Taos is a city that inspires, amazes, and captures the hearts of all who visit. Discovered by nomadic tribes thousands of years ago and believed to be the fabled City of Gold by the Conquistador Hernando de Alvarado, Taos, New Mexico, was the place where greats such as Aldous Huxley and Georgia O’Keefe created their best works. It is a city known for fantastic skiing, beautiful art galleries, the historic Taos Pueblo, excellent restaurants, wedding venues, and year-round festivals. Here are the best things to do in Taos, NM.
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When visiting Taos Pueblo, you are not visiting a museum, but people’s homes. Living and thriving for more than 1000 years, Taos Pueblo is the only Native American living community that is designated as both a National Historic Landmark and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Taos Pueblo is one of the top Taos NM attractions.
Most of the existing buildings were probably built sometime between 1000 and 1450 A.D. When the Spanish came to the Taos Valley in 1540, they thought they had discovered the City of Gold.
Hlaukwima (south house) and Hlauuma (north house) are believed to be of the same age. The Pueblo consists of five stories of individual homes that are built side-by-side and on top of each other with common walls. Several feet thick, the walls were made of earth mixed with water and straw to maintain a cool interior. About 150 Taos Indians live in the Pueblo today permanently. Since tradition demands no electricity and no running water in the pueblo, most families come to the old pueblo for the ceremonies and live in more modern homes on the pueblo land or elsewhere.
120 Veterans Hwy, Taos, New Mexico 87571, Phone: 575-758-1028
2.Taos Plaza & the Taos Historic District
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Just like when it was built 300 years ago, Taos Plaza is still the heart of Taos. Located in the center of the Taos Historic District, the plaza is surrounded by picturesque shops, galleries, and a historic Hotel La Fonda where D.H. Lawrence painted his erotic paintings. Lovely old trees shade the plaza, where you can relax on a bench with an ice cream and watch people passing by. If you are wondering what to do in Taos NM today, this is a great place to start exploring.
There is always something going on in the plaza, but it gets especially lively from May to October when you can enjoy the Taos Plaza Live concerts. As you stroll from the Plaza through the Taos Historic District, you will notice an interesting mix of architecture of homes in a place where Spanish Colonial Style houses stand next to the houses built in the Territorial, Pueblo Revival, and Mission Revival styles.
3. Kit Carson Home & Museum, Taos
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The former house of Josefa and Kit Carson, a famous frontiersman, this museum aims to preserve the traditional Spanish colonial architecture of the neighborhood and provide educational opportunities for visitors to learn about life in a frontier town. The museum is filled with period memorabilia and hosts lecture events and tours for schools and groups.
The home and museum have been lovingly restored to look as they did in the 1800s, so visitors here can get a feel for the period firsthand. The museum is filled with the actual belongings of the Carson family, and highlights include Kit Carson’s Civil War saber.
113 Kit Carson Road, Taos, NM 87571, 575-758-4945
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4.Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
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When it was completed in 1965, 650 feet above the raging river, Rio Grande Gorge Bridge was going nowhere – the road ended on the other side of the river and there was no money to extend it. At the time, it was the second longest bridge in the country with three spans, totaling 1,280 feet.
It is considered the most beautiful steel bridge in the country, and it has been immortalized in a number of famous movies. Its elegance and the fact that it almost floats in the clouds above the magnificent nature that surrounds it will take your breath away. It is at its most spectacular during the sunset or sunrise.
5.San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church
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From the time it was completed in 1816 to today, the San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church was a center of community life of Ranchos de Taos. With its huge adobe buttresses and two bell towers facing front, the church is designed as a seamless blend of native adobe and Spanish architecture. Three white crosses decorate he church entranceway and the towers. Four beehive-shaped buttresses support the back of the church, and the front is supported by two buttresses in front of both bell towers.
There is a choir loft above the entrance to the church, and the spacious sanctuary is airy, cool, and welcoming. Original historic Spanish religious objects and woodworking decorate the altar. The church, forecourt and adjoining cemetery are all surrounded by thick adobe walls built to protect the community from frequent attacks by Comanche raiders in the 18th century at a time when the church sat in the center of the plaza, surrounded by adobe homes of the Rancho de Taos residents.
