Taos is one of America’s great destinations. In many ways, it’s a poster child of the southwest: Native American culture, beautiful desert landscapes, iconic art, and great Southwest inspired food. In the winter, Taos Ski Valley attracts thousands of thrill-seekers looking for thrilling slopes and dry powdery snow.
I’ve been skiing in Taos about half a dozen times and I never get tired of it. The view from the top of the mountains are epic . Boasting 305 inches of snow a year, the Taos Ski Valley Resort has 110 trails, with half of those designed for beginner and intermediate. If you only ski once every year or two, you’ll feel right at home but still challenged.It’s also a great place to take up snowboarding with a great ski school staff and runs that won’t freak you out. The resort also has 15 ski lifts which means you’re never waiting very long. If you’d like to give your legs a rest, Big Al’s snowmobile tours offers high speed fun and breathtaking views of the Taos Ski Valley. Never been on a snowmobile? Put it on your bucket list. It’s awesome! In the summer, the snowmobile trails become horse riding trails.
If you’ve got a fear of heights or just want to take a break from the slopes, snow-shoeing might be the perfect way to unwind. Taos has some beautiful hikes through the canyons and the learning curve on snow-shoeing is…well, there is no learning curve. Snow-shoeing is just walking in the snow with special shoes that make the impossible… possible. Shoes are inexpensive to buy or rent and you can combine your walk with a trip to one of the numerous hot springs in the canyon. Manby & Black Rock are popular choices. Both springs are free, open to the public and require a little bit of a hike to access.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Georgia O’Keefe the first time I saw her work, but after a few trips to New Mexico, she really started to grow on me. The Mother of Modernism , O’Keefe spent a great deal of time in Taos, painting some of her most famous works. She used her home in nearby Abiquiui as a base for many of her paintings. Her home was converted into a museum in 1997, 11 years after her death. The collection at the museum shows insights into the artist’s life plus paintings of a patio wall door that inspired her so much, she painted it 20 times. Besides O’Keeffe’s work, you’ll find lots of other art installations in and around Taos. The area is undeniably an artist haven and there’s lots of public spaces and art galleries to see around town. Park the car and see the best it has to offer on foot.
Taos Pueblo is just north of the city and is a fascinating look into native American history. A UNESCO world heritage site, these adobe dwellings are thought to be over 1,000 years old. Incredibly enough, these ancient buildings have been continuously inhabited by locals since they were built. It’s a living museum and a photographer’s paradise with it’s earthen walls, turquoise blue doors and colorful strings of red chilies hanging from the windows . Taos Pueblo is a wonderful place to wander about as well as popping into adobe shops where you can pick up some handicrafts made by the local artisans.
Kit Carson’s name is well known as a frontiersmen of the old west and one of Taos’s most famous former residents. Kit was a fur trapper, guide and soldier whose exaggerated stories and exploits became the subject of score of dime novels and made him a household name. Carson eventually settled in Taos and lived there until his death in 1868. His Spanish style home built in 1825, was purchased as a wedding gift for his third wife Josefa and they lived in it for 25 years. Today it is a national historic landmark and museum and a great place to wander around. Kit Carson Park includes the museum as well as a small cemetery with the graves of Kit, Josefa and a few other former Taos residents. Actor Dennis Hopper is also buried in Taos.
Historic Taos Inn looks a little like it was designed for a theme park. It’s quirky pueblo style is uber-cool and looks so inviting that you’ll want to stop in even if you’re not staying. It’s a popular gathering place for locals with it’s cozy fireplace, live music and lively bar. It’s not called “the living room of Taos” without good reason. You won’t find a better icy cold margarita anywhere.
If you’re hitting the slopes, The Blake at Taos Ski Valley is a great choice to hang your skis for the night. Taos Ski Valley is only an 8 minute walk from the resort and you can get on Al’s ski run lift in 2 minutes. Alpine Village Suites is a lower cost alternative in the same area.
For a truly unique stay, look no further than Airbnb. The app includes a filter option that allows you to choose unique stays. Some of the choices offered in Taos are an earth house, dome house, vintage RV, or even camping. It’s pretty easy to lose yourself in your desert experience when you’re under the stars in a retro Airstream or Hobbit-esque “earthship”.
The point of staying in Taos is that you want to STAY in Taos, but if you don’t mind a 90 minute drive to Santa Fe, one of the most haunted hotels in the world is taking reservations. Hotel La Fonda on the Plaza is the subject of many a ghost story. The first hotel in Santa Fe was built in 1607 on the grounds the hotel occupies today, and although it’s changed names and been rebuilt a few times, the hotel site has over a 400 year history. It’s a beautiful place to stay, but if you’re uncomfortable with a potential haunting , you might want to give it a miss.
Taos is a great place to enjoy southwest and “New Mexican” dishes so you’ll want to try the local biscochito, Indian frybread, and green chili dishes at some point, but why not mix it up? Lambert’s of Taos offers a nice variety of wine, seafood and steak in a great setting. If the weather is nice, you can’t beat it’s romantic courtyard patio.
Housed in an old adobe church from the 1800’s, The Love Apple is a local favorite. The establishment serves up locally sourced organic tasty dishes like trout, gnocchi and regional home cooking. Antelope steaks are also available as a seasonal dish. Note: the restaurant only accepts cash and checks.
For more traditional fare in a no-frills setting, La Cueva Cafe dishes up mole dishes, enchiladas and less common plates like cochinita pobil and burrenos. This casual eatery has a simple patio in the back and is a great place to grab a quick delicious bite.
The most convenient way to reach Taos is to fly into Albuquerque or Santa Fe and drive from there. United and Southwest both fly from Houston to Albuquerque nonstop.