Try Taos this Winter

If 40 is the new 30, and pink is the new red, then clearly it's safe to say that Taos is the new Santa Fe.

This winter, instead of spending all your time and travel dollars to get to Colorado, why not take the family somewhere much closer and less expensive? Why not try Taos this year for your winter vacation? Whether you want to snow ski or just sit in a hot tub, there's something for everyone in Taos. It isn't as commercial and costly as Santa Fe, and you still get all the laid-back New Mexico pleasure in one, easy-to-get-to spot.

Winter skiing doesn't get more family-friendly than it does at Taos Ski Valley, a family-owned and operated ski destination that caters to kids and novice skiers with one of the top daily ski schools in the nation, so mom won't have to worry about the kids while she and Dad are checking out some of the best black, blue and green runs they've ever skied. Just outside of downtown Taos, the mountains of Taos Ski Valley are where you'll want to spend your days and possibly your nights. Lodgings there are comfortable and affordable, and some of Taos' best family restaurants are found up in these mountains. In fact, no matter what the weather, you can find half of the skiers in the open-air restaurant (they have space heaters!) every afternoon at Hotel St. Bernard - Deck and Rathskellar where you can enjoy beer, burgers and bratwurst as you keep your eyes on the slopes. For a hardy German meal to warm you while you slow down after a fast day on the slopes, head to The Bavarian Restaurant, an elegant lodge secluded mid-slope at the base of Kachina Lift. A tile oven there will warm your back while you are served Bavarian-Austrian cuisine and traditional Ski Alm gourmet dishes. Bavarian beer tops of the evening, too, and it may you sleep before another day on the slopes.
But Taos is much more than just the best, closest ski destination for Texans to find this year: Taos is a village with an avalanche of history, tradition, folklore, fantasy, art that covers the town in an amazing ambiance.
And if you want nothing but rest and relaxation--pampering and personal space to contemplate the stars and your next fabulous meal, it's time I shared Taos' best-kept secret: Rancho de San Juan. Not your average boutique hotel or bed and breakfast--Rancho San Juan is a destination all its own. Located 30 miles outside of Santa Fe and about 20 miles outside of Taos, it is the only place you'll ever want to stay when you go to New Mexico because there's no place quite like it. Located near Espanola and Abiqui--places people like Georgia O'Keefe and Shirley Maclaine have enjoyed calling home--Rancho de San Juan features private casitas or private residences that are all yours for as long as you want to stay--each with amenities such as fireplaces, spa tubs, sitting areas, travertine floors, patios with chimenias, magnificent views, freshly-ironed high-thread-count frette sheets, luxury extras and more. After a day of skiing up in the mountains, return to Rancho Santa Fe where you can have a personal masseusse come to your room and work out those aches and pains for you before you head to the lodge and dining room for a magnificent, gourmet feast at the restaurant at Rancho de San Juan.
Chef/owner John Johnson has established the international award-winning restaurant at Rancho de San Juan as the most creative eatery in New Mexico. "Exploring the bounty of nature with creative sophistication and artistic presentation," he has taken an innovative approach to gourmet dining, offering an a la carte dinner menu (appetizer, entree and dessert) with options that change weekly. "Classical creations combine flavors, textures and aromas from around the world and provide a delightful experience which enhances the memory of the dining event. Fresh flowers, candlelight, hand-starched table linens, family sterling silver, custom-designed French porcelain, Riedel crystal, soft jazz and classical music, award-winning service and an unhurried atmosphere all combine to make for a memorable dining experience," according to, and it's all true.
One of the most spectacular places in all of New Mexico is found right there a short walk from your caste at Rancho de San Juan--the Sandstone cathedral. Take a 15 minute hike before breakfast and you'll see the most stunning views in the state. Unlike any chapel you've ever been in, the Sandstone Cathedral has windows built into the stony cliffs where you can look down at the valley below and see for miles. Want to get married there? No problems if you wear hiking boots with your wedding dress and veil!
So what is there to do once you get to Rancho de San Juan besides eat, sleep, have a massage, take a hike, head to the hills and watch glorious sunrises, sunsets and starry starry nights? Why not ride a horse? The movie City Slickers was filmed nearby in canyons around Rancho de San Juan, so you're sure to see some beautiful country by horseback. Also, the house where Georgia O'Keefe lived isn't far, and it's a delightful place to visit, too.
Of course, you could always mosey back into town to see the shops, art galleries, restaurants, museums and night life there. It might be fun to stop and have a drink in the Anaconda Bar at the Monte Sagrado Resort--they say that Julia Roberts is known to drop in sometimes (she lives on a ranch outside Taos!). Monte Sagrado is another great place to stay that's not too far from the Taos Ski Valley, and they have individual casitas with themed suites that are as interesting as they are beautiful and spacious. Always wanted to go to Morocco? Try the Morocco Suite. On your honeymoon and ready for the sexiest private setting in town? How about a night at the Kama Sutra suite?!
In Taos there are great museums to visit and homes to tour, like the Mabel Dodge house and the Kit Carson museum. But while you're out near Espanola and Rancho de San Juan, be sure to drop in on the studio of internationally-acclaimed artist Doug Coffin who works in many mediums but is perhaps best known for his huge metal sculptures with their American Indian motifs.
Another don't-miss thing to do in Taos proper is to visit the Taos Pueblo where American Indians have lived and worked--and continue to--for centuries at the base of the mountains. It's a beautiful place for the kids to learn about history and the peoples and cultures of this land, but it's also one of the most peaceful places on the planet to take a walk and see the adobe buildings and look out over the mountains in the distance.
You can take Santa Fe, but I'm keeping Taos. They say there's a "Taos Hum" -- the effect of a special spiritual vortex there that has an almost audible sensation which brings forth creativity and happiness in anyone who comes into the area. Whatever it is about Taos, its sure to take your breath away.

Janis Turk, Travel Writer