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Taos Ski Valley

Taos Ski Valley is the biggest ski resort in New Mexico and one of more than 500 in the US. Except for its size, the main feature of the resort is Kachina Peak Lift, leading to its main mountain with the same name, Kachina Peak (12,481 ft / 3,804 m). It is one of the highest elevation triple chairs in North America. The Taos ski resort is also known for its rugged terrain covered by black runs, so it is best suitable for advanced skiers. However, for intermediate and easy skiing as well, the resort has more than 12.4 mi (20 km) of runs each. In total there are 68.3 mi (110 km) of slopes and 13 ski lifts at Taos. The Taos Ski Valley season is from late November to early/mid-April in general with the most snow in the state.

Kachina Peak - Taos Ski Valley

Kachina Peak and its Lift - Taos Ski Valley

Location

Taos Ski Valley Ski Resort is located in the Taos County on the north of the state in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Southern Rocky Mountains at an altitude between 9,350 and 12,481 ft (2,849 m and 3,804 m) with a difference of 3,131 ft (914 m).

The whole Taos County is littered with prominent peaks and recreation areas, including, for example, Wheeler Peak (13,169 ft / 4,014 m) and Taos Canyon, perfect for white-water rafting or kayaking when the snow begins to melt. Taos Ski Valley is also part of Carson National Forest and is adjacent to the Wheeler Wilderness Area, which means that camping and hiking abounds in the summer months. In the winter, try out some snowshoeing or snowmobiling if your ski legs need a rest. Snowmobiling tours start at the base of Lift 1.

Kachina Peak Landscape

Taos Ski Valley

Getting to and Around Taos Ski Valley

I was able to get to Taos Ski Valley quickly and easily thanks to its close proximity to two relatively large cities, surrounded by several regional airports, where you can take shuttles from several companies, including a free one.

Nearest Airports

The nearest airport to the Taos Ski Valley Ski Resort is the Taos Regional Airport in just about 18 mi (28.9 km) from the mountain, with complimentary shuttles and rental cars available for passengers. The namesake Taos Air offers direct round-trip transportation from four major US cities: Austin, Dallas, San Diego, and Burbank. But there are others:

  • The city of Santa Fe is 92 mi (14 km) or a 1.5 hour drive from Taos Ski Valley. Its Santa Fe Regional Airport is serviced by two airlines.
  • Further away, the Albuquerque International Sunport (airport) is 152 mi (244 km) or 2.75 hours by car away and home to eight major airlines.
  • Denver International Airport is also an option, but it is much farther, at 303 mi (488 km) or 5 hours-drive from Taos.

Taos Air

Taos Air - Taos Ski Valley

Shuttle Services

Then you have a couple of options if you are opting to travel from Santa Fe or Albuquerque to Taos. Several private shuttle services are available, including Santa Fe Valet, Mountain View Shuttle, and Taos Rides. A free and low-fare RTD shuttle system also runs between Santa Fe and Taos. This system is probably your easiest and cheapest bet, although it might not be the fastest.

Parking Lots

Traveling to Taos Ski Valley is also easy with a rental car you can also find in Santa Fe or Albuquerque.

But if you’re planning to drive up to Taos Ski Valley, know that the parking is tight. The lots fill up quickly, especially on powder days. A free shuttle at the resort will take you from the parking to the base area, although the walk is not too far.

An upper lot also accommodates overnight parking/camping on a first-come-first-served basis. If you’re looking to splurge, paid parking is available near the front of the base area. 20 EV chargers are also there in the parking lot across from Sutton Place. Save gas by carpooling or take the shuttle from the same system from Taos proper to the resort, which is free during winter months.

Season

Taos Ski Valley Ski Resort usually opens around late November and closes around early/mid-April. The best time to visit Taos is in February and March. You’ll catch the most snowfall and the chutes will be filled up on the ridges.

For the holidays, make sure to catch Taos’s Christmas Eve Torchlight Parades — the main event at the resort during this period.

Snow and Weather Conditions

Taos Ski

Taos Ski Valley

Taos is 60% north facing and at a high elevation, so it retains quality snow into April. The resort is perfectly situated at the western edge of the Rocky Mountains range, meaning storm systems which bring in light, fluffy snow relatively unobstructed by other mountains.

According to Taos’s official site, the resort averages 300 inches (7.6 m) of annual snowfall, though the past decade has averaged closer to 200 inches (5 m). The resort has a complex snow making regime and has come to rely heavily on it in past seasons, but still the resort overall harbors the most snow for any resort in New Mexico.

At an average of 300 sunny days per year, you’re also likely to land a bluebird pow day.

