Taos Ski Valley: Swiss Alpine vibe

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Like many of the small communities that dot the mountain passes of Northern New Mexico, the village of Taos Ski Valley was born from timber and ore mining.

In the 1600s, Spaniards extracted ore from the rugged terrain until their limitations caught up with them. The area was reopened to industries in the early 1900s after new mining methods were invented.

Three mining companies were operating in the valley in the early 1900s and mining continued to be the primary activity until 1906, when it declined due to other limitations – this time because of the weather.

The village sprung shortly after World War II, when Orville E. Pattison purchased land in what is now part of Carson National Forest. To the south, the village is bordered by Wheeler Peak Wilderness.

Ernie Blake initiated the development of the ski area in the mid-1950s. That vision cascaded into a demand for homes, lodging and commercial outlets. Seeing the need and opportunity, the Pattison family began to sell land parcels in the 1960s. Water rights were later purchased and harnessed for human use. The family continues to be involved in the development of the village, which was incorporated as a municipality in 1996.

In its 50-plus years, Taos Ski Valley has become synonymous with steep-and-deep skiing, short lift lines, tree skiing and gullies, cheese fondue and German brews found at The Bavarian Lodge & Restaurant. A hot spot for après-ski, The Bavarian hosts live music and events on its popular deck at the bottom of the breathtaking Kachina Basin. The Bavarian restaurant offers an array of authentic German fare and a compelling list of unique German beers.

Taos' 12,481-foot Kachina Peak, which is lift accessible, is a playground for experts looking for face shots, moguls, cliffs, chutes, cornices and steep glades. And if challenging skiing makes your muscles quiver, that’s OK; TSV has miles of groomed slopes. Beginners will be pleased to discover they can experience all the iconic views of the valley, since the green runs aren't relegated to the bottom of the mountain. First timers also have ample facilities and “learn to ski” zones located at the base of the mountain, taught by some of the best in the biz, ensuring a comfortable learning experience.

This ski haven is often described by guests as "down to earth," "a Swiss Alpine vibe" and "welcoming." There are typically more skiers than snowboarders. And the snow? The high elevation (9,200 at the base), combined with New Mexico’s arid climate, yields bone-dry champagne powder.

The heralded ski destination is getting a face-lift, including a reshaped ski instruction area and a gondola at the base (see story on Page ???). This ski season is the first time The Blake at Taos Ski Valley will be open all winter. It opened in January 2017.

Besides the challenging, beautiful slopes, another popular and often-lauded feature of TSV is the Ernie Blake Snowsports School instruction program. It features annual Snowsports Weeks. The program concentrates instruction over six consecutive days in order to take skiers and riders to their next level of expertise. The standard Snowsports Week runs every Sunday through Friday during the season.

Sledding and tubing are also family favorites at TSV (see story on Page ??). The New Year's Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks display is a year-stopping and -starting spectacle. Beer lovers won't want to miss the annual Brewmasters Festival on Jan. 6. Other special events include the K2 Bumps Challenge and Paint for Peaks fundraisers for breast cancer awareness on Feb. 17; Not Forgotten Outreach Week honoring military families on Jan. 16-21; the Taos Freeride Championships from Feb. 28 to March 2; and the Ridge-A-Thon on March 23-24, to name a few.

For more information about Taos Ski Valley and upcoming events, see the calendar in this publication or go online to skitaos.com.

Mountain stats

Season dates: Nov. 23, 2017-April 1, 2018

Average annual snowfall: 305 inches

Average days of sunshine: More than 300

Trails (110 total): 51 percent expert, 25 percent intermediate, 24 percent beginner

Lifts (15 total): Four quad chairs, three triple chairs, five double chairs, three surface lifts

Village elevation: 9,207 feet

Base elevation: 9,200 feet

Kachina Peak elevation: 12,481 feet

Highest lift elevation: 12,450 feet

Vertical drop: 3,274 feet

Snowmaking capabilities: 100 percent of beginner and intermediate slopes

Hours of lift operation: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Information: (866) 968-7386; skitaos.com

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