Firstly, let’s begin with my confession that this Taos ski trip was all my fault. Our relationship was very new; the distance to the resort was far away; there was very little planning; we went on short notice and only with a short amount of time. It was very high risk, because Carol had never skied before.
TL;DR About Us Skiing in Taos, NM
Skiing in Taos, New Mexico started out not optimal, and ended up really memorable. In a good way. We departed San Antonio, TX on the 11th of February, 2022 and returned on the 15th with everything in one piece, including our bones and the Jeep. We skied on the 12th, 13th, and 14th. Read on to see how the ski trip went!
Reasoning Behind Our Ski Trip To Taos
Carol and I were a new item, I had just landed in Texas days ago (Jan. 15, 2022), and Valentine’s Day was fast approaching. I desired something romantic for us to do as a first major recreational outing. What would be romantic in the winter? Snow globes are romantic, and Carol has a collection, but what about real life snowfall? That trumps all romantic settings, doesn’t it? It seemed highly unlikely to me that Texas would get snow again anytime soon, (that’s a reference to “Snowvid 2021”). Snowfalls aren’t only romantic, but they’re also FUN. What can we do for fun in the show? SKI!
Without snowfall in Texas, not that we could ski here anyway, I hatched my brilliant idea to go skiing at the closest resort possible, because Carol was only able to take 3 days out of the office. Driving to the closest resort wasn’t out of the question, only 15 hours, and skiing typically requires wheels anyway. Flying would have been difficult to pull off with such short notice, and we’d be without wheels upon arrival. Carol’s Jeep has four wheel drive, so snow wouldn’t be a problem.
When you listen to reason, it’s obvious that driving the Jeep to Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico for a ski trip was the best (spur of the moment) romantic getaway.
Backstory To Our Taos Ski Trip
I’m an avid skier, ex ski-bum, and I thought skiing would be a winter activity that we couldn’t do in Texas, and I could bring this activity to the relationship to mix things up. Maybe it can become something we look forward to annually.
You have to understand that I ski aggressively, and with little regard for safety, and for the most part have no understanding (or recollection) of the terror that gravity and lack of control can cause to newbies. It has been after all, 55 or more years since I took up the sport of careening down mountains with two boards strapped to my feet. I’m sure there were times when I was a newbie that I thought my dad was trying to get rid of me, but all I can remember is that I really looked forward to skiing as every ski season approached.
For those of us hailing from The Great White North, skiing is what we do. Well, we do hockey mostly, but that’s another story. Carol, on the other hand, has never skied. Teaching a cute girl to ski could also be romantic… or disastrous. Hey, if we both weren’t up for shenanigans, we’d have nothing to write about.
Events Of Our Ski Trip To Taos Ski Valley
Our plan for this Valentines weekend was for Steve to teach Carol to ski without tears (unless they’re from laughing too hard). She had never been on the boards and was somewhat terrified, so we did a pinky swear to have lots of fun and laughter on this first adventure together! Yeah, it’s not only our first ski trip together, it’s our first real leisure trip together as a couple. We did fly to Daytona Beach, FL and drive back to San Antonio in separate vehicles a couple of weeks prior to this trip, but that was just to finalize my move to Texas and bring my last two vehicles – not a leisurely trip whatsoever. You can read about Steve’s move to Texas in another blog. Anyway, teaching Carol to ski should be easy, right?
Spoiler Alert: There were tears.
We loaded up Carol’s four door Jeep Wrangler with lots of warm clothes, ski attire, goggles, hats, longies and whatnot, but didn’t have any equipment like skis, poles, and boots to carry. With two coolers full of road snacks and basic groceries for our stay, we were off on our long drive up to Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the beginning of the Rocky Mountain range. I chose this destination due to proximity, and I’d heard about Taos as a youngster, and always thought it would be dreamy.
As the distance northbound got greater, and the elevation got higher, we thought it was quite cold (in the 40’s). No. It was not cold. Pulling into the town of Taos at nearly 7,000′ and having to gas up as it was getting dark, before climbing even higher into the mountains was cccccold. Getting out in the snow at the condo I rented was ccccccccccoooollddd at 29 degrees. Opening the frozen condo door in the morning for ski day #1 was f’ing COLD.
The final leg of the journey, the most fun for me, was negotiating the twists and turns and steep switchbacks at the greatest speed possible, up the mountainside in the snow to 10,500 feet where the rather remote condo that I rented was nestled into the hillside. On some days, four wheel drive can be very useful if you need to drive up to Kachina, else you could end up on someone’s roof, or in a stream, or just “glading“.
As we drove up the mountain to 10,500 ft looking for our condo, the snow was ominously waiting. Greeted by the TAOS SKI VALLEY sign (photo below), we had to capture the landmark for our scrap book. Soon after that shot we ventured out into the snowy night for the first time this trip with our thin Florida and Texas blood to shoot some of the white fluffy stuff as you see on this page.
