Get Adrenaline and Culture in Taos

1. Where to Stay

The Taos Inn features traditional southwestern décor in the heart of downtown.Photo: Courtesy of Taos Inn

Save money for lift tickets by bunking at the Abominable Snowmansion, which offers basic but clean rooms with private baths (from $59 in winter) or shared dorm rooms that sleep twelve people (from $22 in winter). Its location in the quaint village of Arroyo Seco is great for ski bums looking to stay close to the mountains since the hotel is roughly halfway between downtown Taos and the ski valley.

Soak up the old-time atmosphere at the Taos Inn (from $75), which opened in 1936 but remains a popular gathering spot for drinks and live music and sits within walking distance of downtown museums and galleries. Rooms are furnished with antiques and work by local artists; for the full high-country, southwestern effect, ask for a room with a wood-burning fireplace.

Tap into Taos’s artistic past at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House (from $105), the former home of an arts patron and writer whose guests included Carl Jung, D.H. Lawrence, and Martha Graham. Now a renovated seventeen-room inn just outside of town, the property looks much as it did when Luhan resided there; the room that was her bedroom still includes her own hand-carved bed, plus a kiva fireplace and a view of the Taos Mountains.

2. Where to Eat

Orlando's serves plates of trademark New Mexican cuisine topped with green chilies.Photo: Courtesy of Orlando's

Taste what’s in season at Aceq, a new addition to the local dining scene which serves southwestern-inflected comfort food in a quirky dining room with mismatched chairs. Try the chili-glazed lamb ribs ($6) and the crispy pork belly “chicharones” lettuce wrap ($8), both sourced from northern New Mexico producers, or one of the signature vegetarian dishes like a beet roulade with spiced lentils and pickled kohlrabi ($12).

Gather around the fire pit as you wait for a table at Orlando’s, a colorful, hugely popular spot that specializes in northern New Mexican dishes. Be sure to order a dish with the state’s ubiquitous green chile, either in a customizable stew with posole and beans ($9) or served on top of tamales ($10), followed with a chocolate-dipped biscochito, an anise-flavored cookie that’s also a New Mexico specialty ($2.75).

Tuck into the cozy dining room at the Love Apple (cash only), a farm-centric restaurant housed in an old adobe chapel. Start with a bottle of sparkling wine from Albuquerque’s Gruet Winery ($30) or a glass from the wine list, featuring organic and sustainably farmed options, before launching into the menu. Try the apple and caramelized onion quesadilla with local Asadero cheese ($8) or grass-fed beef tacos constructed with homemade tortillas and green chile crème fraiche ($14).

3. What to Do

Taos Ski Valley is home to some of the best trails in the Rockies.Photo: Courtesy of Taos Ski Valley

Spend a few hours museum-hopping downtown. Peruse the work at the Taos Art Museum ($8), where the original members of the Taos Art Colony and their early-twentieth-century works are showcased, then hit the Harwood Museum of Art ($10), where an exhibition of portraits, focusing on some of Taos’s oddball characters, begins February 9. Stop in at the E.L. Blumenschein Home ($8) to see a collection of prominent local artists’ work in the eighteenth-century home of the town’s arts-scene pioneer before checking out what contemporary artists are creating at 203 Fine Art, one of the area’ s 100-plus art galleries.

Head up to the Taos Ski Valley ($75 for a full-day ticket) and shred 2,600 feet of vertical drop on 113 trails. The most adventuresome skiers and snowboarders can attempt the extensive, off-trail West Basin, which requires a hike or a traverse to access. The mountain has a reputation for being challenging, given that more than half of its trails are for experts, but those who aren’t ready to take on difficult terrain can ride the 1,400-foot Pioneer lift (new this season) to ski just-opened beginner trails.

Get a glimpse of history and the town’s literary origins at the Taos Pueblo, a still-inhabited Native American community of multistory adobe buildings. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pueblo has served as inspiration for dozens of novels, including Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, influenced by the author’s time spent here. Afterward, stop by the Moby Dickens Bookshop, which showcases Taos writers and southwestern books and hosts regular readings by local authors.

4. Insider’s Tip

Hot springs make for a unique après-ski treatment.Photo: jessicareeder, via Flickr

For après-ski treatments or a muscle-soothing soak, you could dip into the mineral pools ($40 for 50 minutes) at Ojo Caliente, a 45-minute drive from town, or you could have a rustic soak outdoors for free. If you’re game, join the locals at the Manby Hot Springs (a.k.a “Stagecoach Hot Springs”) next to the Rio Grande. To get there, drive northwest on Highway 64 until you see a sign for Tune Drive, then turn right and follow that for about four miles until you see a parking area. The views alone are worth the detour.

5. Oddball Day

Religious symbols left by the faithful at Santaurio de Chimayo.Photo: Señor Codo, via Flickr

Get out of town and make a roughly 100-mile scenic loop on the High Road to Taos, known for its expansive vistas, which are impressive year-round. Wake up for your road trip with a meticulously pulled shot of espresso ($2) from Elevation Coffee in Taos, then head south on Highway 68 through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. After about 27 miles, make a pit stop in Embudo at Sugar’s BBQ (1799 New Mexico 68; 505-852-0604) for the much-lauded smoky brisket tacos. Continue on for another nineteen miles and then swing through Española, the “Lowrider Capital of the World,” keeping your eyes peeled for the tricked-out vehicles. Head east about ten miles to the famous Santaurio de Chimayo, which draws as many as 300,000 believers each year for its supposedly healing dirt. (Evidence of miracles—abandoned crutches and medical equipment—lines the walls.) Continue on 76-N another ten miles to Truchas, a little village boasting huge views of the Rio Grande Valley and the High Road Marketplace, an artists’ co-op where dozens of locals sell artwork and crafts. Proceed another eight miles to Trampas, well known for its old mission church, which is considered one of the best examples of its kind. (Note the spatters of blood on the ceiling from Los Hermanos Penitentes, Spanish missionaries and priests who whipped themselves to feel closer to God.) Finish your loop at Ranchos de Taos, where you’ll see the boxy, almost modern-looking San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, famously painted by Georgia O’Keeffe and photographed by Ansel Adams. End your day at the newly opened Taos Mesa Brewing Company with a green chile cheeseburger ($11) or a portobello mushroom sandwich ($10) and one of their new in-house brews, which are introduced to the draft lineup every ten days. Try a pint of Hopper IPA (named after Dennis; $4) or one of the session beers, which are lower in alcohol ($4) and easier on anyone feeling wobbly at Taos’s 7,000-foot elevation. If you’ re not exhausted, get out on the dance floor—which is built on top of old tires, in keeping with the brewery’s green ethos—and get down in high-desert style to a rotating selection of live bands most nights of the week.

6. Links

Visit the Museum Association of Taos for tickets that get you into museums at a 60 percent discount.

Taos Snowshoe Adventures offers customized tours for nonskiers.

The Taos News covers all things local and features seasonal guides for visitors.

For ski or snowboard rentals, use Cottam’s Ski Shops, which offers a 10 percent discount if you book online.

Los Rios River Runners arranges rides on the “Taos Box,” an intense seventeen-mile stretch of rapids on the Rio Grande.

Cross-country skiers can find excellent terrain and yurt reservations through the Southwest Nordic Center.

Get Adrenaline and Culture in Taos