Brought to you by Taos Ski Valley
When you picture a ski town, you might imagine quaint European chalets tucked under a cozy layer of snow. Or, you might think of swanky condos and the sprawling mega-mansions of the super-rich. Chances are, you did not picture structures made out of adobe (a mud and straw mixture) that have stood for over a thousand years!
Welcome to Taos, NM, where many cultures collide.
Taos is home to the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO world heritage site. The Pueblo is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. Built between 1000 and 1400 AD, Taos Pueblo is still home to about 150 people who live there year-round. The Pueblo is constructed entirely out of adobe (a mud and straw mixture) and local timbers, yet the structure stands five stories tall! Each home in Taos Pueblo is self-contained and usually composed of two rooms, though the walls are shared with other dwellings. Originally, the only entrances were on the roof, which served as an effective defense against outsiders. Today there are about 1,900 members of the Taos indigenous group. The Pueblo is open for visitors and offers guided tours.
The Taos indigenous community is not the only culture present in Taos, NM. In 1540 AD, conquistadors (Spanish conquerors) arrived in search of the Cities of Gold. The conquistadors were ousted during a revolt in 1680 AD, but the Spanish later returned to Taos, and in 1772, the San Francisco Asis Church was built. This church is still used today and is designated a World Heritage Church in addition to being one of the most photographed and painted churches in the United States.
But wait, there’s more. Taos Ski Valley itself was founded by Ernie and Rhoda Blake, who were Swiss! Ernie Blake had always dreamed of owning his own ski area, and one day, while flying his Cessna, he spotted what would become Taos Ski Area. In 1955 Ernie moved his family into an eleven-foot camper at the base of the mountain, where they lived in spartan conditions while developing the resort. The first lift (a J bar) was installed in the fall of 1956, and the mountain was open for skiing! Crucially, Taos finally began allowing snowboarders on March 19, 2008.
Even the names of the runs at Taos reflect its rich integration of cultures and history. For example, both Ernie and Rhoda have runs named after themselves on the mountain. And while typical ski area names abound (think “Corner Chute” and “Snake Dance”), other runs have names like “Mucho Gusto” and its correspondingly presumably less fun alternative “Poco Gusto.” Many of the run names also reflect the Swiss heritage of the founders, including “Firlefanz” which means roughly “fooling around.” And, of course, in a nod to ski culture, there’s a run called “High Somewhere.”
So enjoy a wiener schnitzel from The Bavarian Restaurant located at the base of Lift 4. Take a tour of the Taos Pueblo. Snap a photo of the San Francisco Asis church. And when your server at dinner at Orlando’s (or any of the amazing New Mexican restaurants in the area) asks you, “red or green?” they’re asking what color of chile sauce you would prefer your food smothered in. Both are delicious, so ask for Christmas style.
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