For international snow-skiing aficionados Taos Ski Valley has always been regarded with provenance as a world class destination with fabulous snow, slopes and accommodations. On the flip side Taos Ski is also a most affordable recreational venue but a story about Taos Ski Valley would be complete without noting the culturally rich community of Taos. With this in mind, let me be your Sherpa and take you on a frugal skiing adventure in the Land of Enchantment at a cool place called Taos, New Mexico.
So you can’t quite justify spending a bazillion dollars to fly off to Le Grand Bornand, France to spin yarns at La Ferme de Lormay while sipping a vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, don’t feel like a Lone Ranger because you’re not alone. You might not even know who or what Chez Albert is but you always wanted to try your hand at snow skiing but was too stigmatized by the costs one might face. You heard all the horror stories about zillion dollar ski lift tickets, classes, gear and lodging, let alone eating anything at a ski resort other than a microwave textured soy protein burrito. Good thing you can drink melted snow for free and sleep in the back seat of your Mini Cooper, right?
There is no question a person will need to spend some money if they plan any kind of recreational adventure for nothing is free but we don’t need to spend a king’s ransom. Basically you will need to find a nice affordable place to stay while in Taos since chances are the rooms near the ski lodge will be booked up and the rates would be higher. If you can afford it, by all means enjoy yourself for Taos has everything one’s heart may desire lavishly speaking and the sky’s the limit. Taos Ski Valley also has a multitude of upscale accoutrements to satisfy the most discerning customers and it is culinary adventure in it’s own right. Fortunately for the average schmoe on a budget there are deals and you don’t have to sleep in a cardboard box and eat stale fry bread in the process.
In the Town of Taos there are great deals in hotels and on this trip I discovered a quaint Hotel called Don Fernando, owned by the renowned Garrett Family Trust and managed by Panetiere Hospitality. Talk about the deal of the century, the room only cost about 60 bucks a night and they serve F-R-E-E breakfast, provided you like eggs and sausage or ham, waffles, French Toast & cereal complemented with the usual assortment of beverages such as coffee, milk, juice etc. For a person eager to hit the slopes this is quite a convenience since you don’t have to hunt down a breakfast joint and a place to park. And if you figure the cost of a breakfast at about 10 samolians a pop and subtract it from the cost of the room, you’re renting your room for 50 bucks a night. There are luxury suites at the Hotel Don Fernando but I was more than pleased with my lodgment. Dare I mention Hotel Don Fernando has a pool and Jacuzzi? It’s a blessing after a day on the slopes I might add.
The Hotel Don Fernando is strategically located near restaurants, theater and a Wal-Mart. The place is clean, secure and has an interesting layout since rooms & suites are in small clusters throughout the compound. There are many other accommodations such as internet access, convention hall and a host of other goodies I’ve yet to explore. This place is the destination of choice for bargain minded international travelers who enjoy the level of quality services Hotel Don Fernando offers. I spoke with a group of Spaniard guests who were on vacation and they marveled at the savings while percolating in the Jacuzzi. After interviewing Andy Anderson of Panetiere Hospitality it is clear Hotel Don Fernando is evolving into a fun family oriented destination that will soon feature even more world class accommodations including an internet café and lounge to further enhance the customer experience.
The Hotel Don Fernando also has a great restaurant spearheaded by local favorite Chef Pat Conway, formerly from the Stray Cats Diner, and though I did not taste all of his specialties I did manage to imbibe in a Pastrami on Rye and a Navajo Taco, both of which were scrumptious. I am very critical about Pastrami on Rye but Chef Conway’s kitchen finesse liberated me from my concerns. Service was excellent. Eventually I will sample more of Chef Conway’s culinary works of art and there is no doubt I will learn why he is such a local favorite in the Taos culinary scene. Being the foodie that I am I was compelled to sample the victuals of a Chinese restaurant called Hunan, located a stones throw from the Hotel. All I can say is; their Mongolian Lamb was to die for and I was pleasantly surprised at the affordability of my meal, about the cost of a mystery meat hamburger, fries and a soda. The wait staff were helpful and friendly, making my culinary experience a most pleasant one. I also had Crispy Duck and Hot & Sour Soup that also scintillated my taste buds in an orgy of deliciousness. It’s hard to find good Hot & Sour Soup but Hunan passed muster.
OK, you now have a place to go after you run a muck on the slopes wearing out muscles you did not know you had. No need to waddle to far from the motel for a bottle of Absorbine Junior since Wal-Mart is just down the street. For a family on vacation convenient accessibility to Wally World would be a priceless time saver. I raised three food processors of my own so I know the drill with road trips & kids eh. It’s kind of sticky like someone sprayed the interior of the car with Gummy Bears. After reading all the brochures and pamphlets I thought this trip was in the bag, frugally speaking. First, I head to a ski rental shop for skiing gear since everything is available for rent if you don’t own a thing for skiing. And, of course, it’s dirt C-H-E-A-P to rent equipment in Taos. Gadzooks, somebody pinch me.
