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Ringo Boitano: Three Days in the Taos Skii Valley

the Alpine Village Suites with ski slopes in the background, Taos Ski Valley

Skiing With the Mayor King
Three Days in the Taos Ski Valley

By Ringo Boitano
Photographs by Deb Roskamp

“Whoever created the Taos Ski Valley took extra special care."
- Neal King, Mayor, Taos Ski Valley

here was a look of horror on his face. I easily had 30 pounds on him, and probably the same in years. A collision would certainly be of greater harm to him than to me. For just a fraction of a second our eyes met. He then made a perfect Stem Christie to the safety of the hill on my left. I had no choice but to ski to the bottom of the slope, my only option taking an embarrassing fall. As I caught my breath, I looked up at the towering mountain of skiers above me. I remembered the local’s line that ‘Taos is another word for vertical.’ I also remembered what a friend had told me earlier, “If it’s been that long since you last skied, then a beginner’s ski class is advised.” That beginner’s class would begin tomorrow.

skiier at the Taos Ski Valley with snow-covered mountains in the background
At a base elevation of 9,207 feet, The Taos Ski Valley is considered a skier’s ski resort.
Back Story

Located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico, the Taos Ski Valley is nestled 15 miles northeast of Taos. Originally a mining community, the resort was the dream of German native Ernie Blake to create a Bavarian style ski resort. He moved his family to a camper there in 1955 and the building of the world-class resort began. To this day it remains one of the few family owned and operated ski resorts in North America, with Blake’s children and grandchildren now running the operation. At a base elevation of 9,207 feet, it is considered a skier’s ski resort.

ski instructor with beginning skiers

Yellowbird Beginner's Ski Program

As I joined the ranks of seven beginning skiers, ranging in ages thirteen to seventy, the monkey wrench tightening in my gut made me wonder if I had make the right decision. I was never good at group instruction and the boot camp sequences from Full Metal Jacket came to mind. Before I could duck out, we were approached by a gentile Englishman by the name of Neal King. After formal introductions, he proceeded to tell us a couple of self-deprecating stories and we were immediately in laughter – and, most importantly, relaxed. Neal started with the most basic of instructions - learning to take our skis off and on. We did it a couple of times until he was completely sure that everyone got it right. With a strong emphasis on safety, Neal made us understand that we were always in control of our actions. An hour later we were taking baby runs down the hill.

town mayor and ski instructor Neal King
Neal - the Mayor King
Neal is one of those rare individuals who guides you with seamless instruction, but makes you feel as if you were doing it on your own. I wanted to please him as much as I wanted to improve my skiing.

During break, I chatted with Neal and asked him about his life. As a life-long skier, he has a deep passion for the Taos Ski Valley. This passion transcends skiing; for Neal is also the mayor of the community. Much of his time is spent promoting the TSV as a summer resort.

At the end of the day it was obvious why the ski school is consistently rated one of the finest in North America. Not only did it offer 4 1/2 hours of world-class lessons, but great value with beginner lift ticket, skis and boot rentals included in the rate. TSV also offers popular Ski Weeks, designed for skiers of all abilities, to help them learn to be better skiers.

hotels and resorts at Taos Ski Valley

I couldn’t wait to hit the slopes the next morning. But first it was important that I get an objective overview of the TSV’s après-ski pleasures, represented in seven different bars, many offering live entertainment.

marker in front of big tree, the Taos Plaza

The Other Taos

Just down the mountain from the TSV is Taos - a fascinating mosaic of different cultures, architecture, museums, galleries, shopping and regional New Mexican cuisine. It makes for a great break from skiing and is worth visiting regardless of the season.

The Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage site, continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years by the Tiwa-speaking Native American Pueblo people. With a population of approximately 2000 people, the Pueblo is multi-leveled homes made of adobe, built side-by-side. It is open to visitors, except during tribal rituals.

Ranchos de Taos consists primarily of a Latino population who has been in the area for over 400 years. The centerpiece of the community is the adobe mission, San Francisco de Asis Church. It has been the source of paintings by Georgia O'Keefe and photographed numerous times by Ansel Adams.

