We awoke to a typical, cloudless New Mexican day. After grabbing our gear from the ski valet, we walked a few steps to the lifts, immediately heading to West Basin--our favorite stash--the nuanced, steep, and rowdy ridgeline a 10-minute hike from Lift 2. Few others were in the basin. It hadn’t snowed in weeks, but the north-facing, narrow chutes held chalky snow on the fringes, which we pivoted and surfed down. A slight headwind blew, and with just the right manipulation, we were able to contrive faceshots.
We did this run six times and then headed to the other side of the mountain, up 12,481-foot Kachina Peak. We skied a few laps through the chutes on looker’s left, which too held pockets of chalk, brilliantly backlit by the afternoon sun. Eventually, our legs started to give, and one of the best decks in skiing beckoned. The Bavarian was full of skiers and servers wearing dirndls and lederhosen. My stein of Hofbrau, my girlfriend’s gluehwein, our soft pretzel, tasted better knowing all we had to do that afternoon was ski back to our hotel.
Recently, Taos Ski Valley hosted me and my girlfriend at the new Blake hotel. Named after Taos founder Ernie and Rhoda Blake, the luxury hotel had us feeling like kids, with a huge bed and a mountain of pillows, a shower big enough for four, a ski valet service that offered to buckle our boots for us (we couldn't bring ourselves to accept), a bluetooth speaker set up through the TV, robes for the steam room, and a staff that had us feeling way more important than we were. We had both been traveling a lot the previous month, and to be in one place, this place, we knew, was incredibly lucky.
The beauty of the hotel is in its aesthetic and inclusiveness. Everything about it is inviting. From the lobby that, with just one small desk and a laptop, feels more like a living room, to a staff that is very concerned with making your life as easy as possible, to a welcoming dog policy. Meanwhile, artwork, textiles, photography, and carvings in the wood furniture invoke a mix of the Hispanic, Native, and European cultures that define Taos. The hotel is modern while staying true to the roots of Taos.
Ernie Blake was born in Germany and grew up near St. Moritz in Switzerland. After emigrating to the U.S. and serving in World War II--he worked in military intelligence--he returned to the U.S. and met Rhoda atop Stowe's Mount Mansfield. He followed her to Santa Fe, where she was studying art. He helped run Santa Fe Ski Area and Glenwood Springs, in Colorado. While flying his small plane between the two, he saw the beautiful mountains just outside the town of Taos. His influence, and that of the Hispanic and Native cultures in the area, are felt throughout the Blake.
Several generations after Ernie and Rhoda founded the ski area, the hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon purchased Taos Ski Valley, in 2013. The opening of the new $65 million Blake is the first investment of a $300 million base area revitalization plan.
After checking out of the hotel in the morning, we emerged from the narrow canyon, back in the endlessly flat, red desert, on our way back to work in Santa Fe. It felt like we were entering a different world. For all intents and purposes, we were.