Budget Ski Trips 2009
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TAOS SKI VALLEY, NEW MEXICO
Annual snowfall: 305 inches
Vertical drop: 2,612 feet
Skiable acres: 1,294
One-day lift ticket: $66
Perfect for: Groups that include nonskiers. While the skiers test their mettle on the resort's throat-tightening steeps, everyone else can forage for art, food, and culture in town.
Why here: Located 20 miles from one of the quaintest and most colorful tourist towns in the West, Taos Ski Valley has a unique Southwest-meets-Europe charm. Its terrain rivals that of Jackson Hole and Blackcomb; what's more, it gets 300-plus days of sunshine a year. As for crowds, since there are no lift lines to speak of, you'll get in so many runs that your quads will be begging for a lift down the mountain at the end of the day. One word of caution, though: Check the weather report before you come. In a lean snow year, Taos's bony chutes are unforgiving.
The highlight: Even if you didn't challenge the mountain, you can still join the après crowd gathered around the Hotel St. Bernard's slopeside fire pit for a martini. Be sure to check out the 50-year-old photos…of people sitting around the fire pit.
Sleep for cheap: The rooms at Hotel Don Fernando de Taos are done in traditional Southwestern decor, punctuated by work by local artists. The hotel is located in town, and getting around is easy: There's complimentary shuttle service to historic Taos square, and the Taos Ski Valley bus (a.k.a. the "Chile Line") makes the 30-minute trip from your lodgings to the base an easy $1 ride. Nearby restaurants like Five Star Burger make dining out particularly affordable.
Rooms at the Hotel Don Fernando de Taos start at $89; lift tickets are $66.