Outside of Taos Ski Valley, is the artsy town of Taos at 6,969′. It’s about a half hour outside of Taos Ski Valley (almost 19 miles) and we had to go into town for groceries during our stay, and did drive around for a bit of sight seeing too (as in, we got lost). It’s a cool little place, but we didn’t go shopping or hit any restaurants and bars, just basically drove through it.
Across from the main parking lot of Taos Ski Valley, there is a cozy li’l “micro town” to walk through, the equivalent of a couple of city blocks of shops, bars, restaurants, a skating rink, and the ticket wickets. Taos Ski Valley is tiny and quaint with enough to do. It resembles a little European village, with pretty architecture for their stores, restaurants and pubs where you can pass some time. Oh, there was even a little outdoor skating rink, for those who didn’t find skiing challenging enough and wanted to risk their knee caps or wrists and elbows.
Along the brick sidewalk of this quaint “town” of Taos Ski Valley, roughly in center town, we found a bench made of skis, so we copped a squat for a photo opp.
We stayed in a basic, ground floor one bedroom apartment with no furnace, just floor heating. It was adequately equipped with all necessary amenities, plus TV and WIFI, and of course the best amenity was that it was at the foot of Kachina Peak – the hardest side of Taos Ski Valley, a block from The Bavarian restaurant. We could walk out our door to the restaurant, or the lodge and lift line, or the trail over to the main mountain. It was a very comfy, convenient little condo at 91 Kachina Rd., Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico 87525
The weather cooperated with us for our first ski trip together by dusting the ground overnight. That was not the end of the snowfall during our stay. I was thankful for that, because skiing is dependent upon snow, you see, and the real stuff is fluffier and more slippery than the man made stuff. We were rewarded plenty.
As you see in the photo above, if you want to plan a Taos, New Mexico ski trip in February, they get significant snowfall. It’s interesting to note that with the extreme diversity of the three southwestern states, (New Mexico, Arizona, and California), comes desert atmosphere and snowy ski hills all on the same day.
Taos most certainly is in the high country, at the southern beginning of the Rockies. The highest peak at the resort is kachina (12,500 feet) and the highest living quarters is private lodging, up above the resort at 10,500 feet, where we stayed. Pictured here is the main resort lodging in the village at the foot of the main side of the resort. Geographically, it’s all forest filled mountains, and snow.
Taos in the winter offers some truly amazing scenery, and challenging terrain.
As it turns out, I agree with many reviews claiming that Taos is not an easy place to learn to ski. The “easy” ski trails here are more difficult than at other ski resorts. Green slopes like Rubezahl can quickly change to blue on you, when you’re a new skier who’s just learning how to conquer gravity.
At the end of our first day of skiing that began at the base of Kachina Peak, we found the bunny hill far away form our condo on the other mountain. This was to be our destination for the remainder of our stay, and it’s a darn good thing we had the Jeep with us to lug ski stuff and lunch back and forth. When I booked the condo, I envisioned skiing out of our parking lot over to that side the whole time, but that “green trail” called Rubezahl that passes from our mountain to the other presents some blue treachery for a timid first time skier. Better to just drive over to the parking lot that is basically at the foot of the bunny hill.
The Snow Conditions
Conditions were great; a combination of man made snow and natural snow base was topped with more making of snow and fresh snow falls. Ice was rare, but it was kind of crusty in rare places where it was steep and soon to become ice.
Seems to me that Taos doesn’t groom the fun out of their hills. Many resorts groom their trails smooth, but I like bumps. Of course they groom the greens and the bunny hill significantly, but elsewhere they seem to let it be for the most part.
The Lift Lines
Surprisingly, there were very little lift lines compared to what I’m used to. I don’t think we ever lined up at the treadmill, and the bunny chair might have had a dozen skiers ahead of us at the busiest. Perhaps the lack of lines was due to the end of Coronapocalypse; perhaps due to the fact that we were using the bunny hill treadmill and chair, and not many first timers come to Taos because it is known to be “difficult”.
Steve’s Taos New Mexico Ski Trip Mood: STOKED! Originating from the “Great White North”, Steve is an avid skier, (a former ski bum), who loves both the serenity of pow (smooth new snow), glading or boony bashing (off trail, in the trees), and the adrenaline of shredding the bumps (moguls).
Carol’s Taos New Mexico Ski Trip Mood: NERVOUS! The thrill of speeding through the snow, and somewhat dangerously challenging herself, is completely foreign to Carol, who has never been on skis or done anything more in snow other than play in it a few times.
