Taos, New Mexico

The Sagebrush Inn in Taos, New Mexico

When November hit and I realized I had one extra, unplanned, day of vacation left for the year, the words “ski trip” popped into my head and wouldn’t go away! After our New Year’s trip last year to Snowbird, Utah, Ryan hasn’t stopped pestering me to go skiing again ASAP, so another long, New Year’s weekend was the perfect way to quell our needs for the slopes.

With just a little more than a month to plan, hotels were booked up and there were only a few very pricy, red-eye, layover-centric flights available, so we decided to research what was in driving distance from Dallas. Driving the 10 hours to Santa Fe in March was really fun, so tacking on another hour to go to Taos, New Mexico seemed like the way to go. While the ski in / out hotels in Taos Ski Valley were sold out, we found the adorable, dog friendly Sagebrush Inn in downtown Taos about 40 minutes from the mountain that was just $130 a night! With the Sagebrush Inn booked, our car packed, dog settled in, and podcasts downloaded, we were ready to head out!

We left the Thursday night before New Year’s so that we could take Friday as a vacation day and use the Monday holiday as our 4th day of long weekend. I always try to take vacation on long weekends so you can get a bonus day of vacation (learn more about making the most of your limited vacations days). Needless to say, leaving after work for an 11-hour drive was rough since we didn’t arrive in Taos until the wee hours of the morning, but it was so worth it! You only live once right?

We finally arrived at the Sagebrush Inn and were greeted with a very warm, classic Taos, adobe vibe. Our suite was on the second floor looking over a snowy courtyard which was perfect for our puppy to roam in. We actually had two rooms in our suite with double king beds and an awesome fire-place with tons of fire wood! I was so excited to use all of the fire building skills I learned from watching millions of episodes of Survivor.

Once we got to the room, we got our ski stuff ready to go for the next day, set our alarm for a bright and early 6:40 AM, and passed out!

Taos Day 1:

The early bird gets the worm right? At least that is what I have to tell myself to get out of bed before 7… that and the fact that we would be skiing in a few short hours! Thankfully I had gotten all of my ski clothes ready the night before, so getting ready was quick. We walked Dakota and let her play with the other 20 or so dogs at the hotel and then went to the restaurant for our complimentary breakfast. Breakfast was pretty basic but gave us the fuel we needed for a long day of skiing.

While there was a free shuttle from the Inn to Taos Ski Valley, we opted to drive up the mountain for a bit more flexibility, and so I could take advantage of the heated seats! We drove through downtown Taos, passed snow filled farms with cows and horses, and up from 7K feet to 10K feet in the Valley. While the slopes didn’t officially open until 9, we were glad for our early start since parking at 8:30 was already a mad house. Fortunately, there were shuttles from the parking lot to the ski area entrance so that all of the people who brought their own equipment wouldn’t have to lug it too far.

We don’t have skis, so we went into Cottam’s Ski Shop at the entrance of the ski area. They fitted us with shoes and skis in no time, but just long enough for me to look at all of the other merchandise in the store and want to buy 3-4 new sets of ski gear… Thankfully, Ryan pulled me away from the vibrant ski jacket patterns and we put our gear on and started the trek to the ski lift. I have to say, the worst part of skiing is walking far distances in ski boots with all of your gear.

Finally, we made it to the lifts and the base of the slopes. Looking up, the slopes were super intimidating as all of those that funneled to the lift area were black runs, however, a sign posted at the bottom exclaimed there were easier runs on the other side. *Phew!*

At the bottom of Taos Ski Valley

With skis on, we made our way to the lift and were carried up to the white ski-heaven that awaited us! Since this was only Ryan’s 3rd time skiing and my 5th, we decided to take it easy during the first half of the day, mainly sticking on the green slopes. To our pleasant surprise, our legs picked up right where we left-off in March and we were skiing with ease! The green slopes in Taos were actually pretty steep and amazingly long and wide, so it took us a while to go down the slopes while regaining our confidence. Long slopes are the best and I prefer to take it slow since I’d rather spend more time skiing than sitting on the ski lifts to go back up!

