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Taos, NM Questions

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I’ll be in Tucson, AZ for a meeting in early February and will be flying to Albuquerque, NM to ski at Taos Ski Valley Friday the 6th and Saturday the 7th. I have a few questions regarding the area and would like some feedback.
First, the drive from ABQ to Taos. Is 4WD necessary or can I get by with a standard car rental? Any big mountain passes to go up and over? The way the snow conditions are looking, I may not have anything to worry about.
Second, places to stay. I plan on staying in Taos and driving to the ski area instead of staying on the mountain. I’ve seen that there are some good deals on rooms, any suggestions? Places for good Southwestern fare? I’d also like to spend Thursday night in Santa Fe. Any recommendations on accommodations and good restaurants?
Finally, and most importantly, terrain. Taos has a reputation for having some of the best terrain in the country. Is its overall steepness comparable to Alta? I like the West Rustler, Wildcat, Greeley, and Catherine areas of Alta. Where are the spots like this at Taos? I don’t mind traverses and short hikes but keep me away from and out of the no fall zones. Is The terrain off of Taos’s High Traverse similar to what you would find at Alta’s HT? I doubt if my near sea level lungs can handle the hike up Kachina Peak and if its pitch is in the 45 degree plus range, I’ll pass anyway.
Thanks for any advice.
post #2 of 8
Rustyedge -
From what I recall, the drive from ABQ to the town of Taos is pretty tame. Taos up to the Ski Valley isn't bad either. I had a regular car (no 4wd) and had no problems.
Can't help you in Taos with lodging - we stayed up at the area or with food - can't recall names. There are a number of very solid restaurants.

Terrain - get ready for some fun. From the top of the # 2 and 6 lifts, you can start hiking. There are 2 ridgelines to choose from after a short hike up. Go right at the fork to the West Basin Ridge for some very steep shots like Stauffenberg (I think one of the mags listed it as 48 degrees a few years back). More options as you go further out, but unfortunately, I was there in a low snow year, and they didn't open beyond Zdarsky when I was there.

If you go left at the fork to the Highline ridge, you'll also get some great shots. It was open to Twin Trees Chute when I was there, and that was one of my favorites. Hidalgo and Juarez are more open, bowl type trails than the others.

There's also plenty of great stuff that does not require hiking - Castor & Pollux, Lorelei, and Longhorn to name a few. Have fun.
post #3 of 8
Last January, we stayed at the Sage Brush Inn in Taos and drove to Taos Ski valley everyday. It's only a 20 minute drive. The canyon into Taos ski valley looked like it could rough on a heavy snow day, but conditions were clear while we were there. We had no problems with a rental Ford Taurus.
Several places to stay in town -- Sage Brush, Holiday Inn, Fairfield.
post #4 of 8
Been a while, but I recall it was a pretty mellow 3 hr drive (<150 miles) from Alb to TSV. I stayed at hostel called Abominal Snowmansion, very cheap & not too far from ski area, but it may be more basic than your interests. I was altitude sick for the one day I had at TSV and only remember a steep blurr of slopes. The place will keep any advanced skier very occupied. Santa Fe is neat town, enjoyed meal there in converted old convent, but it may have changed hands by now. Ski Santa Fe is not a bad ski area either and had snow conditions as good as Taos when I visited it the day before going to Taos. I thought Pojoaque Indian store on Rt 84/285 between Santa Fe and Taos was pretty neat for souvenir/jewelry shopping.
post #5 of 8
Taos is a great place. A number of years ago I went to a steak house outside the town of Taos. It was way out in the scrub brush. Not exactly on the main strip. A little searching on google turned up the name: Stakeout Grill and Bar. Here's a link: When I went, it was outstanding.

post #6 of 8
We ate at the Steakout last January. Seems like your riding forever on that dirt road to nowhere. Good eats. My kids were about to fall face first in their food that night.
post #7 of 8
RustyEdge--Taos is one of my favorite places. You're in for a treat!

There are several places to stay right at Taos Ski Valley (not to be confused with the town of Taos), but one stands out as one of the all-time classic ski lodges in the world. The Hotel St. Bernard, owned and hosted by one of the Valley's founders and true skiing legend, Jean Mayer, is an experience in itself. "More European than Europe," said Warren Miller, the St. Bernard is right on the slopes, right at the lifts. It is an all-inclusive package deal, and you won't believe the food--course after course served by Jean himself, and his great staff. Jean is the consummate host. The long-time technical director of the highly-rated Ernie Blake Ski School at Taos, Jean is also an incredible skier, and the whole place just drips with European ambience and the "Spirit of Skiing"--which is the name of the movie Jean produced a number of years ago.

Most of the business at the St. Bernard revolves around the famous Taos ski week program, with instruction included, and it is often sold out. But you may be able to book a room for a day or two or three. I guarantee you'll wish you'd planned the whole week!

Another place you might want to look into, especially if the St. Bernard is not an option, is the Lorelei Lodge, owned and hosted by my good friend, Peter Donahue. Peter is one of Taos's top instructors, an Examiner with PSIA-Rocky Mountain, and one of the most genuinely nice people you'll ever meet. Here's another link to the Lorelei Lodge.

Skiing at Taos is phenomenal, especially for strong skiers. Most of the mountain is steep, and some of it very steep. There isn't much there for beginners, or even intermediates, although there is some terrain they can ski. Naturally, the weather has a lot to do with just how excellent the skiing will be, but Taos often has great powder skiing. It's a skier's mountain, one of the few remaining that refuses to allow snowboarders. The lift-served skiing is excellent, but there is also plenty of great hike-to terrain, with some hikes that aren't too demanding.

To get the most out of Taos's terrain, I highly recommend spending a day with a guide/instructor. See if you can hook up with Peter Donahue, or Doug DeCoursey, or Olympic Gold Medalist Deb Armstrong--you won't regret it!

Have fun!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #8 of 8
If you go to Taos, you must eat some New Mexico green chile. Get some stacked enchiladas with the green chile sauce. It won't disappoint.
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