Taos Day 3

2017 arrived with excitement as we looked forward to our final day of skiing. After another early breakfast and drive to Taos Ski Valley, we hit the basically empty ski slopes as the other skiers (presumably) were recovering from their NYE festivities. Not only were the slopes empty, but they were full of fresh snow from the storm that started the night prior and lingered into the morning. Thank gosh for that fresh snow – it felt like a pillow as I crash landed from my new ski confidence’s drive to try a jump or two. Day three was much more about having fun and play around more than anything else. We even tried a black slope and didn’t die!

We took a few snack and water breaks throughout the day, and eventually called it quits around 2. I couldn’t believe out ski time in Taos went by so quickly! I was so sad to return my gear to Cottam’s Ski Shop, since it meant we were done for this trip, but was still elated from the day’s runs.

There was a cute little town about half-way back to downtown Taos. We decided to make a pit stop and peruse some of the shops there. There was a pottery gallery with some amazing pieces that we stopped in. The girl working there was very nice and showed us the back room where the owner and some of the artists made the work shown in the gallery. In our typical tradition of buying art or something useful on our trips, instead a cheesy trinket that gets thrown in the “stuff pile”, we decided to buy some pottery from the gallery. We got a large serving bowl and two small bowls to match for a very reasonable price.

With our purchase in-hand and no walkable lunch places in sight, we jumped in the car to head to a Mexican restaurant called Orlando’s for a bite to eat. Orlando’s had been recommended to us by 4 -5 different people in the past few days and we quickly found out why. The resultant was well decorated, quick, friendly, and had great food. I had a tasty chicken taco salad and Ryan had a sampling of three types of enchiladas. We sat in front of the kitchen and watched the quick and efficient way the staff was pumping our orders – it was very impressive considering the small space that they were working in.

After lunch, we drove into town to the main square to walk the galleries and shops. The square was small and the garden area was packed with fences, trees, and tents that did not make it very attractive. The trees were lined with twinkle lights which were nice but the colors were random so it was not very clean-looking. We went into quite a few Taos-themed gift shops, galleries, and clothes places. It was hard not to compare the town square to that of Santa Fe’s which I preferred. Santa Fe’s square was cleaner, more planned out, and had many more unique stores organized around a square block so it was easy to find the next place to explore. Taos was more spread out and you had to walk down random alleyways to find new areas of shops to explore. Also, the restaurants and bars in Taos were spread along the main road in downtown, so there were not as many walkable options from the square. We explored for about an hour before deciding to go back to the hotel, hang out with Dakota, and power-nap before heading back out for the evening.

Everywhere I looked said that same thing – the best resultant in Taos is Love Apple. I tried get a reservation but Love Apple was totally booked Friday and Saturday night and only had 9:30 PM or waiting list spots on Sunday. Since we had a big late lunch, 9:30 PM didn’t sound so bad for dinner, so we decided to wait it out. After our nap, we went to the Taos Mesa Brewery’s tap room for a drink before dinner. It was about a mile up the road from our hotel and was in a really cool building with both indoor and outside seating. We sat at the bar and chatted with the bartenders about beer, football, and Taos skiing. The Taos Mesa Brewery was actually located a quick drive outside of Taos so we were at their downtown bar, but the quality of the beer was amazing. Ryan loved it so much he bought a growler of beer and it was so much cheaper than beer in Dallas.

Ryan was getting really hungry and kept hinting that he wanted the pizza at the brewery over going to Love Apple. Fortunately, I held off from succumbing to that temptation just long enough for Love Apple to call and tell us our table was ready an hour early! We quickly finished our drinks and drove over to the white pueblo styled building which housed Love Apple. We walked into a small entry way, through some dramatic curtains, past the kitchen, and into the dining room. Walking through the curtains, seeing the bustle of the kitchen, and then through another set of curtains into the candle lite dining room immediately put you into a romantic, secret garden, type of mood. The dining room itself was mainly lit by candle and twinkle lights which were further reflected by mirrors along the walls, setting the romantic mood in full swing. We sat at a little table and couldn’t help but know the meal to come was going to be an amazing experience.

We started our dinner with two flavors of cornbread muffins, traditional and blue corn. My were they fluffy, moist and delicious, especially with the two flavored butter options to spread across each delicious bite! Yum, yum, yum!

Up next was a pomegranate, walnut, and locally sourced goat cheese salad. The vinaigrette went perfectly with the other ingredients. The salad was the perfect size to split since we were already somewhat filed by the muffins.

As soon as our salads we done, our main entrées hit the table. Ryan swears that his trout was one of the best things he has even eaten – a very bold statement considering all of our culinary adventures, but I would have to agree that the meal was top-notch! I greatly enjoyed a perfectly cooked quail with feta and pomegranate quinoa. The quail was crispy, delicious, and the perfect size.

