Taos Ski Valley, NM: A Unique Culture and History

Robin Azer | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
December 2018 Credit: Taos Ski Valley Facebook

Taos Ski Valley is located in the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountains at the start of the Rocky Mountains. Originally an old west mining town established in the 1800s, today is a world-class ski resort.

“Old World ambiance seasoned with Native American and Spanish spice gives our valley its unique flavor. We resemble a European ski village but our core is pure New Mexican—all smiles and sunshine.”

Taos Ski Valley

European Roots

“My father knew how to ski and that’s how it started,” Mickey Blake, son of Ernie Blake. Credit: Taos News

In 1955 Swiss German ski pioneer Ernie Blake was flying his Cessna 170 over the northern mountains of New Mexico when he eyed a region deemed a perfect spot for a ski resort. He and his wife, Rhoda, along with their children, took up residence in a camper of the parking lot, beginning the work on what would become the first-rate ski destination, Taos Ski Valley. They sought to honor the mountain lifestyle first and foremost.  While infusing the resort with their own European roots, the Blake family paid homage to the Native American and Spanish Colonial culture that had been in the region for hundreds of years. Evidence of this three-spoke ancestry can be found all around the resort.

Native American History

Taos Ski Valley
Credit: Taos Ski Valley Facebook

History buffs take note, Taos has a centuries-old, long and intriguing history. The steep peaks of the region are often referred to as Monte Sagrado, the sacred mountain. Around the 13th and 14th centuries, Native Americans settled into the region constructing adobe residences and religious structures, many of which still stand today. The Pueblo Indians are a thriving traditional community whose culture remains strong.  

“Archaeologists say that ancestors of the Taos Indians lived in this valley long before Columbus discovered America and hundreds of years before Europe emerged from the Dark Ages.”


Today, Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community appointed a National Historic Landmark and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This unique historical context is part of what sets Taos Ski Valley apart from every other ski destination on earth.

Spanish Colonial Culture

Georgia O’Keeffe described it as “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards.” Credit: NewMexico.org

Hundreds of years ago, Spanish explorers lead by Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, came to the Taos region. They were seeking the legendary City of Cibola, one of the seven mythical Cities of Gold (Rock band Rush wrote a song about it). The explorers found more desert than gold, but their heritage has remained in the region ever since.

The Blake at Taos Ski Valley

The Blake at Taos Ski Valley was awarded prestigious LEED Green Building Certification. Credit: Ski Taos

The Blake at Taos Ski Valley serves as the cornerstone of the resort, connecting the iconic mountain to the unique cultural mix of the northern New Mexico region. Named in honor of the pioneering ski enthusiasts who got it all started, Ernie Blake and his family, it offers year-round accommodations just steps from the mountain. Awarded LEED Silver certification, The Blake is energy efficiency exemplified.

The 80-room complex is a true melting pot of cultures. The design and art that reigns from the region is thoughtfully woven into the decor. The Blake is a full-service lodging experience, providing a spa, pool, restaurant, fitness center and more – all mere steps from the lifts.

“The European atmosphere and architecture of Taos Ski Valley is due to the ski area’s pioneers—a mix of German, French, Austrian and Swiss residents and employees—combined with the local Native American and Spanish cultures.”

Taos Ski Valley

Restaurants in Taos Ski Valley

192 at The Blake, Taos Ski Valley. Credit: Ski Taos

The convergence of European roots, Native American spirit, and Spanish culture create a smorgasbord of food options. From the upscale 4-course French cuisine at the world-renowned St. Bernard to fun New Mexican themed food at Rhoda’s, to BBQ with stunning views at the Phoenix Grill to the Southwestern breakfast fair at the Cafe Naranja, there are choices galore. Tenderfoot Katie’s Fresh Market has an array of farm-fresh grab-n-go entrees for the skier/rider looking to maximize their time on the mountain. 192 at The Blake is a popular ski-in/ski-out European-inspired eatery centered around a communal fireplace offering shared plates and plenty of pizza.

“In Taos, chile can be green or red, hot or mild. If you can’t decide which one to try, ask for “Christmas,” our word for a combination of red and green.”


For one of the world’s best apres ski scenes, according to Travel + Leisure magazine, head over to The Bavarian Restaurant. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Germany complete with the dirndl- and lederhosen-clad servers, beer steins, oompah bands, and plenty of Wiener schnitzel.

Town of Taos – Established Art Colony

Credit: Taos.org

Come for the skiing/ riding, but be sure to check out the town of Taos as well. Taos is a thriving artist’s colony, hosting a large number of art galleries and free museums. As far back as 1915, when six artists formed the Taos Society for Artists, this city has been a mecca for those seeking the cultural art scene. This unique culture will make your ski vacation unlike any other you could possibly experience.

“The history of Taos is a story of change, adaptation, and the integration of three cultures that simultaneously complicates and enriches the reality in which Taoseños live today.”


Revitalization: Ski the Change

‘Ski The Change’ at Taos Ski Valley. Credit: Ski Taos

New ownership in 2014 has lead to a revitalization of the resort, infusing it with new energy and capital investments. But the future of Taos Ski Valley will remain rooted in the vision the Blake Family aspired to. The first season in 1956 had just one run down the mountain, Snakedance. Today Taos has 110 runs, 14 total lifts, and some of the most challenging and diverse terrain anywhere.  

“One thing we can all agree on: the mountain always comes first.”

Taos Ski Valley

Taos Ski Valley Trail Map
Deep pow – January 2019. Credit: Taos Ski Valley Facebook

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