Taos Ski Valley, a world-renowned resort, has a cozy, European-style village at the base of a challenging but fun mountain. We arrived in time for dinner and margaritas at Tim's Stray Dog, a Taos staple for 20 years. It was there that we met Ariana Blake, a mom, a sharp business woman and amazing skier. Over drinks and steak tacos, we made plans for the next day. Then, fumbling in the dark, we found our way to the slope-side Kandahar Condominiums, which have spacious bedrooms, a family room, full kitchen and wood-burning fireplace (with wood stacked outside the door).
In the morning she helped us with rentals and ski lessons. It was my first time to Taos and I figured I'd need a lesson to navigate the steeps of this mountain. I was directed to Strawberry Hill, where instructors gauge your ability before assigning you to a class. And while I had an exhilirating lesson with longtime instructor Stuart, I found my worries of skiing here were unfounded. While there are certainly lots of steep runs, there are also plenty of intermediate trails too. Stuart even had us skiing on some bumps I could handle.
I caught up with my group at Rhoda's, where I enjoyed a delicious green chili cheeseburger. Afterwards, I had the pleasure of skiing with Adriana, who showed me around the mountain. We made a pit stop at the elaborate children's ski center, which has its own pint-sized chairlift.
We capped off an afternoon of skiing at the Martini Bar, which overlooks the slopes. Dinner that evening was at the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa. With so many good options, we decided to share plates of vegetarian lasagna and steak.
a happy place where people come to have a good time on and off the slopes. Half a dozen old -school lifts service 57 trails, of which only 30 percent are for experts. That means most of the mountain is ideal for cruising on long runs top
(at over 10,000 feet) to bottom and through aspen-lined trails under mostly blue skies. There’s a small open-air chapel where resort owner, Laura House and her husband were married. A trip highlight was a ride up to the mountain top
inside a toasty warm snowcat - decked out for comfort, (hence,
snow coach) - for an exquisite steak dinner at Tip Restaurant. On that evening, we were the
only ones in the restaurant and were pampered by Chef Kai Dunbar, a food and
beverage manager whom we also skied with during our stay since these lucky guys
get to ski when they’re not working! Home base while at Red River were the Caribel Condos, walking distance to the slopes, and equipped with kitchens and gas fireplaces.
As mountain manager at Ski Santa Fe, located about 16 miles northweast of Santa Fe, Ben not only drives snowcats, repairs and maintains the resort's seven lifts, glades trees and works on various other projects - he enjoys skiing with resort guests.
I had the pleasure of skiing with Ben (a super fast skier, so I was always trailing behind him) who explored the world before joining the family business. He served as an Army Infantry Officer, an Infantry Platoon leader and executive officer with the 101st Airborne Division and served in Iraq. He also worked as an FBI Special Agent for a few years. He says all these jobs helped define his leadership skills, learn to solve complex problems and keep cool under stressful situations. No wonder he comes across so calm, cool and collected! But he also knows how to treat guests graciously. After skiing several runs together, we stopped at the historic, mid-mountain Totemoff's Bar & Grill where he bought me a beer. We sat on the sunny deck chatting about life (he married his high school sweetheart and they have two kids), skiing and his family business, which is ever growing.
The La Casa Lodge houses a fabulous restaurant, ticket sales, rentals and a sport shop. The restaurant serves a New Mexican cuisine (try the pork tamales), grilled food, sandwiches and salads.
There's no lodging here but with the city of Santa Fe so close, that's not a problem. We stayed at the El Dorado Hotel & Spa in downtown. While in the city, we ate at one of my favorite restaurants - Il Piatto, an Italian farmhouse kitchen with a twist of New Mexican cuisine.