We were not originally going to splurge for desert, but considering the caliber of our meal so far and the fact that the apple cobbler sounded irresistible, we went all in. The cobbler had caramelized apple, a crispy and buttery crust, and was topped with cinnamon ice cream. My taste buds were in heaven and my stomach was about to burst, but it was worth every bite!

I highly recommend checking out Love Apple if you go to Taos. The only suggestion I would make is that you order your courses as each previous course comes out or ask your waiter to take it slow. Our food came out at very rapid rate, so we rushed through our dinner. Taking it slow will ensure you can relax and savor each course and make your fabulous night last a little longer.

Highly satisfied from dinner, we drove back to the Inn, lit the fire in our room, and listened to its crackle as we fell asleep.

 

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Taos Day 2

Another 6:40 AM wake up on New Year’s Eve to head to the ski valley by the 9 AM lift start. Our skis were waiting for us at the ski shop and we were on the ski lifts in no time. We were much more adventurous in day 2, shooting down blues, testing out some moguls, and going over a few jumps! So much fun!

Taos Ski Valley

We brought some Quest / Cliff Bars for snacks and decided to eat them going up the lift around 11. It wasn’t until we opened them that we realized the bars were totally frozen! Not only that, but our iPhones stopped working because it was so cold! I would get out my phone for a photo and it would turn off within 1 – 2 minutes with “zero battery” even though it was fully charged. So annoying! We had to have both our phones and bars in our inner-most pockets so that they would stay warm enough to use.

Taos Ski Valley was having a laser light show, ski parade, and fireworks starting at 5:30 PM, so we decided to pace ourselves throughout the day so we could last longer on the mountain.  With that said, we had lunch at the Mexican restaurant at the base of the ski lifts around again. I had some chicken tacos and Ryan enjoyed Christmas enchiladas; one with red and one with green chili salsa. Red and green chili salsa are New Mexico staples and you will find dishes cooked with those salsas in almost every restaurant! So yummy.

Lunch in Taos Ski Valley

At one point, someone left one of the beer taps running behind the bar and we yelled to one of the waiters to turn it off. Beer went absolutely everywhere behind the bar, over the counter, and on the floor. The bar tender was so upset and was running around like mad trying to clean up. Needless to say, he was pretty entertaining to watch while he cleaned and tried to play Clue while figuring out “Who Done It”.

After lunch, we hopped back onto the ski lift which took us into a cloud filled with snow! It was so beautiful. The snow wasn’t coming down too hard but the flakes were huge and it was beautiful. The change in visibility atop the mountain a little scary to ski in. The sun creates shadows in the snow, making it easier to see bumps, dips, and differences in the snow while skiing. With the snow coming down and clouds blocking the sun, you couldn’t see any of those things until you were almost on top of them. We had to be much more cautious on our decent! Even with the trepidation, I couldn’t have been more elated about the snow situation. I loved every second of it and we skied for another few hours until our legs couldn’t take it anymore.

After putting our skis up and changing into our snow boots, we decided to walk around the Ski Valley area. There were quite a few hotels / Inns, ski shops, and cute restaurants to visit and we decided that, on the next trip, staying in the Valley was a must. Knowing it was going to get crowded, we decided to find a good spot to view the festivities on the second floor Martini Bar patio overlooking the mountain side. We enjoyed some hot chocolate and Bailey’s while waiting in the snow flurry for the show to being. The snowflakes coming down were all in star patterns and looked so cool!

Hot coco to stay warm while waiting for the Taos Ski Valley fireworks

When it got dark, the laser show began on the main slope facing the ski area. The show was a hodgepodge of random patterns and designs, mirroring what looked like the old Microsoft logo. There were a couple of cool looking patterns but, overall, it was underwhelming.

The real show began once the ski parade started. There were about 20 people at the top of the slope with red flares. They skied down in a snake-like pattern, making a neat effect against the dark, snowy backdrop. As soon as they finished, the fireworks started! They were so close up that they looked huge and made the snow sparkle all different colors with each explosion in the air. It was breathtaking! We headed out about halfway through the show so that we could beat the traffic out of the Valley, though we could see the fireworks as we walked to the parking lot. Overall, the day was just amazing and we enjoyed every minute of it.

I am a planner and I usually have every minute of each trip planned out to a tee. Unfortunately, we forgot to make NYE dinner plans and most things were booked up by the time we looked. Our hotel was having live music, so we ended up planning to do dinner and watch the show there, but Ryan had a bad migraine, we were tired, and not super hungry, so we ended up spending the evening by the fire in our hotel room and munching on the snacks we picked up from Central Market for our road trip to bring in 2017.

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.