60 St Francis Plaza, Ranchos De Taos, NM 87557, 575-758-2754
6.High Road to Taos
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On your way to Taos, prepare yourself for the town’s unique world by taking the famous "High Road." Take NM 503 to NM 76 until you reach Chimayó, a village known for its traditional weaving and its many galleries featuring award-winning local works. Continue to the Santuario de Chimayó, a 19th-century church that attracts pilgrims every year seeking the church’s “miraculous dirt.” As you continue along, you will pass the towns of Truchas, Cordova, and Ojo Sarco, famous for woodcarvings, rugs, pottery, and other artifacts produced by local artists.
Continue to Las Trampas to see a spectacular example of Spanish colonial architecture at San Jose de Gracia de las Trampas 18th-century mission church. As you continue through the Carson National Forest, you will notice San Francisco de Asisi, a 19th-century Church immortalized by a number of great artists. After this whirlwind introduction to what the region has to offer, drive into Taos. You will know what to expect – a historic place that has art in its heart.
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7. Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico
© Millicent Rogers Museum
What do fashionista Millicent Rogers and world-famous Pueblo potter Maria Martinez have in common? Both have their most precious items in the Millicent Rogers Museum. Millicent donated her spectacular turquoise jewelry collection, and Maria’s family donated a collection of her most significant works, creating the core of the Millicent Rogers Museum, celebrating Southwestern art heritage.
The museum’s 20 galleries and exhibition spaces contain a priceless assemblage of art created by the Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo artists in the region throughout the last 2000 years. While you stroll through the galleries, you will see the history of the region through the eyes of the artists who lived and died in the Taos high dessert. The museum is located in a charming historic hacienda overlooking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, donated to the museum by the Anderson family of Taos.
1504 Millicent Rogers Rd, El Prado, NM 87529, 575-758-2462
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8.Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway
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Exploring Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is a perfect way to spend an adventurous weekend while in Taos. It is only about 83 miles, but there is so much to see that you will want to take your time. As you drive out of Taos on NM 522, take a detour to see the Taos Gorge Bridge, which is spectacular. If you take a detour to the east, you can visit Arroyo Seco, a lovely little artistic village on the road to the Taos Ski Valley.
As you continue north, you will pass scenic Arroyo Hondo.
After San Cristobal, you can visit the ranch of famous writer D. H. Lawrence who lived and is buried there. On your east, you will see the towering Sangre de Cristo range. Passing Questa, you will encounter truly dramatic landscapes with access to Rio Grande. A steep road to Red River town offers a spectacular vista of aspen and spruce groves.
There are some great ski runs here and great lodges to spend the night. Continue alonag the Enchanted Circle from NM 38 to NM 64 through Eagle Nest Lake State Park with a spectacular 2,400-acre lake excellent for hiking, fishing, boating, and cross-country skiing. Watch for deer, elk, bear, and eagles. As you continue west, you will pass Angel Fire, another great family resort on the way back to Taos.
9.Taos Art Museum at Fechin House
© Taos Art Museum at Fechin House
The Taos Art Museum at Fechin House is housed in a historical building, the former home of Nicolai Fechin, a prominent artist who emigrated from Russia. The building is a museum in itself and borrows from the local Native American and Spanish styles with a Russian twist.
Many of Fechin’s pieces are on display, along with the works of members of the Taos Society of Artists. There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions that celebrate diverse forms of art and related events throughout the year.
227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte PO Box 1848, Taos, NM 87571, 575-758 2690
10.Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, New Mexico
© Harwood Museum of Art
Head to the Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico to learn about the history of art in northern New Mexico. Since the early part of the twentieth century, artists have gravitated to the region to try to capture the beauty of the natural environment of New Mexico. The Harwood Museum of Art is filled with depictions of the stunning scenery painted by local artists.
There are collections that span from the early twentieth century to the present day as well as temporary exhibits that change throughout the year.
238 Ledoux Street, Taos, NM 87571, 575-758-9826
11.Taos Ski Valley
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If you love to ski or just want to try it for the first time, then head to Taos Ski Valley, a spot that is said to be located on sacred ground. It is a place of great cultural significance for the local communities of Taos. At the Ski Valley, visitors can book lodgings, rent ski equipment, and take ski lessons with trained ski instructors at their own level of ability.