Kit Carson Home and Museum
The Kit Carson Home and Museum is located one block from the Taos Plaza.

The Taos Plaza is where Taos’ modern Anglo history as an artist colony began in the late-eighteenth century. It has attracted the likes of D.H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung and Thomas Wolfe. With its shops, galleries and restaurants, it is also Taos’ business district.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is the second highest suspension bridge in the U.S.

The Enchanted Circle is an 86-mile road trip through the southern Rocky Mountains. With Taos at its center, highlights include Angel Fire Resort, the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial, Eagle Nest, Red River and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

Santa Fe is located between Taos and the Albuquerque Airport. World-famous, it is America’s oldest capital city and home to the nation’s third largest art market.

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Feedback for Ringo

I love Ringo's piece on historic hotels. I once stayed at the Laurentian in Montreal - is it still around, is it historic? And then there was the Heups in Bismark.

It is interesting that two of your entries are in CANADA.

Brent, Seattle, WA

It's no mystery that you are great at what you do.

Sandee, Seattle, WA

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The Mystery on the Oasis pics are very funny!

Ramon, Kansas City, MO

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Ha ha ha ha your "schtick" Ringo!!

Dolly, Las Vegas, NV

Hello the travelling Boitano's hope you enjoy. Best wishes.

Elsa Magdalena Berno-Boitano, Laussane, Switzerland

My Irish roots understand terrible beauty. So do my human roots. The concept has such a ring of truth to it, doesn't it? Great article, Ringo. I hope to get to Ireland eventually, and thanks for blazing the trail!

Sandeee Bleu, Seattle, WA

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No wonder I've been hearing all these wonderful stories about Ireland. I used to think that it was just for Irish Americans seeking their ancestral roots but your article seems to call out to the non-Irish like me. Fascinating and intriguing.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

Thanks for this great post wow... it's very wonderful.

Key Logger, New York

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Lets not forget that the Marriot Harbor Beach is within walking distance to the world famous Elbo Room - Fort Lauderdale's oldest bar.

Jeff, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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Thanks for taking the time for the message and reminder. Indeed, I had a quick drink at the Elbo Room. My trip to Ft. Lauderdale would not have been complete without a visit to this historic institution.I have been reading about it for years, and was not disappointed. It felt like a real local's hangout.

- Ringo


I thoroughly enjoyed your article about Dick and Liz. I remember seeing that article back in the heyday of Life Magazine.

To remember the "behind-the-scenes" stories like that makes you genuine fan of the 60's. The famous couple's turbulent relationship was just a precursor of today's headline-grabbing media stars like Britney Spears and her colleagues. Life was simpler then. The paparazzis still had some sense of decency. You "coulda" been a good paparazzi. I say "coulda" because you kept this to yourself all these many years.

Looking forward to other media trivia you can remember.

Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hey, Ringo –

Enjoyed your article on Antarctica --- cool photos, too. One thing, you mentioned that Ushuaia in Argentina is considered the most southern city in the world. I read that Chile lays claim to that distinction, with Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world.

Mick, Greenbay, WI

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Mick –

Now that football season is over --- I’ve often wondered what you Packer fans did in the off season ---- it’s great that you took the time to visit TravelingBoy. Great question, unlike my older brother, I adore all lamb products, and Patagonian Lamb --- cooked in a restricted area at the restaurant in an opened wood-fueled fire pit --- is amazing. The chef actually uses an ax to carve it. Frankly, I found it superior to Norwegian fjord lamb, Irish Burren lamb and even those much esteemed creatures down in New Zealand. The crab in Ushuaia is the other thing to eat. Wait a sec, you asked about Punta Arenas vs. Ushuaia as the furthermost city in the world. Well, they both have little disclaimers re populations --- you know, what’s a city, which one is a town, ect – so better let Chile and Argentina brass it out. They seem to be able to argue about any subject.

- Ringo

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Irish Goodbye (Dispatch #20)

Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

Go There

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