Comin’ Down in Taos Ski Valley

The timetable for redevelopment plans in Taos Ski Valley still has many holes, but one thing is certain: buildings are coming down. The ticket windows and the locker room above them were torn down in June. The ticket windows are being relocated to their own space in Taos Ski and Boot. There’s no news on where the lockers will be relocated, which has some locker-holders nervous.

The Thunderbird Chalet is now gone. The space where it sat since the 1960’s is now a hole in the ground. Sadly, with the demolition of the Thunderbird Lodge a few years ago, there’s not much left of its legacy.

The best way to stay up to date on all the progress is to go up and see for yourself. While you’re up there, go for a hike or ride a bike, chair or horse. Café Naranja, located in the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa, is great for getting read for a day. It’s open for breakfast and lunch Friday through Monday. Time lapse video of the goings-on in the base area taken from the top of the Edelweiss is on the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa Facebook page.

The images below were taken Friday, July 11.

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Taos’ Natural Wonders

No matter what time of year you visit Taos, the area’s natural wonders are captivating. Often, just looking is enough. But in the warm summer months, those natural wonders become playgrounds.

Sitting above all of them, literally, is Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s tallest mountain. The 13,167-foot peak, which was known as Taos Peak until 1950, looms over Williams Lake and is accessible via three common routes, all of them starting within a couple of miles from the Taos Ski Valley base area. For years the most popular hiking route to the top of Wheeler was the Bull of the Woods trail that starts from the Taos Ski Valley parking lot. It’s a longer, gentler approach than the scree field that rises straight to the top of Wheeler Peak from Williams Lake. In 2011, the U.S. Forest Service built a trail of switchbacks that is the most direct and efficient way up. It starts near the end of the Williams Lake trail.

If you plan a trip to Wheeler Peak, start early in order to beat the afternoon’s protean weather. Keep an eye out for marmots, golden eagles and bighorn sheep.

The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument was established in March 2013. The distinction may be new, but the 800-foot-deep gorge created by the Rio Grande has been used by humans since prehistoric times. One of the best spots to get a spectacular view of the rugged 242,500 acres is at the La Junta Point Overlook in the Wild Rivers Recreation area near the town of Questa. Directly below is the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Red River and there are trails down to the canyon floor. Some of the best fly fishing in the state is along the final section of the Red River.

The South Boundary Trail, which connects Black Lake (near Angel Fire) with Taos, is considered by many to be the premiere mountain bike trail in the state. The South Boundary is 20-plus miles of single track through aspen forests and meadows that rise and drop over 3,500 feet. But the trail isn’t just for a long slog on a bike. In the middle is Garcia Park, which can be reached by car and makes a good meeting point or starting point for shorter rides and hikes. Camping is allowed.

The snow on the South Boundary has melted by June and the forests are green and lush. With its changing colors, Autumn is a great time to hit the trail.

Taos South Boundary Trail

A section of Taos' South Boundary Trail.

For many visitors—the ones arriving from the south—Taos’ natural wonder is the first thing they see. The view from the Taos Valley Overlook sweeps from the San Juan Mountains to the west, across the Rio Grande Gorge to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The first impression made by this jaw-dropping panorama has been turning tourists into Taoseños for a very long time.

The Bureau of Land Management maintains a network of 10 hiking and biking trails just past the overlook that are relatively easy and flat and are a great way to put yourself in the tableau.

Taos Valley Overlook/Rio Grande Gorge

The Rio Grande Gorges as seen from the Taos Valley Overlook. Photo courtesy Taos Land Trust.

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From Kachina Peak to the Wild West at Taos Ski Valley

The Kachina Peak Lift at Taos Ski Valley has been a hot button issue since its inception. Like it or hate it, the lift is going up now. The three-person lift will rise 1,100 vertical feet in five minutes, topping out at 12,450 feet and making it one of the highest lifts in North America. Taos Ski Valley says it is committed to preserving a majority of its hiking terrain, and opening more. The Wild West Glades are 35 acres of expert terrain starting past Wonder Bowl on the West Basin Ridge. The plan is to have the Wild West open for the 2014-2015 season.

It won’t affect the West Basin, but TSV is also replacing a couple of its snowmaking air compressors. The upgrades will extend the reach of snowmaking and help get more terrain open earlier while cutting energy usage significantly.

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New Bike Trails at Taos Ski Valley

On Saturday, June 28th, Taos Ski Valley is cutting the ropes on its new Pioneer’s Bike Park, which has a number of lift-accessed novice bike trails. For more experienced riders, try the new Berminator flow trail from the top of lift one. The Berminator has berm turns, table tops, step-ups, hip jumps and rock drops. There is a full-service bike shop on site and Taos Ski Valley rents top of the line bikes and gear.

Opening festivities start at 10:00. More info here.

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Hiking In The Taos Ski Valley – Play It Safe

With Ski Season 2014 wrapped up our minds and bodies are turning to long hikes and backpacking adventures in the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  There are plenty of great trails in and around the Taos Ski Valley and the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa offers easy access to some of the best including Wheeler Peak, Gavilan, and, for the less adventuresome,  Bull of the Woods Pasture.

It is recommended to begin your hikes early with the intent of coming down off the mountains before mid day as the winds can get quite strong and there is a high likelihood of afternoon storms.

Other things to consider include the health/fitness of the members of your party and what to bring along on your outdoor adventure.  For longer hikes be sure you have the 10 essentials in your pack.  We have compiled a list for you with links to some local shops that carry the items you need.

Practical Tools

Navigation

Taos Mountain Outfitters has a good supply of topographical maps of local trails as well as compasses* and other back country essentials.  For long hikes it is always a good idea to carry both a map and a compass in the event that you lose the trail or your bearings.

*Learn how to use your compass before you take to the trail.

Illumination

If your hike goes into the evening, you’ll want to have some illumination. Headlamps and/or flashlights (available at Mudd n’ Flood) are critical if you plan to be on the trail after dark.  They not only illuminate the markers and obstacles on the trail but they can alert you to other dangers such as wildlife as well.   It is a good idea to bring extra batteries along.  Matches (in a waterproof case) or a lighter are lightweight items that can prove lifesaving if you find yourself toughing it out through the evening.

Repair Kit and Tools

No backpacking trip would be complete without a pocket knife or a multi-tool.  A good knife is helpful for cutting string, shaving wood for tinder, and clearing the way through small branches, among a host of other things.  If you’ll be bringing along items like a stove or a radio, it’s not a bad idea to have a gear repair kit with you.

Protection

Sun Protection

Always apply sunscreen before you head outside, even when you’re going into the woods.  If you’ll be under the open sky in direct sunlight, it’s also smart to apply lip balm and be sure to protect your eyes with a good pair of sunglasses!  For long hikes bring the sunscreen with you and reapply every couple hours.

Insulation

Whatever the weather, be sure to be properly dressed.  Sports clothing is designed to be light weight and provide you with a level of insulation.  Always bring a good waterproof jacket or vest, and wear pants, gloves, and a hat.

Bug Protection

The woods are full of insects.  Most of them are fairly harmless but, a nuisance none the less.  Applying bug repellent to your clothing can help keep the pesky little bugs at bay.  For a natural repellent try Taos Herb’s Bug Me Not Spray.

Emergencies

Never forget to bring a first aid kit on your backpacking trip.  Timely first aid can prevent minor incidents like bites and scrapes from becoming bigger emergencies.  For situations of extreme cold or when a thunderstorm hits, you’ll want to have emergency shelter, like a tarp, tube tent, or thermal blanket.   It never hurts to have extra moleskin along as well.

Health

Nutrition

As a precaution it is a good idea to bring an extra day’s supply of food on your hike, in case you lose your way or need to wait out a storm.  Backpacker food supplies like freeze-dried pasta, wild rice, lentils, and granola are light weight and will help keep your body going.

Hydration

Staying hydrated is probably the most important thing you can do on a backpacking trip.  For shorter outings, you might just need water bottles.  For a longer day, you’ll want a hydration pack.  If you run out of water, filtration devices make water from streams safer to drink.

Take to the hills this summer but, remember to play it safe.

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Taos Mountain Retreats – Spring and Summer

As ski season winds down our minds turn to other ways to enjoy the beauty of Taos. Some of us will head into the hills with our snowshoes in tow, some will take to the long windy Taos Ski Valley road on bikes, others will head to the rocks for a day of climbing on the north facing walls (where the heat of the sun keeps your hands and bodies warm even as the last of the winter winds pass by) and some will travel to the lowlands to hike into the hills.

The adventure does not stop just because the slopes close. With thousands of acres of National Forest on all sides Taos is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts year round. Some areas may be hard to reach until the snow-melt is complete but, the challenge of getting there adds to the adventure.

Once the snow has melted, things really pick up. Horseback riding or llama trekking to Gold Hill are both worthwhile excursions. As are river rafting the Rio Grande, mountain climbing along the Gorge, hot air balloon rides at dawn, and mountain biking the numerous trails in the Taos Ski Valley and around town. For the treasure hunter, scouting for the hidden treasure of the renowned Forest Fenn on the trails around the TSV could lead to the proverbial “pot of gold”. At the very least you will find a plethora of arbor glyphs which give a glimpse of the remarkable history of the area.

By July, you can add wild-crafting herbs and harvesting mushrooms to the list of activities available in the Taos Ski Valley.

Any way you slice it, the Taos Ski Valley is a year round destination. If you are looking for a perfect place to escape the dog days of summer consider a late summer stay at the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa – the perfect mountain getaway. They will even help you design a custom vacation package to help ensure you make the most of your stay.

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Ben Meyers Ridge-A-Thon 2014 Recap

As I was hiking on day two of the ridge-a-thon with thighs burning and lungs grasping, I asked my self what is true March Madness. Of course the traditional answer is the kind of upsets we saw with Mercer taking out Duke in the first round of the NCAA tourney, but I had to wonder if hiking without stop up the ridge and hurling oneself down the 45 degree steeps of Taos only to do it again as quickly as possible would qualify for Madness too. Of course, for many the answer is yes but I must say that it is my kind of madness.

In case you are new to this, here is a little bit about the event. It is held annually around the middle of March and is a fund raiser started informally 18 years ago when a local skier with a big heart, lots of talent, and a bunch of friends succumbed to cancer at the early age of 26. Like many in stellar skiers, he assumed his immortality was a given and in spite of a growing family he was uninsured when cancer caught him. It came and went quickly but medical and hospice bills quickly mounted for his widow and her young child and so several of his skiing buddies came up with the idea of a fund raiser to help defray the bills that his family was facing.

After several years the event was handed to the Taos Community Foundation to manage and they have only upped the ante with great organization and increased participation. Funds are now put in the TCF’s Emergency Medicines Fund which helps Taos County’s un- and under-insured population overcome short term medical needs. Since the Taos Community Foundation has taken over, the event has raised over $400,000 for the fund and the related endowment with efforts expanding into advocacy for health issued for the needy in our community. It is truly a great program run by a great and well organized Foundation.

While the event is at heart a benefit event, many of the participants take the physical challenge very seriously and it is fairly called a competition as well. Participants run the gamut from the Edelweiss’ own 8 year Asher Beck (son of Mike and Michelle Beck and grandson of Linda Steen- unit 308) to the famous Team Grannies made up of a large collection of 55+ year old long time participants (and solid fund raisers). Some just do a single run for the cause while others go toe to toe for the honor of the most runs each year.

In order to compare apples to apples, there are some traditional “rules” for the event. The “menu” of runs includes 10 ridge runs with 6 in West Basin (from Spitfire to St. B’s) and 4 on the High Line (from Hidalgo to Billy Sol). Skiers (or boarders) are expected to do each of the ten runs once before repeating any runs (one should not simply do Hidalgo over and over) and runs are to be started “at the sign” for each run (no shortcuts). The event kicks off each of the two days with the “first chair” on chair one and skiers must be back at the top of lift 2 by 2pm sharp. At the completion of the daily timed portion (from 9am to 2pm) the group can take a hike to the top of Kachina for the final run of the day. This last Kachina hike and any others completed during the 9am-2pm period count as three runs (arguably a completed Kachina hike is more likely the equivalent of 4 standard ridge runs) for fund raising and competitive purposes.

Weather can play a big role in the event with some years providing great powder conditions (somewhat rare unfortunately) that make it easy to rush back to the top for more fun and suffering. But more commonly spring conditions can mean treacherous icy conditions early each day softening up as the day progresses making route planning more important. Day two of last year’s event was one of the most difficult days in Ridge A Thon history with wind chill factors in the minus 20-30 range at the top of lift two and worse on the exposed ridge lines higher up. The lift was running slowly due to the conditions and the traditional Kachina Peak hike en masse was cancelled for obvious safety reasons. For obvious reasons, the numbers were down last year.

I am pleased to say that this year the conditions were among the best all around I can remember for the event. We had beautiful sunny skies and a recent wind event had flattened out the steeps beautifully while the warm spring weather had not yet affected most of the north facing ridge runs where the event takes place. The best skiing on the mountain was truly in the steeps last weekend and while a fall risked a non-stop slide to the bottom on most runs, the largely “carveable” snow kept most skiers and boarders upright throughout the event.

The winner of the event (most runs) was no surprise once again. Michael “Red” Wagener and the (ex-) Governor Gary Johnson went toe to toe throughout the event with Red once again outlasting the former Libertarian presidential candidate with a total of 50 runs over the two days (22 ridge runs plus the peak each day). Governor Johnson totaled 48 runs over the two days. I have been known to call this my “annual physical” as it provides an opportunity compare my conditioning each year, and this year I passed with flying colors. This was actually my most productive year with a grand total of 40 runs (17 ridge runs plus the peak each day). But I am most proud of our retaining the title of grand fund raisers. Team Grannies (with something like 10 different team members) provide tough competition but once again we edged them out by the end of the event on Saturday with additional pledges continuing to come in each day.

Overall the event raised roughly $30,000 this year with Team Edelweiss being responsible for nearly $6,000 of that total. Well done to you. Can’t wait to do it again next year and hope I can once again count on your support.

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A Taste of Taos History

Few places offer such a diverse taste of history as you will find in Taos. Whether you seek to explore Native American historical architectural and culture, art history, pop culture or the Wild West, Taos provides many opportunities. Below is just a short list of historical sites located nearby. One could easily visit these in a single day with a well planned itinerary.


Taos Pueblo

Travel back to between 1000 and 1450 CE with a visit to the Taos Pueblo. Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. The adobe walls of the multi-storied residential complex are among the one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. They offer a glimpse into life as it was and as it remains today. Contact the Taos Pueblo Tourism Department at 575-758-1028 for more information.

Art History

Ledoux is charming side street, only steps from the Taos plaza, lined with 200-year-old adobe homes. With its narrow winding walls, turquoise blue painted doors and quaint gallery spaces the street itself is as aesthetically pleasing as the paintings hidden within its walls.

A short way down Ledoux Street you will find the home of Ernest Blumenschein, a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists. Blumenschein was known for his paintings of Native Americans and the American Southwest. The home is filled with a superb collection of the Blumenschein family’s art and a several works by other famous Taos artists.

Ledoux street also boasts several art galleries and the well respected Harwood Museum of Art. The Harwood has a diverse collection including works by Agnes Martin and the Taos Moderns alongside hand-carved retablos ( in the Hispanic Traditions Exhibition) and important paintings by early twentieth century landscape and indigenous cultures artists.

At the far end of Ledoux – across Ranchitos Road is the Larry Bell Gallery. Larry, a member of the Taos Moderns, has a profound understanding of light and space which he has developed over the past 40 years of working in the studio. Perhaps best known for his use of vacuum deposition of thin films on reflective glass cubes, this gallery is a fusion of art and science. Find out more about Larry’s work on YouTube.

The Wild West

For wild west aficionados the Brent Street museum and Kit Carson’s home offer a glimpse into the chaos of the time.
Governor Bent was killed during the Taos Revolt on January 19, 1847. A hole in the parlor wall shows where family members escaped as their home was being invaded. To better understand the times a short read called the Taos Massacre is recommended.

Kit Carson’s home is another stop on the wild-west tour. Located on Kit Carson Road (really) the house offers an opportunity to learn a little more about who the man was and how he lived. A worthwhile stop located within easy walking distance of the Bent Street Museum or the Taos Plaza.

Hollywood Glamour in Taos

The heiress to a Standard oil fortune and one time lover of Clark Gable, Millicent Rogers came to Taos in 1947. During the remaining years of her life she acquired a vast array of Southwestern art, jewelry and furniture. Her home was converted into a museum and can be found on Millicent Rogers Road, just a short distance north of town. Directions can be found here.

These few stops are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of the region but they are a good start to giving you a feeling of the town’s flavor. Contact the concierge at Taos Property Rentals for more information.

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What to see and do around the Taos Ski Valley

Ok, it’s been five days of solid skiing and the whole crew needs a break. It is hard to leave your beautiful ski in/out in the Taos Ski Valley and head into town but, it may be worth the trip. This will be a series of posts designed to give you ideas of what you can do in and around Taos. We start with the Early Riser and will continue with the History Aficionado, Natural Wonders, Sites Around Town #1 and #2, The Shopper and will finish the series with the Spa Hopper.


The Early Riser

hot air ballooning

Things to do in Taos


If you like to be up early and don’t mind a little nip in the air a hot air balloon ride makes a nice (maybe romantic) getaway. Pueblo Balloon Company, operated by the ever personable Ed Smith, will let you touch the sky and the Rio Grande. Sunrise launches occur daily and will take you over some of the most awe inspiring territory in the Southwest. The balloons follow the Rio Grande through a tectonic chasm known as the Taos Gorge. The opportunity to see bald eagles, red hawks, bighorn sheep, or other wild life along a back drop of the famous blue skies of Taos and deep reds of the canyon walls makes this a prime photo opportunity. For the young at heart bouncing off the waters of the river below is sure to brighten their day and lighten their spirits.

Riders can watch as the chase crews follow the balloon down to the open fields on the north end of town pack up the balloon and drive everyone back for an age old champagne toast and light fare near the entrance to the West Rim Trail on the far side of the Gorge Bridge.

Local crafts people sell a variety of items in the small parking area closest to the bridge including Native American pottery made from local mica clays and hand woven red willow baskets.

If you have arranged to have your car here you can follow the morning with a spiritual walk along the West Rim Trail. This trail runs along the west side of the gorge for many miles but around 1.5 miles in you will find a stone spiral ending with a view to the North (and the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountains). Stone spirals are said to offer an opportunity to see within ourselves as we draw energies from the air and the earth. This spiral is oriented to support personal visions and can shed light on unanswered questions.

What to bring:
1. A camera (or two).
2. A warm jacket, hat and glove
3. Closed toed shoes
4. Sunscreen
5. Money for a tip

What to leave behind
1. Bulky backpacks and purses

Contact the Concierge about discounted hot air ballooning packages
.

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The 28 th Annual Taos Winter Wine Festival Featuring Merryvale Vineyards

Taos Ski Valley winter wine festivalMerryvale Vineyards, one of Napa Valley’s most prestigious wineries, is making its second appearance at this year’s Taos Winter Wine Festival.
On Thursday, January 30th, CEO René Schlatter will join The Blonde Bear Tavern’s Jon Mudder to create a memorable wine dinner. René will guide guests through six of Merryvale’s most notable wines. Jon has developed a menu that highlights these wines and will engage the palate of both wine connoisseurs and novice wine lovers alike.

For more information please visit: http://taospropertyrentals.com

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