Ask a hardcore local to name the most romantic spot in Taos and there’s a good chance he or she will point up — to the resort’s iconic, 12,481-foot summit, Kachina Peak. “I have several friends who have gotten engaged on the peak,” says Ana Karina Armijo, a local graphic designer who has lived in and skied Taos for two decades.
In the past, reaching the summit — for love or adventure — required an arduous 45-minute hike from the top of Chair 2. This year, a new lift, one of the highest in North America, will shuttle riders there. That’s thanks to Taos Ski Valley’s new owner, hedge-fund billionaire Louis Bacon, who bought the resort in 2013.
Bacon is planning other upgrades to the mountain, as well as some commercial and residential development. But Taos likely will remain one of the most tranquil destinations in the country, a unique mashup of killer skiing, Native American culture, and art-colony ambience. Taos Ski Valley (at 9,200 feet, the highest town in the U.S.) is a 1,300-acre spread in the shadow of Kachina Peak at the very southern tip of the Rockies. That means terrain that looks and skis a lot like Telluride: steep, technical, and full of tight chutes and challenging glades. Being so far south, Taos gets more sun than most other ski resorts (300-plus days a year), yet it still averages more than 300 inches of snow. And because of the arid climate, when it does dump, the powder is bone dry.
A 30-minute drive down canyon brings you to the city of Taos, which is a different world altogether, with more than 100 art galleries, many of them housed in 200-year-old adobe buildings. Farolitos, used a century ago to light the way to churches, still line many pathways and streets in winter, and locals still burn piñon wood in chalet fireplaces. About 10 minutes away, you’ll find the UNESCO-designated Taos Pueblo, a thousand-year-old Native American habitation where Taos Indians still live and practice traditional arts. Ojo Caliente, a nearby hot springs, is a perfect place to soak sore quads. For dinner, check out Lambert’s, a tony steakhouse known for elk and venison — it sits next door to the former home of Governor Charles Bent, who in 1847 was scalped by locals revolting against the American government. “Taos is not a new town,” says Hano Blake, the 38-year-old grandson of Ernie and Rhoda Blake, who founded the ski resort in 1955. “It’s got real history.”
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