Upon arrival at the Adventure Ski Rentals & Ski Wear Shop in Taos I was struck by how affordable ski gear was to rent. My little frugality meter was working over time as I began to calculate the savings as opposed to other haunts I’ve traveled. Then the sales rep came up and said, “Dude, if you are going to Ski School at Taos Ski Valley, they give you all your gear as well as a lift ticket”. (Yellowbird Never-Ever Program) Hokey Smokes Bullwinkle that meant even more savings since rentals were now out of the equation. But there was something else that really caught my attention and that was the integrity of the rental shop representative. Rather than fleece a neophyte customer this gentleman chose to enlighten me on yet more savings I was oblivious to. In an age where everyone seems to be on the take it was refreshing to note that honesty & integrity was the axiom of Adventure Ski Rental & Ski Wear.
It’s about a half hour or so drive to Taos Ski Valley from the hotel. With that said, I leisurely ate my breakfast then hit the road. One should take note to obey the speed limit since driving awards (speeding tickets) would be issued quicker than you can say; ”Was that a cop?” and besides, the road is narrow in some places. Upon arriving at the resort I chose to park ‘on top’ since it was free and the other parking places were taken, ain’t nothing but a meatball paisan. Just a short jaunt to the entrance and voila, the gates of paradise and world class fun for the entire family. There is a unique Children’s Center at Taos Ski Valley that caters to kids from Infants to 15 years of age with specialized activities aimed at familiarizing kids to the world of winter sports within this secured compound. Cool huh….
For the beginner skiing never was more affordable as it is at Taos Ski Valley and it does not get any better than that for the instructors are friendly and learned in the art of skiing. The classes are fun and designed to build confidence while teaching the fundamentals of skiing. There are other more advanced classes available and if you wish, you can have a personal trainer to assist you in mastering the art of skiing or snowboarding for that matter. In my case, I’m as rusty as an old square nail and will probably linger around for more basics since I’m a ‘schusser’ for my skills are waning at best. For the advanced skier Taos Ski Valley is a world class arena where champions from around the world have tested their mettle and honed their skills before international competitions and its a heck of a lot of fun.
There was one more excursion I took that also embraced the concept of frugality and that was a tour of the Taos Pueblos. For me it was more about paying homage to a nation of people who survived insurmountable odds. It was culturally enriching and the guide was very informative. Then I spotted a sign in front of one of the ancient dwellings that stated; “Real Indian Stuff”. Upon entering this humble abode I was struck by the stunning jewelery this craftswoman made. Her knowledge of precious stones and the formations from which they are gleaned made for some fascinating conversation. This was one educated lady and it was a pleasure to be in her company and for my sins I actually learned something. Knowing what these necklaces and earrings cost in the real world I was stunned to learn that these pieces were selling for a mere 25 bucks including matching earrings. If I had the cash I would have bought everything she had, the jewelry was that exquisite.
Dang, the stones in some of the pieces were more valuable than the completed jewelery. Talk about cutting out the middleman, this launched my frugality meter into overdrive. So, if you’re hunting for deals on custom handmade Indian jewelery it is a good hunch you should start your shopping spree on the rez. (Taos Pueblo Reservation) You will undoubtedly be money ahead with quality merchandise that was made by a real Native American and you would also be supporting the tribe in the process.
Nothing worse than buying a dream catcher in support of aboriginal people only to discover your handcrafted artifact was manufactured in a Guangzhou slave labor camp where people are tortured to death for not producing their quota of ‘Native American dream catchers and jewelry’, holay! Buying from the source is a much better option and you don’t need to worry about owning something that was forged in human suffering and death, I hate it when that happens. Besides, why buy a knock off forgery for premium price when you can buy an original at discount bargain basement prices from the person who crafted it, capice?
In any event, Taos has many fun & frugal options for vacationers on a tight budget. Whether it be skiing, perusing the multitude of galleries Taos is noted for or other venues not mentioned in this article there are very real deals that make this diverse destination affordable and fun for everyone. You just need to pay attention, deals are everywhere in Taos, winter or summer. As for me, I’m one of those loyal customer types and whence I find a place I feel comfortable at I offer my full support and patronage. It’s that comfortable warm and friendly atmosphere the Hotel Don Fernando and the Taos Ski Valley Resort both share that makes these two venues so inviting to me and I’ll be back.
Hotel Don Fernando
Hunan Chinese Restaurant
Adventure Ski Rental & Ski Wear
Taos Ski Valley Resort
Your Devil’s Advocate
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