Best Local Ski Mountain (2002)

Taos Ski Valley

Well, yes, a 12-hour drive is as close as it gets, but Taos Ski Valley is well worth it, and far more interesting than a lot of places you can reach by plane. Taos is a family-owned, family-run, world-class ski mountain for serious skiers. The local lore is that Taos was initially thought to be too steep for most recreational skiers when it was built in the late 1950s, yet bull-headed Texans short on skill, but long on nerve, flocked there and said, "To hell with it, I'm going to the top." We've been rewarded with runs named Longhorn, a double-black diamond bump run that just doesn't quit and Lone Star, a more gentle intermediate run. On the "ridge," where one must hike, at more than 12,000 feet elevation, to catch the serious steeps and untracked powder, the runs are named after some of the German generals who schemed to assassinate Hitler. This blend of European ski traditions and the desert Southwest means great skiing by day and great dining by night. From the looks of things, the wet El Nino weather pattern, which produced bases of more than 100 inches last time it came through, should mean a helluva season this year.

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