Skiing in Taos, New Mexico

On the left side of the mountain, there is a restaurant called Phoenix and espresso bar next to one of the lifts. We made our way over there and had a lunch and caffeine break. I got a pulled-chicken sandwich and Ryan had a brisket sandwich. The bread was stale and the meat was dry for both of us and our meal cost $30, so we decided to avoid that place for the rest of our stay.

After our lunch break, we decided to attempt the blue slopes. While I was a little tepid at the start, the runs were nice and wide so I was able to control my skis well. The blue and green runs ran together nicely and we were easily able to avoid blacks. It seemed that there wasn’t much difference in most of the greens and blues, meaning the greens we warmed up on were pretty challenging to being with. Taos is definitely a fun mountain to go down with a ton of run options and lots of lifts. As an added perk, there were only maybe 2-4 people with us on any given run.

Eventually, our legs started to give out and we knew it was time to call it a day. We were pretty hungry so we went to a Mexican place at the bottom of the main lift area called Rhoda’s Restaurant. We sat at the bar and watched a very eccentric bar tender shoot around while yelling jokes and making drinks for everyone. I filled up on a yummy Bloody Mary and Ryan and I split a quesadilla.

Bloody Mary at Rhoda's Restaurant in Taos Ski Valley

After our drinks, we stored our skis and gear at Cottam’s Ski Shop and headed back into town. Dakota was ecstatic to see us when we got back and we took her out into the field behind the Sagebrush Inn to play in the snow for a while. She loves the snow and it was so cute to see her jumping around in it. There is nothing like having your furry best friend enjoy a trip as much as you.

Eventually, we had to get ready and find somewhere to go for dinner. I had a shower and washed my hair, and then learned the hard way that our hair dryer was dead – oh no! My mother would kill me if she knew I ventured out in 20-degree weather with wet hair. I called down to the Inn’s front desk for a new one, but they never ended up bringing it to the room so, for the sake of time, I had to improvise! I realized that our heaters in both rooms blew the hot hair out and up, just like hair driers do, so I resorted to standing over the heater and drying my hair on the highest setting. It was effective and actually quicker than a usual dryer, but I don’t recommend it unless you are in “dryer circumstances”! (Insert eye-roll at corny joke here).

While most places were booked up, I found one on TripAdvisor called Common Fire which said they would have room for us. We had Mexican food for lunch, so a farm-to-table style place like Common Fire was exactly what we were craving.

The restaurant itself was so homey feeling. It was just one large room with a huge hearth in one corner where all of the food was cooked. The prep table was like a kitchen island, separating the hearth from the guests, though the hosts and servers were running around the island whilst mingling with everyone in the restaurant as if they were family. The decorations were sparse but made of pine and natural materials that enhanced the warm, cabin-like feel, and with the hustle and bustle of the hosts, and the guests savoring the food and wine that perfectly complemented their rich conversations around each dining tables, the whole atmosphere reminded me of an oversized dinner party at home.  I loved it!

The hearth at Common Fire in Taos, New Mexico

With wine in hand, we waited for our table in the spacious back-room of the restaurant for about an hour while reflecting on our day. Eventually, we were escorted by one of the owners, who had just the bubbliest personality, to our table.

The menu was very reasonably priced for a farm-to-table restaurant so we deiced to try a few things. First up were roasted carrots that were crispy on the outside but quickly melted in your mouth with an explosion of flavor.

Our second course of pork bone broth tasted just like bone broth (I wasn’t so partial to that course), and was quickly followed by the third dish of Bo’ssam, three cabbage leaf Korean-style pork tacos. The tacos were light had just the right amount of flavor. Lastly, was a pork chop with a pear-apple compote and acorn squash. Pork and apple were made for each other so the dish was delicious, however, there was just a smidge too much fat on the pork for my tastes. Overall, the dinner was very enjoyable and warmed our bellies and our soul with such a great concept on a cold, snowy night.

Pork with apple-pear compote and pork bone broth from Common Fire in Taos, New Mexico

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, started a fire in the fireplace, and feel quickly to sleep.

