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The author and husband, Nelson, at Taos

Ski Taos Valley, enjoy Thunderbird Lodge

by Anne Raymond


When you think back to your last ski season, you remember all the good times - great runs, bright sun and blue sky, a soak in the hot tub and a hearty meal after a day on the slopes.

That’s what you remember, because you are a good-tempered, easygoing optimist. But think again. Was last season made up of just those wonderful moments? Or were there others - lots of others - days spent in heavy

traffic to the hill, in long lift lines, in more lines in the cafeteria, chasing down crowded runs, and again in heavy traffic on your way home?

Be honest! Most of the season was filled with less-than-marvelous moments.  You’re a diehard skier, so you put up with them to get the worth-it-all highs. That’s life, you say; that’s reality.

But listen to this: you can have hours - days - weeks of great moments without the usual hassle, if you sign up for a holiday at Taos.

That’s right. Taos. New Mexico. Land of balmy weather, rolling plains, pueblos and deserts. Land also of great skiing, because the Sangre de Cristo mountains are so high. At Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico’s major ski area, you can ski Katchina Peak, which has an elevation of 12,481 feet.

Now think Taos, close your eyes, and imagine. No waiting in lift lines, no crowded slopes, no snowboards. Only sunshine, long runs, sensational skiing.  And evenings spent in a cozy lodge, sharing drinks and a gourmet meal with other guests who are there, like you, for a wonderful week of instruction, practice and pure fun.

You may find it hard to believe this alternative to your usual ski “reality.” We did.  We arrived in Taos Ski Valley on a bright, sunny morning in early January 2003. Not one flake of snow was to be found in the town of Taos below. As we climbed up the 15-mile drive to the resort, we were surprised to see snow-covered vehicles on their way down.  But we soon discovered why: a storm had left a foot of snow the previous night.  A good omen!

Nostalgia hit as we settled into our room at the Thunderbird Lodge -and with good reason. The lodge was opened in the 1950s by Buell Pattison, at about the same time Ernie and Rhoda Blake started operating TSV and little has changed.  Taos Ski Valley remains one of the few family-owned and operated ski resorts in North America. Ernie dreamed of a place where skiers could forget the outside world and concentrate on the sport.  He also wanted guests to feel like part of a big family. The Blake children and grandchildren carry on this tradition. Thunderbird's present owners, Elisabeth and Tom Brownell, took over management in

the 1970s and have pampered thousands of guests for over thirty years. Once visitors have tasted their cooking and warmed to their hospitality, they usually return.

A week staying at the Thunderbird Lodge and skiing at Taos is a week to remember and cherish. In our hustle-bustle world there is little time to unwind, forget the rat race and be good to ourselves. Even vacations end up stressful: we set tight schedules and feel obliged to cram as much as possible into a few short days. Things are different at Taos. People come here to ski, eat, relax, share friendships and sleep - in just about that order of importance.  Among the lodge’s amenities are an indoor hot tub, a recreation room, live entertainment, and (if you just can’t do without it even here) free access to the internet.

The world-renowned Ernie Blake Ski School continues to turn out satisfied skiers year after year.  Although my husband Nelson and I have skied for over 40 years, we improved our technique considerably after just 4 hours with instructor Kent McGinnis.  Even beginners ski adequately after a ski-week with Taos instructors.  And what’s more, everyone’s enjoyment of this wonderful sport is enhanced.

 “Learn to Ski Better” weeks are offered throughout the season for skiers of all levels. Two choices are available: 6 days (Sunday-Friday) or 5 days (Monday-Friday). Many weeks are geared to specific groups: women, teens, advanced skiers and a week of Masters’ instruction for the 50-and-older crowd. For the Masters’ classes, specially trained senior instructors ensure that you improve your skiing as much as the other groups do. The

“Super Ski Week” for advanced skiers provides instruction morning and afternoon. The other three packages for women, teens and seniors offer morning lessons, from 9:45 to 12:00. All of the packages include lift tickets, video analysis, NASTAR and après-ski seminars.

Are you hooked yet??  

It sounds like the perfect place, you say, but it must cost a fortune. Guess again! There are two incredible kinds of bargain weeks at Taos Ski Valley. lessons are all half the regular price between December 1 - 19, 2003 and March 28 - April 11, 2004. Six days of lift tickets at half price amount to $114, and add $90 for the daily lessons. Then look over the Taos Ski Valley website (www.skitaos.org) and choose one of the many half-price lodgings for the week.  There you have it: a first-class vacation at an affordable price. 

The second kind of bargain is the “Free Lesson Ski Week,” starting on January 4, 2004. When you purchase a 6-day lift ticket, you get morning group lessons at no additional cost. For that week, the all-inclusive package at the Thunderbird Lodge (lifts, lessons, lodging, breakfast and dinner) comes to $1039 pp double occupancy.  Separate prices for a room and two meals comes to $770 pp double occupancy, while a 6-day lift ticket bought directly from the Ski Valley would be $288.  Prices do not include sales tax.  Considering the gourmet meals served at the lodge, these rates are quite reasonable. 

The Thunderbird also offers a “Super Value Week” from December 13 - 20, 2004.  Guests get 7 days lodging, breakfast and dinner for $700 pp double occupancy.   The full ski-week which includes breakfast, dinner, 6 days of lifts and morning group lessons, is $990 pp. For other special offers, see the lodge website (www.thunderbird-taos.com). For reservations, call 1-800-776-2279.

If a week at the Thunderbird Lodge still seems too much for your budget,you can find inexpensive lodging in the town of Taos. A motel such as theDays Inn will cost about $50 on week nights and will include a continental breakfast. This low-cost alternative is a real possibility if you have a car for traveling between town and resort, though nothing can compare with a week onsite.

You are bound to fall in love, as we did, with this exceptional resort,where excellent skiing, fine dining and warm hospitality are the norm. Can you stretch perfect moments into hours, days and even weeks? You betcha!


Taos Ski Valley general information: 1-800-347-7414 and www.skitaos.orglodging: 1-800-776-1111
e-mail: tsv@skitaos.org
nearest major airport: Albuquerque NM (148 miles from Taos)
daily commuter air service Albuquerque-Taos  Rio Grande Air: 1-800-IFLYRGA


















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