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#10: Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Adventure
posted: 08/11/2003

In an age of master-planned pedestrian base villages and multi-megaresorts, unpretentious Taos, thankfully, delivers no-frills, top-of-the-line goods. It is a true skiers' mountain.

A small collection of Euro-inspired lodges and eateries sits at the base, cobbled together over the years. But what matters most is what rises above it: a massive rumple of granite and snow and pine, with slopes that drop off the ridges at every angle. People don't come here for the shopping or the tubing. And they definitely don't come for the snowboarding (Taos still says no to uniplankers). What they do come for are spine-tingling, chest-tightening steeps like Oster and Fabian. Vertical bump runs like Al's and Longhorn, each with moguls bigger than two-bedroom igloos. And Kachina Peak, a hike-to, inbounds adventure with powder-packed bowls and rock-bordered chutes.

Start the day with cruisers on Porcupine and Lower Stauffenberg (yes, Taos has cruisers), then head up Chair 2 for the hour-long hike to Kachina. After a lunchtime bratwurst at the Bavarian Lodge, make your way to the West Basin Ridge and do laps in the chutes. You'll have a ski experience worth every mile it took to get here.

Play: Though most skiers are humbled to bed early, there is a nightlife at Taos. But it's less about martinis and cigars and more about two-stepping at the Thunderbird to the strains of a homegrown band.

Stay: The Hotel St. Bernard has been around since 1958 and is the favorite of loyal ski-weekers. At eight years old, the Inn at Snakedance is the newest lodge. For funkier digs, stay in Arroyo Seco, 10 miles down-valley, at the Abominable Snowman youth hostel.

Save the Date: The Winter Wine Festival, Jan. 23-Feb. 2, features grand tastings and dinners from 40-odd vintners.

800-776-1111; www.skitaos.org

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