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A baggage handler unloads the Taos Air Dornier 328 jet at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. The airline, owned by Taos Ski Valley, Inc., provides a no-hassle, two-hour flight to Taos, New Mexico, three times a week. Free ski rentals at Taos Ski Valley are included with the price of a ticket. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
Columns Hit the Road

Taos Ski Valley is closer than you think

I’ve always wanted to do this — immerse myself in an outdoor hot tub in the middle of winter and gaze at snow-covered mountains. Today is the day.

The temperature here in Taos Ski Valley in Northern New Mexico is a crisp 25 (up from 6 degrees earlier); the water is a perfect 101.

A fickle mid-January breeze sends the steam rising from the warm water this way and that, and from my perch on the second-story deck of The Blake hotel, I can see the frosted Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southern end of the majestic Rockies.

Around the corner, experienced and novice skaters test out The Blake’s new skating rink. Below the deck, the Rio Hondo, a tributary of the Rio Grande, looks like a black ribbon, cutting through the snowy landscape on its way to the Rio Grande Gorge.

My husband, Jerry, is working a whole lot harder than I.

He’s on the slopes somewhere at 10,000 feet with philosopher-instructor David Gardner, an amazingly fit 77-year-old, retired doctor of physics who dispenses life lessons with his expert advice that helps Jerry find his ski legs after a five-year hiatus.

Taos
Lift No. 1 at Taos Ski Valley in Northern New Mexico takes skiers to the top of the treacherous Al’s Run, named after a physician who was instrumental in establishing Taos Ski Valley in the mid-1950s. The ski resort offers many other less-challenging runs. Photo by E’Louise Ondash

It’s a challenge, for sure, especially here in Taos Ski Valley. The resort has a reputation for extra-steep runs, verified by the sign near Lift No. 1: “DON’T PANIC!  You’re looking at only 1/30 of Taos Ski Valley. We have many easy runs, too.”

There’s something else that’s easy — getting to ski valley from San Diego County, which once took a whole lot of effort until the genesis of Taos Air two years ago.

Prior to that, it took two very long days to drive from San Diego County to Northern New Mexico’s ski territory. Or you could fly from San Diego (parking $13 to $25/day) to Albuquerque, rent a car, then drive 3.5 hours to Taos Ski Valley.

Now, with thrice-weekly, two-hour, nonstop flights on Taos Air from Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport, the trip for North County residents is about 3.5 hours door to door. A ticket ($195 one-way) includes free shuttle to and from the ski resort and free ski equipment rental. Parking at Carlsbad’s airport is usually $5 a day, but for an unknown reason, was free when we traveled in mid-January.

And the flying experience?

“Like the old days,” said one passenger of the hassle-free experience.

That means no long security lines or two-hour waiting times prior to boarding. Passengers walk the tarmac to board the clean, 30-passenger Dornier 328 jet, and the crew seems genuinely happy to see them.

“It’s like having your own private jet,” says Carolyn Long, who with her husband commutes between Taos and Oceanside every few months because of business and to visit family in Carlsbad. “You avoid all the hassles of large airlines. This is our fourth round-trip.
Guests who stay at The Blake hotel in the ski valley also can ride the free shuttle to visit the town of Taos or several other destinations in the area.

“We are seeing more and more people from the San Diego area,” says Sandy, a former emergency medical technician/sports trainer who gives an extraordinary massage at The Blake’s spa. “It’s just so much easier to get here with the new flights.”

The ski village offers numerous dining options. Guests who want to dine inside must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

For more photos and discussion about Taos, New Mexico, and Taos Ski Valley, visit www.facebook.com/elouise.ondash.

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