Taos Ski Valley Map

If you look at the Taos Ski Valley map, you will see that the resort isn’t large compared to others in the US, Canada, and the European Alps, but some navigational awareness is definitely a plus, especially so you don’t end up in any unwanted advanced terrain. So remember the five large areas of the resort. I will mention them again further in the guide:

  • Lower Front Side
  • Upper Front Side
  • Back Side
  • Highline Ridge
  • West Basin Ridge

To get anywhere, you’ll first have to ride up Lift 1. Lap this front-side lift for easily accessible black runs. But don’t fear, head skiers right to lifts 2 and 8 for some blue and green runs. Lift 2 will take you to the center of the ski area, where you’ll have plenty more opportunity for advanced and expert level runs and green groomers. Using the top of Lift 2 as your orienting point, you’ll be able to access both the Back and both Front sides of the Kachina Peak mountain. Plus, just in case, the ski patrol headquarters is there at the top of lifts 2, 4, and the Kachina Peak Lift. To report an accident, call 575.776.0505.

Taos Slopes and Ski Lifts

Except for the highest ski lifts, Taos Ski Valley is also known for its rugged terrain with cliffs, tight trees, and knee deep powder (51% of its slopes are for advanced skiing), but beginner (24%) and intermediate (25%) skiers can also find their groove here.

Please note that the official color scheme of the slopes in Taos is slightly different from the generally accepted in the world:

  • the easiest runs are green 🟢 instead of blue 🔵,
  • medium difficulty are blue 🟦 instead of red 🔴,
  • advanced are also black ⚫.

The ski lifts are marked in red on a map.

The longest slope is Honeysuckle, which is a green that loops from the top of Lift 2 to the Back Side part of the resort for 5 mi (8 km).

There’s a small smattering of greens and blues on the Back Side, serviced by Lift 4, and ending at the resort’s famed Bavarian Restaurant. Beginner and intermediate skiers should also look to lap Lift 8, or Bambi (a blue) from the top of Lift 2.

But let’s go back to advanced skiing at Taos for which it is better known. These skiers will have a field day exploring all that resort has to offer. Al’s run down Lift 1 is a classic, steep rip and Stauffenberg and Wild West Glades are popular runs from West Basin Ridge. If you’re looking for some leg burners, hit Upper Castor to find some moguls and well spaced trees.

Anyway, make sure to check out the Kachina Peak Lift. It was built relatively recently, in 2014, and now services an area that was once only accessible after a grueling 45-minute bootpack. Now you escape this challenge.

At the top, you’ll be able to see Wheeler Peak (13,169 ft / 4,014 m) — New Mexico’s highest point, which is also a so-called 13er or a mountain higher than 13,000 ft (3,962 m) having at least 300 ft (91 m) of prominence, and many other peaks of the Southern Rocky Mountains.

The Main Street slope, black diamond just below the Kachina Lift, often gets moguled out by the crowd, but head over to skiers left for some chutes.

Skiers be warned: both the hike-to terrain from Lift 2 and the terrain off Kachina is truly advanced and expert-level skiing. so know your skill level and/or ski with a guide. Ski patrol keeps a stuffed ski dummy dubbed “Slidell” underneath Lift 2 to remind patrons how to self arrest when they fall. Such slopes in the resort are drawn with a black dotted lines, as opposed to the usual advanced runs in the form of a continuous line of the same black color.

Not vying for the steeps but looking for some excitement? Head to the Back Side part of the Taos Ski Resort to find a well-featured terrain Lone Star Skills Park with several beginner and more-advanced runs. Head also to the base area for some free sledding (in this case, bring-your-own-sled) and some ice skating.

As for skiing into the night, Taos doesn’t offer it but one of the nearby ski resorts, Angel Fire, does. It is an intermediate resort perfect for families which is most easily visited by car (drivers beware: avoid Palo Flechado pass during snow storms). It also offers snow tubing during the day, which Taos also doesn't. But you can find quite a large snowboard park and several sled slopes at the resort.

Cross-сountry skiing is another feature with a “+” sign. The resort’s Enchanted Forest is a mere 45-minutes away from Taos on NM highway 38 in the Carson National Forest. While not officially part of the Taos ski resort, the area is free, patrolled, signed, and groomed. There are 21 mi (33 km) of 12–16 (3.6–4.8 m) ft wide rails for classic and freestyle skiing with 9.3 mi (15 km) devoted to snow shoes, and 5 km (mi) of special trails to ski with a dog.

Among the other features of the Taos resort related to skiing, it is worth noting the snowboard park, sled slopes, and ice-skating field, but the lack of snow tubing.