There are numerous ski trails you can use depending on the level of challenge want, and if you don’t want to ski then you can try snow tubing on the mountain. After a day on the slopes, you can take advantage of various dining and après ski options at Taos Ski Valley. More NM things to do
116 Sutton Place, Taos Ski Valley, NM 87525, 800-776-1111
12.La Hacienda de los Martinez, Taos
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If you want to visit a monument to great American homes from the Spanish Colonial Period then head to La Hacienda del los Martinez. The former abode of the Martinez family, built in 1804 and a significant location in the Spanish Empire due to trade routes, the house now has twenty one rooms on show that span two courtyards, and visitors can tour this unusual museum and admire replicas of working life in a frontier town from years gone by.
If the museum itself doesn’t give you enough of a feel for the Santa Fe Trail routes, there are also daily live demonstrations that depict traditions from the period.
708 Hacienda Rd, Taos, NM 87571, 575-758-1000
13.Earthship Biotecture World Headquarters and Visitor Center
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The Earthship Biotecture World Headquarters and Visitor Center is something of a rarity; it is a museum built to showcase sustainability through “earthships,” sustainably built living quarters. There is a purpose built gallery area where visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour of an earthship that serves to provide education on environmental issues such as recycled water and solar power.
Visitors can even book to stay overnight in their own pod to experience the earthships firsthand. There are guided tours available for large groups and a visitor center that allows you to continue your learning journey by purchasing a range of educational merchandise.
#2 Earthship Way, Tres Piedras, NM, 87577, 575-613-4409
14.Wild Rivers Recreation Area
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The Wild Rivers Recreation Area is part of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, a great place to fully experience the magnificence of the 800-foot deep awe-inspiring Río Grande gorge. This deep canyon cuts into the mountain by the power of the Río Grande, which goes on to meet the Red River.
You can check the visitor’s center for more information, use a campground, picnic areas, a Backcountry Byway and check many scenic hiking trails. There are a few absolutely spectacular overlooks such as La Junta Point that will take your breath away. Watching the sun going down behind the mountains and turning the river deep in the gorge into a streak of gold is an unforgettable experience.
15.Wild Earth Llama Adventures
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Cuddle up with a cute llama and engage in a hiking and camping trip lasting either one or several days. The llamas are there not to ride on but to carry the camping equipment on their furry backs while you hike alongside.
Experienced members of the community guide the trips, and they will teach you everything you need to know about the local flora and fauna, campfire techniques, and wilderness living, as well as the background of the culture and the history of the area. Depending on which trip you choose, there is also a gourmet lunch provided on some itineraries. Phone: 800-758-5262
16.Taos Snowshoe Adventures
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Journey up into the Southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico and pull on a pair of snowshoes before embarking on a guided tour with one of the naturalist guides who will talk you through the local flora and fauna of the area and provide you with tips and tricks to survive in the wilderness, A long enjoyed winter recreation activity in the area, snowshoeing is a fun way to spend a few hours outdoors, and unlike other winter sports, it doesn’t require fancy equipment or robust fitness levels.
You can customize your tour to fit your fitness abilities and interests, and the emphasis is on enjoyment and relaxation in the snow.
Taos Ski Valley, 800 758-5262
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If you love hiking then a trip to the Williams Lake Trail is a must-do activity in the Taos Ski Valley area. At almost two miles long and over 11,000 feet where the trail ends near the lake, the terrain is steep in parts but relatively short, making this route is extremely popular with hikers. The hike to the summit offers spectacular views of the lake, and there is a waterfall that also operates as a rest area.
Also in the area is a quaint inn selling beer and German food, a picnic area, and many examples of the local flora like the Columbine blossom.
18.Los Rios River Runners
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With over 40 years in business, Los Rios River Runners offer visitors rafting and camping trips on the Rio Grande River. More adventurous guests can take white water rafting trips over rapids, or you can choose to camp in the wilderness in the stunning Rio Chama Canyon. The guides are from the Native Pueblo Indian community and also offer visitors Feast and Float Trips, which include rafting and dining opportunities for those looking to enjoy a calmer rafting experience.
There are short or half day tours and less intense choices for families with children. The trips also offer the chance to enjoy the local scenery and learn about the flora and fauna of Taos. Phone: 575-776-8854
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19.The Low Road from Taos and Santa Fe
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This scenic trip from the town of Taos to Santa Fe takes you past lush valleys, mountains, and canyons, and there are plenty of picturesque spots on the way to grab a bite to eat and sample the flavors of New Mexico. For visitors interested in wine making and sampling, there are also a number of wineries en route where you can learn about the local grapes.
If you really want to get back to nature, there are also camping grounds and nature trails along the way, or you can take to the river and raft around the area.
