Ski, Sun and Fun, you can have it all in
Article & Photography by Michael Morcos
Often over-shadowed by the Rocky Mountains in neighboring Colorado, the skiing adventures available in the New Mexico portion offer some of the best skiing in North America!
Our 4-day adventure starts in Santa Fe, a picturesque and charming town that would be an ideal setting for a western cowboy film. New Mexico is a unique part of America, with a rich history from ancient Native American ruins filled with petroglyphs to a living history museum devoted to Spanish Colonial life. Santa Fe, founded between 1607 and 1610, is the oldest capital in the U.S with a layered, textured past, all a history buff could ask for. It was a great place to start off from, especially considering the filling and delicious supper we enjoyed the first night at La Fonda on the Plaza, a historic building and one of the better hotels in town. Modern day Santa Fe has also received a mention of distinction by becoming the first U.S. city to be chosen by UNESCO as a ‘Creative City’, one of only nine cities in the world to hold this designation!
The next day, my party and three others started out on four days of unforgettable skiing in the New Mexico Rockies, where we would ski at three different ski hills. Each one has a unique and local flavor and are the economic hubs of their communities.
Ski Santa Fe
Ski Santa Fe was our first taste of New Mexican skiing. This immense ski area is very clean and organized, with breathtaking views from on top.
The skiing was phenomenal and the hills offer deep powder, groomed runs, world class tree skiing and amazingly scenic chair rides, including the New Millennium Triple Chairlift that takes skiers to a new height of 12,075 feet and some of the southwest’s finest skiing. The runs are mostly narrower than other Rocky Mountain ski areas which are nice for advanced skiers, but beginners can find their ideal hill as well. It was an enjoyable day, where skiers can visit the Totemoff Lodge half-way up the mountain, where you can find a great tortilla soup to warm up and also enjoy the local Santa Fe Brewing Company beer on tap. The vibe in the Lodge is as laid back as the folks in the town, but the skiers are serious!
For those who enjoy cross-country skiing and snow shoeing, the area is a paradise with well marked and easy to find trails.
After skiing at Ski Santa Fe, we were offered a really wonderful and unexpected treat, a visit to a Japanese heath spa. It was a little peculiar as it is not something you would think of in the far Southwestern USA, but it was a real pleasure to soak in a hot tub with mountain scenery all round. After relaxing, we enjoyed a small snack in the Spa’s authentic Japanese restaurant.
That night we went to eat at a local favorite hotspot, American Cowgirl, an absolutely delightful restaurant where cowgirls in hats and boots serve guests. Often considered the best BBQ in the city, you can expect excellent local music on the outdoor patio. They have a great selection of beers and superb cocktails and an amazing menu, including some delicious Chile Rellenos and one of the best pork sandwiches I have ever eaten!
Another unique experience we enjoyed was a true ‘taste’ of the American Wild West at the Santa Fe Spirits. For a small place, it packs a mighty wallop! Offering tasters of their home-made, locally-sourced apple brandy, white whiskey (sort of tastes like tequila), smoked whiskey, vodka, gin, and great grain whiskeys, all were delicious and smooth tasting. If you can, try to take the tour of the distillery, as the machine is beautiful and learning about this start-up’s process is quite inspiring too. For me, I enjoyed a nice whiskey sour that went down well as a toast to end our two day stay and ski in Santa Fe.
Each ski area offers a blend of activities for visitors both on and off the mountain. During the visit to each local, you can enjoy private instruction, skiing or boarding with an expert mountain guide or exploring the mountain on your own. Snowshoeing and cross country are other options to pursue. The Red River community is located far from civilization and has inviting, friendly locals who understand the appeal to world-wide skiers. Red River is a real ski town, and prides itself on being one of the most family friendly ski areas in the US and love welcoming kids!
For us, upon arrival, a ski grooming tracker modified for passengers took us all the way to the top for supper at ‘The Tip’ mountain top restaurant was a great thrill. The Chef was very quirky and served us some amazing dishes. After dinner he would race us down the hill, beating us by a mile as the tracker was much slower.
Skiing time! Conveniently, two out of six chairlifts leave from just a short stroll from Red River’s Main Street. There is a nice place for children to ski on their own, and for the more seasoned skiers, the main ski lift goes up about 10,000 feet on a beautiful and peaceful ride. Snow on the trees shone in the sunlight like a mountain of clear crystals, making the ski day a magical and hypnotic one. This area has just the right mix of challenges and kid friendly fun slopes. The runs are well manicured and the staff was very helpful.
Downtime was spent walking around the village, which has just the right amount of recreation, shopping and leisure activities.
Taos Ski Valley
Fortuitous timing had us, well, the most daring and advanced among us at least, able to enjoy one of the biggest events in North American skiing this year – skiing the Taos Ski Valley Mountain’s celebrated Kachina Peak via a chairlift! The Kachina Peak Lift climbs to 12,450 feet, making it one of the highest chairlifts in North America and has increased the mountain’s advanced and expert lift-serviced terrain by 50 percent.
I was amazed just how good the ski school was as they helped to prepare us for Kachina Peak. It is also like having a guide personally show you around the mountain. I can think of no better place for beginners to come to learn.
The mountain itself has something for everyone, from challenging, steep runs spread all over the ski area, to many other tracks that can accommodate all skill levels. I did notice something else really great, that there were rarely any waiting in lift lines! Great snow conditions and everything you could want!
After the skiing, our guide highly recommended and took us to St. Bernards for an après ski drink. The owner Jean Mayer and his staff have created a home away from home for their guests. Here we rubbed shoulders with fellow skiers and instructors. As we were just there for a quick drink, we were invited back to stay at this wonderful hotel and restaurant at the foot of the mountain.
Considering Taos is a modern, large ski resort area, both staff and visitors at Taos are as nice as I’ve met, the vibe is fun, loving and low key. The Town of Taos has interesting architecture, great shopping and delicious dining. Influences are numerous and from many places, including Spanish, Indian and Mexican that make the town different than most others in the United States.
Our resort offered us new and very modern rooms that are, well decorated and offered a balcony with an amazing view. The amenities, staff and service were all top notch and it was a great stay.
For our last evening of the trip, we were treated to a great dinner at The Bavarian restaurant with typical Bavarian fare, all set in a chalet constructed just like an authentic German Cabin. The gourmet menu features sophisticated and hearty German dishes, including such traditional food as Sauerbraten, Wienerschnitzel, or Käsespätzle, with twinned wine or specially imported beers from the Spaten Brewery in Munich. American staples are also available, including salads, sandwiches, and burgers.
I took a platter of Sauerbraten and enjoyed every bite…the Bavarian was another unexpected treat in New Mexico!
New Mexico was good food, great folks, and amazing skiing!
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