In case you miss something else in Taos, two other nearest ski resorts to it are Red River, which can be reached by bus 310, and Sipapu. The list of other places for skiing in New Mexico include Ski Santa Fe, Sandia Peak, Ski Apache, and others — there are about 10 ski resorts in total in the state.

So, let's summarize the information about the slopes, ski lifts and other skiing related features of Taos Ski Valley resort:

Slopes

  • Slopes total length: 68.3 mi (110 km)
  • Types of slopes: easy (green) — 16.7 mi (27 km) or 24%; intermediate (blue) — 17.3 mi (28 km) or 25%; advanced (black) — 36 mi (58 km) or 51%
  • Longest slope: Honeysuckle (5 mi / 8 km)
  • Popular slopes: Al’s Run, Stauffenberg, Wild West Glades, Porcupine
  • Total skiable terrain: 1,294 acres or 523.7 hectares

Ski lifts

  • Total lifts: 13 (1 gondola, 1 high-speed quad, 4 triples, 3 surface lifts, and 3 quads)
  • Lifts operating hours: 9 am to 4 pm in general during a winter season
  • Top station: Kachina Peak (12,481 ft / 3,804 m)
  • Base station: 9,350 ft (2,849 m)
  • Difference between stations (max vertical drop): 3,131 ft (914 m)
  • Average height: 4,000 ft (1,219 m)
  • Lifts capacity: 15,000+ skiers per hour (19,000+ inc. carpets)

Other skiing related features

  • Artificial snow: yes (almost 100% of beginner and intermediate slopes)
  • Night skiing: no
  • Cross-country ski trails: 20.5 mi (33 km)
  • Snowshoe trails: 9.3 mi (15 km)
  • Snowboard park: yes
  • Sled slopes: yes
  • Snow tubing: no
  • Ice-skating field: yes

Taos Ice Rink

Ice Rink - Taos Ski Valley

Taos Backcountry Skiing

There are no official backcountry gates that leave Taos ski area, but much of the in-bounds terrain, which is avalanche controlled, is what you would find off-piste.

Freeride Taos

Taos Ski Valley

At the top of Lift 2, bootpack around 15-minutes to reach Highline and West Basin ridges — the other two of the five parts of the area. High winds and exposed rock are common. Along the West Basin, my favorite (and an infamous spot) is the Tequila chutes. Cuervo, the middle chute, is a blast. These chutes aren’t on the Taos ski map, so ask around for directions and ski with a buddy.

If you are looking for some true backcountry skiing, head out with a local guide to show you the way. Don’t duck ropes unless you want to get into some serious legal trouble. Never venture into backcountry terrain without the proper equipment, knowledge, and a trustworthy group of friends: beacon, shovel, and probe are a must.

Ski Pass and Discounts

Taos ski valley is on the Ikon and Mountain Collective ski passes, which are both great options if you plan to ski at other resorts. I would recommend that.

Important: If you have an Ikon ski pass for the upcoming ski season (at least at the time of publication of this guide in December 2022), daily reservations are needed to make sure you reserve your spot on the mountain. Mountain Collective ski pass holders do not need to make a reservation.

Both of these passes will take you around the world, but at Taos the Ikon will give you 7–5 days of skiing on the mountain depending on your pass selection. The Mountain Collective pass will give you 2 days at Taos.

Regular day passes at Taos ski resort vary in price. If you buy in advance, tickets can be as low as $95. Buy within 72 hours and spend up to $155. If you buy a ticket the day of, an adult will cost up to $175. Holiday ticket rates may cost more.

Services

Childcare a drag? Want some skiing tips? Taos has you covered.

  • The Rio Hondo Learning Center is located at the base area and will take care of your tots ages 2-months to 3-years.
  • The Ernie Blake Snowsports School is an award-winning, nationally ranked ski school accommodating beginner to expert skiers.
  • Gear rentals are also plentiful and can easily found online at the resorts’ official site. Don’t miss Bootdoctors for some professional ski boot fitting.
  • A week-long skiing experiences are offered by a resorts’ ski school along with typical lessons. You can choose from the Classic Ski Week (running every week starting in mid-December), Race Ski Week, or Women’s week. Lessons will last for around 2 ½ hours per day and allow skiers to meet like-minded shredders.
  • Request a shorter ski tour with a Taos Pro Guide to explore the steeps, If a week is too long.

Taos Rescue Dogs

Taos Ski Valley

Tourist Information

Before or after skiing, visit the resort’s and the region's official tourist offices, located in Taos Ski Valley and the town of Taos:

Taos Ski Valley Info

116 Sutton Place, Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico (NM), 87525, United States

Reservations: 888.388.8457, reservations@skitaos.com

Snow phone: 844.828.5601

General inquiries: info@skitaos.com

Taos Visitor Center

1139 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, Taos, New Mexico (NM), 87571, United States

Tuesday — Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, closed on other days

+15757583873

ask@taos.org

Taos.org

Food and Drinks

Bring a lunch box or splurge at a German-style eatery. Whatever way you swing it, you’ll be satisfied at Taos Ski Valley.

