Breckenridge

Breckenridge

It has become a bit of a tradition for us to go skiing over New Years. For 2018, we planned another road trip to Taos but, unfortunately for us and Taos, they barely got enough snow to open a major run. Considering the 11 hour drive time, hotel, ski rentals, and lift tickets, the hike to Taos was simply not worth the effort for one ski run. But of course, we couldn’t go without our ski trip, so we decided to look else where for snow! We began our search in Colorado and, after pro-con-pro-ing Vail, Beaver Creak, Copper Mountain, and a few other locations, we landed on Breckenridge.

We loved the ski-in / ski-out resort luxury that we had in Snowbird, Utah (I mean, who really wants to lug their equipment all over town) so we tried to narrow our hotel search to those close to the slopes. We found the Beaver Run Resort at the base of one of Breckenridge’s ski lifts. It was ski in / out, had hot tubs all along the runs for after-ski relaxation, looked great, and the price was right, so we booked it!

The flight from DFW to Denver was a little over 2.5 hours. We had bulk head seats so Ryan could stretch out his 6’2 legs, and we were feeling pretty good after some wine and a light dinner at Vino Volo in the airport. I have to say, airport food is getting much better and Vino Volos goat cheese, chicken salad is definitely a winner!

We landed in Denver around 8 PM and hopped on the Summit Express shuttle for the 2 hour drive to our resort. The shuttle was warm (thank gosh!), and we stopped at a gas station half way through to grab some snacks and energy drinks before we got to the resort since they were $5 on property! We always bring some Quest Bars for a mid-ski day snack too, so hitting a store before reaching the resort was a must. Highly recommend!

The shuttle took exactly 2 hours and our driver, Charlie, was super nice. I have to say, Breckenridge at night is gorgeous with all of the snow and twinkle light covered pine trees! The Beaver Run Resort had a bunch of glittering pines to greet us as we pulled up. We were exhausted and quickly checked in to head up to our room. At first, I was a little nervous about the room since the bed room was super cramped upon entry, but then I saw that we had a massive tub area, mini-kitchen, and huge living room. In the morning, we opened the blinds to uncover a beautiful view of the slopes / ski-lift. Total win on our part!

After an early wake up, we walked to the Coppertop Café and got some to-go breakfast tacos to enjoy by the fireplace. It was such a relaxing way to start the day.

Breakfast tacos in Breckenridge, Colorado

We then set off to the rental shop to get our gear. Someone who was supposed to look / book this stuff in advance did not do their job prior to our trip … so at 12:05 AM I started looking up rental places and we found that the shop at our resort gave 15% off if you booked in advance. Apparently, I could still do so at 12:05 AM on the day of our rental-need, so we not only saved a bunch of money on rental gear, and it was ready and waiting for us when we walked into the ski shop. Travel tip: Always book in advance. The further in advance you book, the more you will most likely save too.

We were quickly fitted and ready to roll! The ski lift was right next to the rental place, so we were up and away in no time. We started with some green slopes and got our ski-legs back quickly. Breckenridge slopes are actually pretty easy. After 3 green trial runs, we were ready for some blues. Breckenridge is a series of 5 peaks and you can ski from peak to peak, using the various runs to travel wherever you want to go. Our hotel was at Peak 9 on the far left side of the mountain, but we found that our favorite blues were on Peak 8 and Peak 7.

We skied until around 10:30 and went to one of the base run restaurants for some water and Quest Bars. The key to a good ski session (not to mentioned feeling at all OK on the mountain) is hydration. Breckenridge had hydration stations all over the place so we drank lots and lots of water.

The Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado
The Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado

We took back to the mountain for another hour and a half before getting peckish again. This time, we went to the restaurant at base 8 called Vista Haus.  The food looked great and Ryan and I decided to share a pizza. On a cold day when you are burning tons of calories, a warm, cheesy pizza really does the trick! We had quite the company while enjoying our pizza as well. The 4 people next to us were all part of a 70-year-old plus ski group! The oldest member of their clan was 96! Can you believe that? They travel the world together skiing and we had quite a conversation with a NYC couple who were gushing with stories of their 50+ years of worldly ski adventures. Talk about relationship goals!

After saying goodbye to our new friends, we took off to the slopes for a few more hours. We were actually pretty happy with our runs. Skiing is really all about confidence. As soon as you start to lose that, you are bound for a yard sale!

Skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado

Our legs were starting to give out on us so we made our way, slope by slope, lift by lift, back to Beaver Run. We were totally pooped. It’s one thing when Ryan needs a nap for recovery, and totally different when I need one too – I am usually the energizer bunny! We slept until 5ish and got ready to explore Breckenridge’s town. Another perk of the Beaver Run Resort is that they have a free shuttle system with over 20 pick up locations all over town. We called down for a shuttle and one arrived to take us in no time. Little did we know, town was only .04 miles away so we totally could have walked it!

We heard about the yearly snow sculpting competition and had to check it out. We walked down Main Street until we saw the various counties participants flags – it was so cool! The statues were massive and each country had a different theme that their sculpture was trying to portray. Just the detail alone was incredible. The sculptures had to be done by the next day, so they were busy at work finishing their master pieces.

Ryan’s favorite was China’s work which was a monkeys face with a hand holding an apple coming out of the snow. I have no idea how much architectural planning went into that piece as all of the legs had to hold the heavy monkey’s head in place. The detail on the face and fingers was pretty incredible as well!

About half way through our trek, I saw a hot coco stand with do-your-own toppings and just had to get some! There is nothing like hot coco to warm up your hands and soul on a cold day!