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20.Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
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The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is made up of volcanic structures, deep valleys, and gorges, and it is bisected by the Rio Grande River. The monument features volcanic cones, the highest of which is Ute Mountain standing at over 10,000 feet, and the area is filled with local wildlife, particularly those seeking shelter during the winter months.
Besides offering an opportunity for wildlife sightings, the monument also offers rafting and fishing on the rivers, or visitors can explore the area by hiking or mountain biking. If you want to stay longer then you can also camp in the area.
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21.Blumenschein Home & Museum, Taos, NM
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Another family home turned museum, this is the house of E.L. Blumenschein, his wife Mary Greene, and their daughter Helen. E.L. Blumenschein. He was was a prominent local artist in Taos, and the museum is filled with a collection of his artworks, as well as pieces of art by other famous figures in the Taos art world.
Visitors will also see examples of antiques from the Spanish Colonial and European period, as well as memorabilia in the form of the family’s personal possessions that still fill the house. More than just an art gallery, this house allows visitors a glimpse of life in the early twentieth century in Taos.
222 Ledoux Street, Taos, New Mexico 87571, 575-758-0505
22.Mountain Skills Rock Guides
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If you are looking to improve your mountain skills, head to Mountain Skills Rock Guides to start your rock climbing adventure in earnest. The school provides rock climbing guides to teach you how to conquer any mountain. Anyone from novices to seasoned climbers looking to take on a new challenge can go on an adventure.
The guides lead trips to a number of locations in Taos, New Mexico, the wider United States, and even abroad. They aim to teach students how to climb safely and with confidence, and all trips are fully insured. Locations are selected with stunning views and safe conditions so that all climbers can enjoy the scenery. Phone: 702-325-1616
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23.The Burger Stand at Taos Ale House
© The Burger Stand at Taos Ale House
The Burger Stand at Taos Ale House is where everyone in Taos hangs out on a big game day. Three large TVs show the action while the patrons yell at the referees and enjoy one of the local craft beers on tap. There are also beers from all over the world and a nice selection of wines, so you can bring a mixed crowd or even have a ladies’ night out – the wonderful cozy vibe of the place makes everyone feel at home.
Game night or not, it is the burgers that make The Burger Stand so popular – they are top of the class. Made from real grass-fed beef and cooked to perfection, they come fully dressed – there is a side bar for all the dipping sauces. Vegetarians will love their mushroom burger and a range of other meat-free options. The Cat Fish Po’Boy is to die for. Check their calendar for the live music evenings.
401 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos, New Mexico, 575-758-5522
24.Taos Mesa Brewing
© Taos Mesa Brewing
Taos Mesa Brewing is a popular Taos microbrewery that offers up to 12 of their beers on tap at any time, including some of their seasonal specialties. They also offer other local and regional craft beers, giving the place a true Tap Room vibe. Taos Mesa Brewing beers have a reputation for high and consistent quality, but more importantly, they are highly quaffable.
You can see the proof of this every evening when the crowds gather for a happy hour, to meet friends, munch on some of their fabulous pub grub (their tacos are absolutely delicious), and listen to some great local bands. Their fantastic outdoor patio is a popular venue not only for the live bands but also for comedy nights, ping pong tournaments, and much more.
20 ABC Mesa Road, El Prado, Taos, New Mexico, 575-758-1900
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25.Kit Carson Park
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Stretching across 19 acres, the Kit Carson Park and Historic Cemetery is a favorite spot for walking and jogging, and it has trails for walkers or runners that follow the perimeter of the park. For sports lovers, there are also tennis courts, basketball courts, and baseball fields as well as open areas that can be used for a variety of sports such as soccer, badminton, or simply throwing a Frisbee around with friends.
If you are in the mood to relax, there are lush fields to choose from as well as picnic spots and barbecue pits. For younger visitors there are playgrounds and little league fields in the park.
