First-ever Ski Guide to New Mexico

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~Taos Ski Valley has its place among some great resorts

Local author and journalist Daniel Gibson has recently released the first-ever comprehensive look at New Mexico’s ski scene. The book, published by the University of New Mexico Press, is titled Skiing New Mexico: A Guide to Snow Sports in the Land of Enchantment. The softbound full color book spans 130 pages and includes 65 color and black and white photos. Jean Mayer, founder/owner of the beloved Hotel St. Bernard at Taos Ski Valley, wrote the introduction. “This is a must-read for anyone who has, or wants to, ski and snowboard New Mexico,” says Peter Kray, Santa Fe-based ski journalist and author of The God of Skiing and American Snow. “A treasure trove of insightful, compelling information presented in a wonderfully personable style, Skiing New Mexico belongs in every skier’s library.” The invaluable book tells you everything there is to know about skiing and snowboarding in the Land of Enchantment, with thousands of helpful details on the state’s downhill ski resorts, and cross-country and backcountry venues. Each ski area is profiled in a separate chapter, including details on facilities and services such as childcare and instructional options; statistics like average snowfall, vertical drop, and lift capacity; transportation options, including shuttle and bus services; and prices of lift tickets, rental equipment, and lessons. The book includes maps to each ski area. The author also includes the history of each ski area and its founders, suggestions for best runs by type of terrain, activities off the slopes, and notes on his favorite places to eat—such as Rhoda’s, The Bavarian, the Stray Dog Cantina, the Blonde Bear Tavern and Molly’s Crepe Escape—and to places to stay—including The Blake, the Hotel St. Bernard, Sierra del Sol, Alpine Village Suites and the Edelweiss.

Separate chapters on cross-country and backcountry downhill skiing are equally informative. Veteran ski journalist, editor and author Daniel Gibson wrote the book. He grew up skiing in New Mexico, and lives in Santa Fe, where he has written the weekly snow sports column “Snow Trax” for 25 years that appears in the Santa Fe New Mexican. The book is priced at $20 and is widely available at bookstores, or can be ordered online; four e-book versions are also available at or near $10.

The chapter on TSV includes these notes.
Amazing Fact: Taos helped pioneer in-bound extreme skiing in the U.S. The original road to the ski area had more than a dozen at water level crossings.

The Bottom Line: Taos Ski Valley, the largest and most renowned ski area in New Mexico, features world-class terrain and typically excellent snow, in a laid back, friendly, unconventional and legendary culture. Known as an experts’ Valhalla, it’s large enough to have terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders.

Background: Taos Ski Valley (TSV) has a character and ambiance unlike any other community in New Mexico. The mystical, harshly beautiful and haunting character of northern New Mexico pervades the craggy peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that wrap their arms around this enclave. Here one feels transported to another realm, a different time and place with an almost magical aura.

Perhaps it is the mix of its original European founders—people like Ernie Blake and the Hotel St. Bernard owner Jean Mayer, and all the instructors and innkeepers and administrators Ernie recruited many decade ago to come to the high desert—home to Taos
Pueblo Indians and Hispanic farmers—and launch a ski resort. It seemed impossible then, and still improbable, that it made it. The 1960s and 70s brought a huge influx of hippies and other seekers to the region, producing a hybrid culture like none other.

That it harbors unique people is clear. Also notable is the sheer majesty of the locale. Atop Chair 2, the world falls away in an awesome panorama of sharply etched peaks, huge bowls and vistas of more distant mountains, including the San Juans of Colorado, nearby Gold Hill and the state’s highest summit, Wheeler Peak. You take a big breath of the pine-scented, crisp air, steeling yourself for the drop into the massive old growth trees of Pollux, scan the view one more time and push off. There’s new lessons and age-old truths waiting to be revealed—if you’re ready.

Cut off from the surrounding high desert terrain and tucked within the folds of the Hondo Valley, the ski area seems unusually welded to its environment. Serious skiers and lovers of high alpine country flock here from around the world, drawn to its multicultural ambiance and the old-fashioned emphasis given here to the skiing rather than creature comforts or flash. Many return over the years and even generations for the incredibly light and prodigious snowfall (more than 25 feet typically) and the challenging skiing found amid the highest peaks in the state.