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Skiing 101

Skiing 101

First time skiing? Get SO excited! It is going to be amazing. There is truly no other feeling than flying down the slopes once you get comfortable in your ski boots! Looking up that steep mountain can be a bit intimidating the first time, so the tips below will help you help you overcome your fears and become a ski pro in no time.
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Where to go: If you already know where you are going, feel free to skip to the next section. If not, there are a few things to think about during your research:

  • Proximity to your home: Of course Colorado, Mammoth, and Tahoe are some of the more popular ski destinations in the US, but there are plenty of other areas that can be less crowded with slopes better for beginners that may even be easier to get to pending where you are from. Might as well start small and make those spots your go-to once you feel good in your skis!
  • Mountain difficulty: Each mountain will have a variety of runs ranging in difficulty and those runs are detailed on the mountain’s website. You can find the percentage of run types, see which runs are open, snow fall, and tons of other details about each mountain on its site that can help you figure out if it is the mountain for you! Also, read mountain reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.  Some “easy” green runs may actually be considered blues elsewhere so spot check your final picks before booking.
  • Budget: Ski passes, gear rentals, and lessons costs vary drastically between resort towns. Most ski areas will have average rental and pass prices on their website so make sure to check them out before hand so you are not surprised. Also, most ski towns are far from the airport, so don’t forget your additional transport costs when budget planning.
  • Read about my experiences at Ski Santa Fe, New Mexico and Snow Bird, Utah here.

Where to stay:

  • Ski in / ski out resorts are THE BEST! If you get the chance to stay in one, do so. There is nothing worse than lugging all of your ski gear far distances in ski boots. Ski in / out resorts are usually right on the slopes, have lockers / gear rentals right next to the lifts, restaurants, and a spa all on site for maximum awesomeness.
  • Staying off site is still a great option too, but try to get as close as possible. We stayed in Taos when we skied in New Mexico and it was a 40 minute drive to the ski area every morning and another 40 minutes home every night – doable but definitely not ideal. If you are not driving your own 4-wheel drive car, make sure to ask if the hotel has a shuttle or if there is easy transport to the ski area.

Up the mountain: There are a few things you need to remember on the mountain to stay in peak shape:

  • Stay very, very hydrated! It is the best way to combat altitude sickness and will keep you going longer on the slopes
  • Bring a snack. We always bring a protein bar in our jackets for when we get peckish but don’t want to stop at a restaurant. Just make sure you have it in an inside pocket so it does not freeze!
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen often! The altitude and the snow make the sun a lot more powerful so don’t forget to protect your skin. While a sexy look, you don’t want to take home goggle burn marks!
  • Chapstick and a small travel lotion are also great things to take with you in your jacket pockets for emergencies.

Skiing in Snowbird, Utah

Ski gear: As a first time skier, you may be hesitant to make a full investment in the gear you need – totally understandable! Below are the things you should consider buying vs. renting. For additional details, see the full ski trip packing list here.

Buy:

  • Polarized, no-fog, ski goggles
  • Warm gloves
  • Ski mask (balaclava)
  • Ski beanie
  • Ski helmet with vents. While you can rent a helmet, they pack easily, they pay for themselves after about 2 trips, and I preferred to get once that had not been worn (aka sweated in) before.

Rent:

  • Skis, poles, and boots

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Ski lessons: For your first time on the slopes, get an instructor! If you are going with friends, they are going to want to ski themselves and probably won’t teach you as well as a pro, so it is worth the investment to spend half a day getting the basics down. Most ski areas offer adult classes and typically give you a free lift ticket with your lesson. You may feel a little silly on the bunny hill, but everyone started there at some point! My fiancée is 30 and took ski lessons for the first time a year ago. The lessons helped him get confidence quick and (the best part) he couldn’t blame my advice for any of his falls!