We finished up the show and decided to walk main street and explore the shops. There were tons of cute boutiques, Colorado souvenir shops, restaurants, and knick-knack places. Ryan bought a new beanie and we couldn’t say no when we passed the Mountain Top Cookie Shop. We got the cookie dough, cookie sandwich and a toffee cream sandwich to save for an after-dinner snack. Yummmmmm!

Eventually, we got hungry and wandered around to various menus until we came to Flipside. It had a very cool vibe and even better burger-aroma when you walked in. The burgers on the menu all sounded divine and I ended up with the Red Door burger that had brie and bacon fig jam with truffle fries and a glass of red wine. What a great dinner!

Behind Flipside was a little grocery and liquor store. Ryan wanted to get lunch / breakfast stuff since we had a kitchen at the resort and I was all in, until I realized they didn’t have or were out of a bunch of things we had in mind. Ryan ended up getting strawberry toaster strudel, raisins, and Gatorade and I decided to stick with the resort’s breakfast tacos. (If you know me, I cannot resists tacos in general, so that is always my go-to option!). With bags in hand, walked back to the resort. It was a short walk and, at our usual elevation / incline, would have been a breeze, but it was steep and we basically almost died huffing and puffing back up!

To cap off the night, we decided to hit up the outdoor jacuzzi by the slopes. It was surrounded by snow-capped pine trees and we had the giant hot tub all to our selves – very romantic! We relaxed in there for a or so before freezing our way back inside and warming by the fireplace.

We got back to the room, took a warm shower, and decided to share my chocolate chip cookie dough sandwich as a night-cap before heading to sleep.

Breckenridge Day 2 –

We gave ourselves a little later wake up this morning at 8 AM. All we had to do to get on the slopes was walk downstairs to grab our gear and then another 10 feet to the door! Waking up was made so much easier since it was snowing too! We got ready in not time and ate the strawberry toaster strudel that Ryan bought us for breakfast the night before. We grabbed our boots and our skis and were on the slopes by 8:30.

My legs were pretty shot from the day before. Knowing that skiing is all about confidence, I tried to “positive self talk” my way down the mountain, but all of the fresh snow made skiing a little more tricky.

There were some blue runs on the far left side of the mountain, so we made our way over there one lift up, and strategic run down to the next lift. We ended up skiing around slopes 6 and 7 for a few hours, even accidentally trying a blue run that should have been label a black!

Even with all of the squats and lunges I did in preparation, my legs were dying and my skiing was getting a bit sloppy. We decided to head back to the hotel, one slope at a time, and I ended up catching my ski on something, got turned around, skied backwards for a few seconds, falling on my back, and hitting my head hard enough to hear a crack in my helmet. Thank gosh I was wearing one! I was so winded and it took all I had to raise my hand up to alter Ryan that I wasn’t dead! Thankfully, I was ok and was able to ski back to the resort, but I knew I was going to be sore and needed a good deep tissue massage ASAP!

After another dip in the hot tubs and a freshening up, we headed back down to the ski town to check out the final results of the snow sculpture competition. It was amazing to see the transformation of some of the finished work and sad to see some of the others that didn’t hold up over the final night of creation! The ballet one we loved the day before didn’t make it – the before and after is below:

After the sculptures, we decided to grab some wine and charcuterie at an adorable little shop, and then we headed to the Blue Stag Saloon for some delicious smoked salmon dip and venison pot pie.

 

Breckenridge Day 3 –

Our last day on the slopes was amazing. While the sun was out, it was only 9 degrees, but we had lots of great slopes and our bodies are ready for a full day! While my epic wipe out gave me some serious whiplash, I was cruising down the slopes with ease.

We decided to stay on slope 9 which closest to our hotel since we had not attempted those runs yet. There was one particular blue run at the very top of the mountain that looked like it would be the perfect long run to cap off our ski day. On the map, the first part of the blue mirrored a black and looked pretty steep, but we foolishly said it wouldn’t be tough! The joke was on us! We got to the top and our blue run was the only blue around – but it was literally three separate levels of long moguls and we were not mogul people! The reason I say “were” was because we somehow made it down with only one minor fall! We were so proud of ourselves and the picture below does not do the steepness of the slope justice.

 

We made it down the moguls on peak 9 in Breckenridge, Colorado

Talk about a great way to end our ski trip!

After we returned our rental gear, we hit the spa for one last time. We had our own private hot tub and it felt great against our sore muscles while we watched people ski down the slopes.

After the hot tub, we walked down to town and found the perfect dinner spot – a Vietnamese pho place. I swear, pho soup on a cold day can relieve any stress cure any illness (*note I am not a physician so it probably wont do anything but warm your soul and taste delicious!).

Breckenridge, Day 4 – 

Today was “D-day” aka departure day. We had a few hours before the Summit Express shuttle was picking us up and, with the state of my whip-lashed neck, a deep tissue massage was all we needed. We made an appointment for a couples massage at Simply Massage, just a quick walk from the resort, and had one of the best massages of our lives. Not only was the place decorated like something I would Pinterest for our apartment, the staff was great and very knowledgeable. My masseuse gauged my neck’s range of motion before the massage and knew just where to apply pressure. I felt a million times better afterwards. I highly recommend their services and they are much cheaper than the $150 massages on resort property.

After our massage, we went back to the hotel, got picked up, spent 3 hours on the shuttle to the airport, and were up and away back to Texas.

Breckenridge, Colorado

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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.

 

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.

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.
first-time-ski-guide

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