1. You’ll go to Taos because you want steeps, bumps, and cliff hucks all on a mountain without attitude. Of its 94 marked trails, 54 percent of its terrain is advanced or above. Bumps that could be mistaken for breaching humpbacks riddle the steeps and it has immense hike-to terrain. Two ava-launchers, a 105mm howitzer, and a team of 26 patrollers with hand-thrown explosives are needed to control the terrain. It’s been family run since founder Ernie Blake decided the grizzled and near-inaccessible basin was perfect for a ski hill. Now run by grandchildren Adriana (shown skiing here) and Alejandro Blake, it fosters a decidedly homegrown, un-corporate feel.
Do not, under any circumstances, eat a frito pie for lunch. Dinner, maybe, lunch, no. This miasma of Fritos, hot sauce, diced jalapenos, ground beef, salsa, black beans and what might be jet fuel arrives in a quaint looking bowl. Don’t let the little bastard fool you; it’s deadly. Yes, it may be delicious, but when, two turns into Al’s Run you realize that you still have 1,600 vertical feet to the next toilet, you’ll be wishing you heeded our advice.
Two of the best runs on the front side are North American and Long Horn. Both offer choices of lines ranging from 35 degrees to 45 degrees and see minimal traffic as everyone heads for the Ridge and more obvious terrain off Lifts Two and Four. If it’s windy, wait until later in the day; the wind blows straight up Lift One and stuffs both lines with powder.
How to Ski a Powder Day: At the top of Lift Two, hike through the gate on your right to a run called Tresckow (named after Major General Herman Henning von Tresckow, the dude who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1943 and inspired the worst Tom Cruise movie since Vanilla Sky). The hike takes 10 minutes and will put you at the intersection of West Basin Ridge on your right and Highline Ridge on your left. Traverse along Highline Ridge until you’re back in the trees, then follow markers to Tresckow. This steep, gladed line is among the best on the mountain. After two laps on Tresckow, head to West Basin Ridge, the venue for numerous extreme skiing competitions. Despite what the trail map says, the High Traverse doesn’t exist any more. To get there, follow the same boot pack to Highline Ridge, but turn right at the obvious signs for Stauffenberg and Zdarsky (also named for rebellious German generals). Lines like St. Bernard are steep, technical, and riddled with small airs. But check out Oster and Fabian, two chutes immediately to the right of the Stauffenberg/Zdarsky trail marker. They aren’t obvious and tend to get passed over. Plus, their entrances are steep with rocky, windblown sections that often require sidestepping. But once past the rocks, point your tips and send it down a sustained 40-degree pitch. At the bottom, follow signs back to Lift Two and repeat.
Where to Eat: Both Arroyo Seco and Taos are smaller, less posh versions of Santa Fe. Replete with western art and shops sporting names like The Spirit of The Earth’s Way, you can easily find great New Mexican cuisine. The rule to follow is the smaller the place, the better the food. At the Ski Valley, get a cheap bacon and egg breakfast from the a la cart menu in the cafeteria and stop in at Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina for lunch. For dinner and beer, head to Eskes Brewery in Taos. Eskes is a full time ski patroller and has been making beer since ’79. The porter and green chili beer are the way to go, accompanied by great New Mexican cooking and live music every Friday and Saturday.
Where to Sleep: Choose from the town of Taos about 30 minutes from the ski area, the hamlet of Arroyo Seco about 15 minutes from the ski area, or Taos Ski Valley. The upside to staying at the ski area is you avoid the drive from Taos, which, on a powder day, can take up to an hour. The downside is that there isn’t much of a night life and the only pace to get groceries is Bumps, a little market below Lift One. But when part owner and events coordinator Alejandro Blake throws a party at the Martini Tree, it’s worth staying in the Ski Valley. Save cash: Try the Abominable Snowmansion Hostel in Arroyo Seco, located between the town of Taos and Taos Ski Valley, where bunks start at $22 per night. [snowmansion.com] Splurge: Edelweiss Lodge and Spa, located just down the hill from Lift One, is comfortable and classy, but not over the top luxury. Most units have kitchens, so it’s great for larger groups. A two bedroom, two bath condo is $675 per night [edelweisslodgeandspa.com].