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First ski down: I won’t lie to you, your first time down the slope may be a bit daunting. To tell you the truth, I had a terrible first ski experience. My ski instructor told me a decapitation story on the ski lift up the mountain, a girl flew in front of me and knocked herself out on a wooden pole within my first 5 feet down the mountain (helmets are important people), and I almost got run over by a snowboarder. Needless to say, I did not want to go down the mountain the second day, but I somehow managed the courage and I am so glad I did! If you can get through that first day, the second will make you fall in love with skiing. Your legs get used to it, you start getting into the flow, and your confidence builds. Let me tell you, skiing is all about confidence. If you take your time, you will find a rhythm, and you will find love for this amazing sport! Just go slow and know that practice makes perfect.

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Next steps: Ski more and explore. There are so many different ski areas in the US that you never have to go to the same one twice! On top of that, the skiing abroad is supposed to be top-notch, so why not make an amazing international vacation out of it?

Skiing in Snowbird, Utah

Lima – Last Day in Peru

My stomach! I don’t know what I ate that decided to completely destroy my insides, but I totally regretted whatever it was. I couldn’t eat or drink anything all morning, which was really sad considering how delicious the food in Peru is.

After sleeping in as much as I could, I met up with the rest of my family to hop on our airport transport. It took about 15 minutes to get to the Cusco airport but almost 45 minutes to get checked in. There were a handful of people being carted around in wheelchairs from rolling / breaking their ankles hiking the Inca Trail! Thankfully, none of us were in that bad of shape, though I slept more on the plane to Lima trying to recover…

The plane ride was short and it didn’t take long for us to drop our bags off at the Hotel Britania and set off in search of lunch. We walked to the Cat Park, the unofficial central park of the Miraflores district in Lima called Parque Kennedy that is home to hundreds of stray cats, and found a very packed, walk-up sandwich place called La Lucha. Trying to stick to neutral flavors for my stomach, I got a deliciously simple chicken sandwich. Ryan ordered a cookies-and-cream milkshake with his meal. I had a sip and, without a single shred of doubt, proclaimed that it was the most delicious milkshake ever made (and it still unrivaled to this day). Usually, I do not indulge in milkshakes, but I made Ryan split his with me. He was not super happy that I took 50% of heaven, so we got another shake to split and took photo documentation of the glorious drink (below). If you go to Lima, you MUST got to La Lucha and try a milk shake!

Splitting a La Lucha milkshake in Lima, Peru

After we filled up, we headed back to the hotel which hailed a cab for us. Cabbies in Peru can be a bit sketchy, so it is recommended to have your hotel call a trusted service for the area to take and pick you up from where ever you go.

We decided to go to the Larco Museum, home to thousands of piece of ancient ceramics and pieces of South American history. The Larco Museum’s grounds are immaculately kept with amazing flowers covering the building and the adjacent gardens.

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The galleries inside were filled with amazing jewelry, warrior outfits, pots and everyday goods, and most importantly, Pachamama and Pachapapa. Pachamama is the embodiment of Mother Earth, protecting over fertility, the mountains and the harvests, and who causes earthquakes. We saw the female and male figures of Pachamama all over Peru. Not only are they adorable, but we also heard a song about them during our first night in Cusco which had been stuck in our heads and sung by at least one of us every day since…

Pachapapa in Lima, Peru

We explored the museum for a few hours and, before we knew it, it was time to meet our cab driver in front of the museum to go back to the hotel. We quickly freshened up for our fancy, last-night-in-Peru / sister’s birthday celebration dinner. We went to a very high-end restaurant and had a 7-course meal filled with drinks, laughter, and reminiscing. While I wish I could tell you what the restaurant was called and describe each immaculate dish and cocktail in detail, I spent about 75% of that dinner in the restroom and only took a small bite of my dishes (minus the seafood or acidic looking ones). Being the foodie I am, this was one of the most tragic meal experiences of my life.. seeing all of this scrumptiousness before me and having my body rebel to the point where I couldn’t stomach anything.

Between the food FOMO, the “we’re leaving tomorrow” depression, and the Montezuma’s revenge (that ended up lasting two weeks after we returned to the USA), sleep that night came quickly and, before we knew it, we were on a plane and the back in the States. Even with a stomach bug, all of the adventure, rich culture, and family bonding made for an absolutely amazing trip to Peru!

Pachamama & I at the Lima airport