay, and begun a century of migration by artists to the area, the most recent boom during the hippy era of the '60s and '70s. There are now more than 80 art galleries and seven museums as testament to this unique status. Then came skiing. In 1954, Ernie Blake, founder of today's Taos Ski Valley, arrived. He had been flying over the Sangre de Cristo mountains in his small Cessna 170, tracing a route between Santa Fe Ski Basin and Glenwood Springs. He had been searching for several years from the air for a ski place reminiscent of his native Switzerland. In Twining he found a snow-rich valley where the season would be long and sunny. The north slopes were naturally steep and challenging. Construction of the ski area began in 1955 with the installation of the first small lift. Taos Ski Valley today is a place with a world-class reputation for challenging slopes, one of the leading ski schools in the US and with snowboarding not allowed. A haven for skiers who are passionate about their sport. There are now nearly a hundred residents and more than a dozen lodges and condominiums, plus shops and restaurants to meet every interest, budget and taste. The Village of Taos Ski Valley became New Mexico's 100th municipality in July, 1996. With its spectacular mountain scenery and European influences remaining strong to this day, many European visitors say the Village of Taos Ski Valley has a European feel to it.

A legendary ski centre created in the 1950s by Ernie Blake. Over 50% of the terrain is 'expert' standard, and there is a very highly regarded ski school. The historic town of Taos is 30km/17 miles away.

Mountain

Taos is the most southerly of the major North American ski areas and is famous for its light, desert-dry powder of which an annual average of 305 inches falls. Secondly, and equally important, its famous for its ski school, named after resort founder Ernie Blake, which has a reputation second to none for tuition of skiers at all ability levels. For beginners, tuition is likely to begin at the Strawberry Hill beginners area at the base of the mountain, although it's possible to get around most of the key sectors of the mountain on easy trails once you've perfected those first turns. Beginners will be taught using a technique known as 'Zone therapy' through which they will progress through five zones dividing up the various stages of novice skier progression. Intermediates will enjoy fast cruises down through the trees and a few of the lift served bowls such as Hunkizer or black diamond runs like Blitz and Reforma accessed by the number two lift. Virtually all beginner and intermediate skiing has snowmaking back up in case Mother nature fails to do the business. Experts have more than half of Taos's terrain to enjoy - normally including unpacked powder, trees, glades, bowls, bumps, chutes and wide well-groomed cruisers. Above the tops of the lifts there are dozens of double black diamond extremely difficult trails which can be hiked up to along West Basin Ridge and highline ridge. The highest bowl skiing is beneath Kachina Peak up at 3805m (12,481 feet) - 200 metres above the top of the lifts and giving a skiable vertical of virtually 1000 metres.

Families

Taos takes its responsibilities to its child visitors very seriously. Initially visible with the Kinderkäfig, a large children's center, housing everything to make a child's ski experience exciting and successful. Children have their own ticket counters, ski rental and accessories shop, and cafeteria. With everything self-contained, parents can feel comfortable knowing their kids can get around - and kids feel comfortable doing so. Kinderkäfig instructors specialise in turning children into confident, lifelong skiers by making lessons fun. Junior Elite I classes ease potty-trained 3-to-5-year-olds and older into the sport with a game oriented approach to teaching. Junior Elite II classes are designed to develop and strengthen the skills of 7-to-12-year -olds. The price includes an all-day program, lift ticket, lunch and rentals. Infants and toddlers receive lots of individual attention in the Bebekare and Kinderkare programs. The 2-to-1 staff ratio for infants aged 6 weeks to one year provides babies with lots of attention. A separate nap room and two quiet rooms keep infants cosy. Toddlers between 1 and 2 years old enjoy planned activities and snow play while parents enjoy worry-free skiing. All-day program includes two snacks, lunch and nap time. Half-day includes snack and either snow play or nap time.

Eating Out

There are half a dozen eateries at the ski resort, with a further 100 dotted around the valley, more than half concentrated in the historic town of Taos. Local dishes include chilli, rellenos, posole, enchiladas and tamates. Chillis comes in red or green (choose the combination 'Christmas' dish if you can't decide which you prefer) mild or hot and many of the restaurants have served organic only produce since long before 'organic' was fashionable. Apart from the reputation for organics and either homestyle or gourmet food, the eateries of Taos also have a reputation for their wines, with many offering excellent lists and an annual Festival to boot. New Mexico claims to have the oldest wines in the New World, the Spanish arriving here before they moved on to California. The restaurants at Taos Ski Valley include The Inn at Snakedance, formerly the Hondo Lodge, constructed from century-old massive beams originally used to construct rugged miners' log cabins using trees cleared from the areas which is now the Ski Valley's base area and beginner hill. The Inn has everything from casual fayre to fine dining and is a Winner of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, it has weekly wine dinners every Wednesday night throughout the ski season. The Bavarian offers genuine Bavarian/Austrian gourmet cuisine in the elegant log dining room and on the sundeck. Rhoda's and Tenderfoot Katie's in the Resort Center has quick service for breakfast and lunch and table service for lunch and dinner. The Thunderbird Lodge provides gourmet breakfasts, lunches and dinners with a vegetarian selection. Tim's Stray Dog Cantina serves tasty New Mexican cuisine, sandwiches, refreshing margaritas and 'world famous' green chilli cheeseburgers.

Apres

There are no super night spots in Taos Ski Valley itself, although several of the hotels and restaurants lay on live entertainment. Otherwise it is a case of trying different friendly and relaxed bars and other eateries or participating in an organised evening activity like skating, snowmobiling or tubing. For a greater range of evening activities you will need to stay in, or at least travel to historic Taos town.

Boarding

After a 53 year ban, Taos opened for snowboarding in the Spring of 2008. All of the facilities both on and off mountain were upgraded to accomodate snow boarders from classes to rentals and an upgraded terrain park called TSU is ready to host snowboarders and their families.

// HIGHLIGHTS //
Vertical drop
796m
Resort height
2806m
Airport
Albuquerque
Train station
Albuquerque
beginner
24%
intermediate
25%
expert
51%