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25 Best Things to Do in Taos, New Mexico
- Taos Pueblo, Photo: Courtesy of Linda Meyer - Fotolia.com
- Taos Plaza & the Taos Historic District, Photo: Courtesy of eunikas - Fotolia.com
- Kit Carson Home & Museum, Taos, Photo: Courtesy of Natalia Bratslavsky - Fotolia.com
- Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Photo: Courtesy of monamakela - Fotolia.com
- San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church, Photo: Courtesy of David Smith - Fotolia.com
- High Road to Taos, Photo: Courtesy of brianw_45 - Fotolia.com
- Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico, Photo: Millicent Rogers Museum
- Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, Photo: Courtesy of brianw_45 - Fotolia.com
- Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, Photo: Taos Art Museum at Fechin House
- Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, New Mexico, Photo: Harwood Museum of Art
- Taos Ski Valley, Photo: Courtesy of minicel 73 - Fotolia.com
- La Hacienda de los Martinez, Taos, Photo: Courtesy of giumas - Fotolia.com
- Earthship Biotecture World Headquarters and Visitor Center, Photo: Courtesy of franzeldr - Fotolia.com
- Wild Rivers Recreation Area, Photo: Courtesy of bwolski - Fotolia.com
- Wild Earth Llama Adventures, Photo: Courtesy of Ana - Fotolia.com
- Taos Snowshoe Adventures, Photo: Courtesy of Kara - Fotolia.com
- Williams Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Karen - Fotolia.com
- Los Rios River Runners, Photo: Courtesy of Alex Green - Fotolia.com
- The Low Road from Taos and Santa Fe, Photo: Courtesy of bwolski - Fotolia.com
- Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of Alizada Studios - Fotolia.com
- Blumenschein Home & Museum, Taos, NM, Photo: Blumenschein Home & Museum
- Mountain Skills Rock Guides, Photo: Courtesy of Andreas P - Fotolia.com
- The Burger Stand at Taos Ale House, Photo: The Burger Stand at Taos Ale House
- Taos Mesa Brewing, Photo: Taos Mesa Brewing
- Kit Carson Park, Photo: Courtesy of Brent Hall - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Boggy - Fotolia.com
Spotlight on: Taos Ski Valley
Taos Ski Valley is a destination spot in New Mexico for just about every outdoor activity imaginable. From rock climbing to skiing to llama trekking, there's something for everyone looking for some outdoor fun throughout the year. Visitors can choose from many different companies and accommodations at Taos Ski Valley for just a day of adventure or a fun-filled vacation.
For visitors interested in rock climbing, there are many options available at Taos Ski Valley, including rappelling the Rio Grande Gorge with a guide or mountain climbing and bouldering near the Twining Road Campgrounds. There is a variety of routes and rocks throughout the area for beginners to advanced climbers. Rafting from calm waters to river rapids along the Rio Chama and the Rio Grande provides a thrilling adventure. Options for rafting in the Valley range from half-day to multi-day journeys.
There are several trails for hiking in the area as well. Hikers can take a trip around Williams Lake on the four-mile, intermediate-level trail that begins at The Bavarian. The forested valley contains aspen, western white fir, rare bristlecone pine and red fir, and blue and Englemann spruce. Visitors can also enjoy the sight of colorful wildflowers and other plants along their hike. The highest peak in New Mexico can be reached by a somewhat difficult hike up the Williams Lake Trail or Bull of the Woods Trail. Mule deer, elk, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can sometime be spotted along the trails.
Visitors to Taos Ski Valley can enjoy horseback riding or even llama trekking through the Valley. Guided rides and treks offer a chance to reconnect with nature. Rio Grande Stable and Big Al's Wilderness Adventures take guests on horseback rides over crystalline streams and through forests. Wild Earth Llama Adventures offers llama treks with gourmet meals. A hot air balloon ride is the perfect way to get a birds-eye view of all the beauty of Taos Ski Valley. High above the Rio Grande, guests can see snow-covered mountains during the winter and colorful foliage in the fall.
One fun and thrilling activity available at Taos Ski Valley during the winter months is snowmobiling. Visitors can reach heights of 12,000 feet with Big Al as they explore the mountains by snowmobile. Guests can also strap on a pair of snowshoes to explore the trails through the area. Snowshoeing offers a unique way to discover the beauty of Taos in the winter season.
Forty-nine percent of Taos Ski Valley's expansive terrain designated as beginner and intermediate runs, there's plenty of skiing and snowboarding opportunities for everyone. Taos boasts legendary steeps for expert snowboarders and skiers. Guests can ride the Kachina Chair Lift up 12,450 feet to the fourth highest lift-served summit in the country. Maxie's Terrain Park features rollers, smaller jumps, and other features designed as an introduction to the freestyle terrain park. Another section of the park contains a larger line that features a number of big airs and a manual pad. Rails and scattered boxes cater to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels.
Thunderbrid Road, Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico, Phone: 575-776-1413