Sunday, January 31, 2021

Mountain Magic

Looking north from Salazar Road

We got an overdue dose of snow last week. And while it was only five inches in town, the mountain received three times that. The welcome dump gave us an epic alpine view. I was driving north on Salazar Road and saw the sight above. Being in town with a clear shot of the snow laden Sangres leant some perspective to the scene. I came to realize that we live in a real mountain town. Because the town of Taos is removed from the high peaks by a dozen miles or so I’ve come to see it as just a high desert location and haven’t given the mountains their due. This image of the snowy 12,000-foot peaks to our northeast as seen from an intown street jolted me into the realization that Taos is a bona fide mountain town, too. It’s way more than desert. It was a moment that filled my chest; one that renewed my excitement at living in such a miraculous place.

Heart of Stone from Valverde Common

Eastbound on the Taos Plateau

Because we’re twenty miles from the Taos Ski Valley we don’t fit the mold of the typical western ski town. At Aspen, Vail, Telluride or Whistler when you’re in town you’re at the base of the mountain. The same in Europe. Look up from Main Street and you see the slopes soaring above you, the lifts just steps away. In Taos you’re looking at a half hour drive. That’s a blessing and a curse. We don’t have ski town ambience in Taos but, we don’t suffer ski town kitsch and tourist hordes. And you can afford to live Taos. It's not dirt cheap but real estate costs a third of Telluride where $1,500,000 will get you 850 square feet. Here you’ll get a mansion. Taos is a working town not a confection created for the rich and famous. In Jackson, Wyoming workers have to live in Idaho. In Taos they live in, well, Taos.

Taos Ski Valley is rated among the toughest mountains in the United States. In fact, it’s been named the sixth hardest, just below Kirkwood and above Telluride. I’ve skied all of them and concur. I couldn’t ski the waist deep powder at Kirkwood and had to fall to stop. It wasn’t my finest moment. The gladed steeps at Taos still scare the bejeezus out of me. 

Not to mention that Taos is one of America’s great art towns, an art colony dating back to the turn of the last century. With only 6,000 people we boast more than fifty galleries, three art museums and a lively music scene. We have more live music than Santa Fe with 70,000 happy inhabitants. It’s a bona fide art mecca. I’ve never felt an artistic vibe that I do here. That's the primary reason we chose the place. That and the forever vistas. For that matter, the State of New Mexico is said to have more artists and artisans than any other state. About 30% of the population creates some kind of art. 

Taos Pueblo

The buttresses of Ranchos Church

And Taos is steeped in history. The multi-story dwellings at Taos Pueblo have been inhabited for more than 1,000 years and the Pueblo is a World Heritage Site. Taos was first visited by a small party of Coronado’s Conquistadors in 1540. The much photographed Mission Church, San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos was completed in 1772.

There are lots of reasons to love this special place.


Terry Thompson said...

Steve, today's blog is a sweet testament to our beloved small town of Taos. We were looking for a small town also when we bought land in 2000 on my birthday. No regrets, even though it is a bit of a drive to get to the seashore. Ending my note with a T also. ;>)

Blacks Crossing said...

It is thrilling to know that the Taos Mountains got a huge dump of snow this week, and you even had five inches in town. We wait, not so patiently, here for that. But your blog is a wonderful ode to Taos as mountain town, Steve. Looking north from Salazar Road says it all, as does Eastbound on the Taos Plateau, in a different way. As you said in your beautiful description, it is an extraordinary place in so many ways, and not insanely tourist-ridden. Thanks for another great blog!

Steve Immel said...

Thanks to you both, Daryl and Terry. The shot from Salazar Road really did grab me. Yes, it is a very long day to the coast and the 't' I ended with was completely unintended. Sloppy editing.