Taos Ski Valley
Highway 150 winds relentlessly up through Hondo Canyon, the steep mountain slopes crowded with tall, dense pines. In the wintertime, the mountaintops are often obscured by a wreath of clouds.
The road dead-ends at Taos Ski Valley, a resort area that is technically an incorporated village, but only the mountain, along with the snow on top of it, matters to most people.
When you finally get out of the car at the base of the ski runs and take in the vertiginous view toward Kachina Peak (elevation 12,481 feet and often white-capped even in July), you’ll see why it inspires legions of reverential skiers every winter, when an average of 305 inches of snow falls on the mountain—almost 10 times the amount they get down in town. And in fact, until very recently, Taos Ski Valley permitted only skiers on its slopes. Snowboarders were banned, allegedly because of the seriously precipitous slopes here—more than half the trails are rated expert level, and many of them are left ungroomed. But the slopes were finally opened to all in 2008, in the last days of the ski season.
It’s a sea change for TSV’s seriously loyal customers, and it leaves just three resorts in the country that don’t allow snowboarding (Utah’s Deer Valley and Alta and Mad River Glen in Vermont).
In the summertime, Hondo Canyon’s many trails make for very good hiking or picnicking. The road is dotted on either side with picnic areas and campgrounds—Cuchilla del Medio is a particularly nice area for a picnic.
Rio Grande Stables (575/776-5913, www.lajitasstables.com) does horseback-riding trips in the mountains around the ski valley, starting at $50 for one hour.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition