Flaking rad: Will this be the best place in the world to ski this season?
This place is expected to get more than 1.5 times its annual snowfall this season. It has some of the best tree skiing in North America. Its advanced and expert terrain is revered by those in the know. It is serviced by a funky town. A busy day can mean just 3,000 riders.
It’s not in Colorado, California, Utah or Wyoming but it is near Cuba and Las Vegas (perhaps not the ones you know though). In fact its biggest locale claim to fame is that it is about two and a half hours from where Breaking Bad was filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This is Taos. And if you can’t make it here this season you’re not trying.
Living in the shadow of so many grand resorts of the Rockies, Taos is easy to overlook. A pretty significant player in the 80s and 90s it has definitely gone off the radar in the past decade or so. Seasons have been mixed and numbers have been down.
Let’s face it. It’s also a little out of the way. The 200km+ trek from Albuquerque – which in itself is another 2 hour flight from Los Angeles – puts some people off.
But its weakness is also its strength. It’s the maxim of powder skiers and snowboarders everywhere: head to the places with the least number of people on a big snow day.
And the rub is that this season there should be plenty of cold smoke days. The prevailing El Nino suggests the southerly resorts in the US should fair best in 2015/16 and Taos, which punches out almost 1km of vertical in its giddy rise to nearly 4,000 metres, will cop plenty of light and dry – perhaps even to record levels.
Head meteorologist from Open Snow, Joel Gratz, told The Snow Gauge it was one of his picks for the season. And this is a guy with no vested interests. He just knows it is going to get smashed and says it is a great place to ride.
There’s also the town of Taos itself and surrounds. If you are tired of cookie cutter ski areas that have been Intrawested to within an inch of their lives this may just be your kind of place.
Taos has an eclectic mix of influences from Indian to Hispanic and European and is perhaps best summed up as Bohemian. The Taos Pueblo (a native American community with amazing, historically significant architecture) is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The other good news is that there is plenty in the works for New Mexico’s finest ski area (and it really was once just a ‘ski’ area, only opening its lifts to snowboarders in 2008).
Sold two years ago, Taos is in the midst of a $300 million upgrade which included last season’s opening of the Kachina Peak lift which takes riders to the summit. Previously you had to hike more than an hour to earn those turns.
There’s more beginner and intermediate terrain being opened up, a major hotel is planned for next season and new rental shops and restaurants are also on the cards.
But, if I can borrow from The Smiths, the question for any would-be visitors must be: How soon is now?
Get there this season or you may just regret it. Taos opens tomorrow.
The Taos Fact File
Location: About 2.5 hours north of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Snow: 7.5 metres (Much more is expected this season)
Trails: 110 (marked)
Base: 2805 metres
Top: 3795 metres