Carol was petrified. Sliding without control, pulled by gravity, speed increasing, two long boards strapped to her feet impeding her balance. Those are the ingredients in the recipe for disaster. There was significant, just, anxiety. There was pouting out of frustration and fear. (Secretly I think there was some anger held toward me for getting her into this predicament.) Disaster struck a fair way down the first run of her ski career, en route to the main lodge, where the green trail magically became a steep blue trail. Her chin met the top of her ski pole as she fell forward. I thought that she would give up and head to the lodge and just wait it out while I went off and did my solo thing. Nope. Carol’s a trooper and she stuck with it. There were rewards, like confidence and joy. She still held a lessening degree of fear of learning to ski throughout the three days, but there was much more laughter.
Taos Ski Trip Summary
To get to the slopes on February 11th, 2022, we drove almost 800 miles in 13 hours. Lights went out soon after arrival so the skis could go on early in the morning. First thing in the morning we had to find Christy’s Demo Rental Shop where we reserved our equipment (at a 20% discount through our condo rental) so we could get the bindings set and ensure our snug ski boot fit. ⛷️
We decided that if Carol liked this skiing thing and would like to go more often, we will eventually buy ski boots for future trips. If we have our own boots, we’ll have our own familiar fit that is hopefully more comfy than rental boots.
All in all, it was a fabulous trip, and Carol ended up liking it enough to try it again… next year.
On The Slopes of Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Our first day ever of skiing together was, how would you say, beautiful and eventful.
Here’s a photo (left, you can click to expand it) of Carol standing tentatively at the beginning of her very first ski run, at Taos Kachina lift #4 across the road from our condo.
Steve eagerly anticipating the very first ski run, at Taos Kachina lift #4 where the green run connects us to “the other side”, hoping to find suitable ground (relative flatness!) for Carol to learn to ski. Turns out there are some blue level drop offs along this run. Carol’s demise!
On day #1, we got up late and took the Jeep leftward out of the condo lot, up to the Bavarian Restaurant to see what parking was like and what the access to the connector trail was like. After that we set out on foot to the right of the condo, looking around for a way to get across the little creek to that same slope that led to the other mountain with the learner hill. Not far away to the right we found a hiking trail that had a wooden walking bridge, and that’s where we wanted to carry our skis out to the base of lift #4. We decided not to drive the couple of blocks to the Bavarian Restaurant Lodge parking lot at the base of the Kachina lift #4 from our condo for the day, so it was a bit of a hike to get to our skiing starting point.
At 10,500 feet, anything simple can take the breath out of you, whether it’s because of your activity, or your view, and you have to note that this is at the base of the ski hill. Kachina Peak itself is 12,500′ elevation. From the base of this lift, there is a ski trail downward across mountains to the main ski area of Taos Ski Valley where the learner slope is. This trail is marked as a “green” ski trail, but in Taos, green means there will be a lot of “blue” sections along the way, so you have to be cautious. Alone, I later skied this trail across in about 4 minutes, but for Carol’s first exposure to the feeling of having to move and balance on 4 foot boards, it took the better part of our first afternoon. That length of time posed a significant problem later as I’ll explain, if you want to read about the terror on the mountain. lol
There is no place to learn to ski at Taos Kachina Peak from lift #4 unless you want to do so on the first 100 yards and then take you skis off and walk back to the beginning over and over again. Learners staying up here need to drive from Kachina down to Taos Ski Valley main parking lot and take the trolley to the lifts, unless you arrive there before 8:30am when you can park close enough to walk.
Our 2nd and 3rd ski days involved loading our ski boots and lunch into the Jeep and driving the mile to Taos Ski Valley’s main parking lot so that we could avoid the terror on the connector trail that led from our condo to the learner hill.
Learning to Ski at Taos Ski Valley
After the first day’s fiasco of skiing a “green” trail from Kachina to the main lodge area, we found the bunny slope at Pioneer chair lift. You can actually go up a quarter of the way on a conveyor belt, and even half way if you transition to a second conveyor belt. The first conveyor doesn’t get you high enough to generate any slope for enough speed to learn anything. The above video shows that the halfway point is still a very slow speed descent, but it’s manageable for learning to ski.
Looking Back On Our Taos, New Mexico Ski Trip
Getting all the way up there to our Taos, New Mexico ski trip was a long boring drive from San Antonio, but worth it. We’d definitely do it again, or maybe try Angel Fire, NM next time (same area).
Where we stayed, on Kachina Peak, is a difficult place to try to learn to ski. You have to go to Taos Ski Valley main resort to find the learning slope with the easy lifts (Pioneer chairlift and conveyor belts).
It’s a pricey area to ski with gas, lodging, rental equipment, and lift tickets, but certainly worth it. You could go a lot more luxurious and expensive than we did, and you could also go a little cheaper if you wouldn’t mind driving in to the resort from the bigger town of Taos about 45 minutes away.
To get groceries we had to drive 22 miles to Taos (about 45 minutes away), and that wasn’t even terrible. The twisty roads were super fun, and the couple of tiny towns were cool to see with their artsy, rural appeal.
It’s a VERY beautiful area, at the south end of the Rocky Mountains.