For the frugal, packed lunches abound in the cafeteria-style lodges of Taos, so never fear carrying a thermos of soup with you. If you plan to bring your own lunch, stop at the grocery stores in town, where food is cheapest. Walmart is typically the best option.

Aside from the die-hard ski bum sandwich or mug of Ramen, epic aprés and eats can be found all around.

On the mountain, check out Bumps Market for burritos and the Bavarian Restaurant, the best one at the Taos resort, for some classic bratwurst at the base of Lift 4. Shuttles are available to and from the main base area to get to the restaurant after the lifts stop spinning. To satiate your thirst, try The Blake for fancy cocktails or the restaurant at the Hotel Saint Bernard’s for a more relaxed atmosphere in addition to great food.

Taos Town

Bavarian Restaurant - Taos Ski Valley

In the downtown of Taos, check out Doc Martin’s Restaurant, a historical, local staple, or Alley Cantina for some drinks. The World Cup is the most popular local coffee spot.

Lodging in Taos Ski Valley

You can really find every type of lodging at Taos Ski Valley. Staying right at the base brings convenience, but the town of Taos (about a 30-minute drive away from the base area) is full of art and historical roots, and some cheaper accommodation options. So here’ just a few ones for your choice:

At the base

Taos Base

Taos Ski Valley

  • The Blake at Taos Ski Valley is an 80-room guest house at the base of Lift 1. With on call service, a pool, and spa, this recently new hotel built in 2017 is a convenient luxury stay.
  • Snakedance Condominiums is a perfect option for families or couples. With studios to three-bedroom units, these apartments give you access to a kitchen and are located right on the slopes.
  • At the Bavarian Lodge at the base of Kachina Peak get ski-in-ski-out convenience, with some major style points. Its four guest suites offer some classic, quaint accommodations. Pro tip: the King Ludwig suite overlooks the mountains and has a large balcony.

Blake Residences

The Blake - Taos Ski Valley

In the Taos town

Taos Town

  • Stay in the town square at the Hotel La Fonda de Taos to be within walking distance from world-renowned art galleries, shopping, and more.
  • If you’re aiming for likely the cheapest (and most social) option, Snow Mansion Hostel is my go to spot. Private rooms, suites, and shared bunk housing are available there. The lobby is cozy and the kitchen is spacious. You can easily meet some new ski buddies there. But be warned, Snow Mansion is located about halfway between Taos Ski Valley and the proper town, so nothing is particularly close, except for an expensive, small grocery store.

Nearby Towns and Cities

As a town, Taos is known for its historic adobe architecture and its art scene. For example, Georgia O’Keefe, an American modernist artist famously spent time in the region, painting the Ranchos Church and other landscapes of New Mexico, for which she is also well-known now. Overall, the main street is littered with art galleries. Two curated thrift shops, Metamorphic Second Hand and Re-Threads are also great spots to find some funky clothing.

Ranchos Church

Sore muscles after skiing? Ask locals where to find natural hot springs along the Rio Grande or head to some hot spring spas nearby for a more curated experience.

As it should be suggested, the more distant cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque have a much larger array of architecture, various landmarks, and points of interest, so I would also recommend stopping in one of them on the way to and from the resort, or going to them on purpose from Taos Ski Valley for a day trip.

mountain lifts
Status Type Name
Opening Hours
open
Gondolita
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
2 858 m - 2 888 m
open
Kachina Peak Lift
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
3 460 m - 3 796 m
open
Lift 1
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
2 881 m - 3 392 m
open
Lift 2
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
3 277 m - 3 598 m
open
Lift 4
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
3 112 m - 3 483 m
open
Lift 7
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
3 218 m - 3 502 m
open
Lift 7A
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
3 505 m - 3 587 m
open
Lift 8
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
3 064 m - 3 423 m
open
Pioneer
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
2 891 m - 2 920 m
open
Rueggli
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
2 842 m - 2 868 m
open
Zipper 1
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
2 845 m - 2 850 m
open
Zipper 2
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
2 855 m - 2 859 m
Zipper 3
09:00-16:00
09:00-16:00
Status
opened
Opening hours
09:00-16:00
Schedule period
2.8.2023 - 2.15.2023
Start - End
2 878 m - 2 885 m
Show all 13 lifts
Show only 10 lifts