Taos Ski Valley is the resort people in the ski industry rave about. Taos [rhymes with house] is a super steep mountain, with powder shots, chutes, big bumps, cornices, and glades. Workers who have been here years still say they haven’t been ‘everywhere’ on the mountain.
The small resort village at the base of Taos Ski Valley contains just four miles of roads and is bordered completely by Carson National Forest. The village limits reach elevations of 12,581 feet with the highest residential dwelling being at 10,350 feet, making Taos Ski Valley the highest municipality in the US. Wheeler Peak, just nearby, is the highest point in New Mexico, at 13,161 ft.
Down the road, 15 miles away (30 minute drive), is the town of Taos. Taos is culturally very cool and bohemian, and is filled with art, culture, heritage and well, really the Northern New Mexico feel with a mix of Hispanic and Pueblo cultures. You can find everything from the Taos Pueblo (the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark) to the earthships (sustainable biotecture buildings), great art culture and of course a stunning outdoor environment, which everyone is all about.
The town was originally established by Don Fernando de Taos after the Spanish Conquest of the Indian Pueblo villages, but the locals today are a friendly bunch of adventurous riders. The town has deep historical ties, and is home to a number of relics and heritage-listed buildings from Native American, Spanish and early American frontier cultures. Staff at the mountain come from all over the US, as well as a few South Americans through the Student Work Travel Program.
Until 2008, it was a skiers-only resort, but they have now opened up to boarders.
Taos Ski Valley is located in northern New Mexico, USA. The village is situated in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and is around 2.5 hours drive to Albuquerque, and 1.5 hours to Santa Fe. The best way to get to the resort is to book a flight into Albuquerque or Santa Fe and then catch the Taos Ski Valley Shuttle Service, which runs daily between the airports and the slopes. The shuttle service operates year-round. Reservations are required, 48 hours in advance preferably.
The Taos area has several little areas that, put together, make up Taos. It is important to be somewhat familiar with when looking for housing, and public transportation in Taos to Ski Valley.
Taos’ public transportation is called the Chili Line. It is operated by the town of Taos with help from Taos Ski Valley. Schedule can be found on the Taos website.
Taos is steep and bold and is awesome if you are an expert rider, in particular if you like hiking to get fresh lines. As a season worker, this is one of the best aspects to the mountain as there is so much terrain that is always untouched and that you discover as you go through the season. For beginners and intermediates, there are miles of cruisers to work on your style as you progress through the season.
The terrain is definitely geared towards more experienced skiers and snowboarders, as a lot of the runs are very rugged and ungroomed, and even the greens and blues are steeper than other mountains.
There is around 1,300 acres of skiable area, split into 113 different runs, of which 51% are classed as expert. Many of the steep, trail runs are not groomed which leaves some excellent bumps to tackle.
There is a small amount of glade riding lower down the mountain, particularly under lift 2 and the trees to riders’ left at lift 7, which includes the Walkyries Glade area, though the better riding is up above the tree-line. Ernies and North American are also some long glades and there is also hike to glades such as corner chute.
Much of the double-diamond terrain requires a hike with walks between 15 – 75 minutes. This can mean some serious work hiking to the freshies, particularly given how high Taos is compared to other New Mexico resorts, but the reward is huge, with dry powder and technical, steep lines.
Kachina Peak, close to Lift 4, stands at 12,481 feet, or 3,804 metres. This was some of the best hiking with open bowl riding and mini hucks, but this season (2014/15) Taos is putting in a new lift to access this area, making it one of the highest lifts in North America and opening up some awesome expert terrain.
Off lift 2, along Highline Ridge and West Basin Ridge, there are always freshies the further you go along. West Basin ridge has probably the most challenging terrain with tight lines and cliff drops.
There is no backcountry access at Taos but there is some good backcountry in the area. Always remember to carry avalanche gear with you when going into the backcountry.
Taos has a large terrain park under lift 7, called Maxies, as well as other smaller parks on the lower part of the mountain. The whole mountain has plenty of kickers and jibs to hit while riding.
Crowds are basically zero at Taos, you may see a queue at the base area during peak periods but otherwise the resort is essentially yours to carve.
Average snowfall is 305 inches (774.7 cm).
The snow is exceptionally light and dry at Taos, owing to its height, the surrounding desert and cold temperatures. It receives more snow than other New Mexico resorts. Taos doesn't have the same type of storms as say Northern CO in the sense those storms stick around and seem to snow for days with very little daily precipitation. At Taos, the storms for the most part come in rather fast and hit hard then clear out leaving some great snow and bluebird days. Because it faces north, it tends to retain the snow quality.
However, early season snow can be unreliable, and so the resort has snow-making on all beginner and intermediate runs to cover these with man-made snow until the base is established.
Taos is blessed with a sunny climate and gets 300+ days of sunshine a year making for some amazing powder, bluebird days.
Winter Season starts for some positions in October but traditionally Taos starts operations on Thanksgiving and closes the first weekend of April.
The resort is constantly listing and opening a variety of positions, with winter positions opening around June/July. A list of current postings, as well as online application forms, is available at Taos Employment. Interviews are conducted both face to face and on the phone if needed. Taos also lists on coolworks.com.
TSV continually hires through the season until about March for different positions, which is when they start looking for summer positions.
Taos hires international applicants through the job agency Universal Student Exchange which is only for South Americans. People who independently organize a J-1 visa are able to work at Taos if they have previously worked there. See Work a Snow Season in the USA for further information on getting a J-1 visa.
The resort will not sponsor H2B applicants nor internships at the resort.
Help preparing for instructors exams is offered if you want to obtain certification.
There are reciprocal deals with a couple of other mountains in the area although the terrain at these resorts isn't as good as Taos.
Taos does not have staff accommodation, but the resort has listings for rentals in town if needed. Finding shared rental properties can be done through the Snow Season Central forum, or through local newspapers and classifieds such as The Taos News. Average rent is around $600-$800 per month for a two bedroom.
The most convenient places in Taos County to live when working at Taos Ski Valley depend on what transportation you will be using. If you are counting on the Chili Line walking distance to the stops would be best (off of main route). If you drive or car pool the closer to TSV the better but that usually means more $ to rent. Taos Ski Valley has some rental options next closest area is Arroyo Seco but there isn't a chili line stop in Seco.
There are just a few restaurants and bars at the resort village. Once you’re done with skiing or snowboarding for the day, The Martini Tree and the St. Bernard offer most of the nightlife, with regular live music and entertainment.
The resort also holds heaps of staff parties, events and festivals, including Beerfest, Winefest and Extreme Competitions.
The town of Taos has much more nightlife. Good bars and restaurants include Taos Diner, 5 Star Burgers, and Taos Inn. Taos also has historical sites such as Kit Carson House, the Harwood Museum of Art, the Martinez Hacienda, and the Taos Pueblo which are well worth a visit.