Taos is a place undeniably dominated by the power of its landscape: the 12,300-foot snowcapped peaks that rise behind town, a sage-speckled plateau that unrolls to the west before plunging 800 feet straight down into the Rio Grande Gorge. The sky can be a searing sapphire blue or an ominous parade of rumbling thunderheads so big they dwarf the mountains. And then there are the sunsets…
Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States and a marvel of adobe architecture, roots the town in a long history with a rich cultural legacy – including conquistadors, Catholicism, and cowboys. Kit Carson – legendary mountain man, soldier, and Indian enemy turned Indian advocate – was the first in a long line of celebrities to settle here, in 1842. His name is still found everywhere, from the main street in the historic district to the surrounding national forest to the local electric company.
A broken wagon wheel stranded a couple of artists in Taos in 1898. They stayed, and their reasons for staying soon got out; before too long an artists' enclave, drawn by light unencumbered by the weight of atmosphere, by colors at once subtle and brilliant, was formed. Today Taos is home to more than 80 galleries, and about 30% of people here call themselves artists.
This little town also became a magnet for writers and creative thinkers of all types. DH Lawrence hoped to build a utopia outside of town; Carl Jung was deeply affected by his visit to Taos Pueblo, which is also where Aldous Huxley found his inspiration for Brave New World; Dennis Hopper shot key scenes from Easy Rider around Taos, and was so enchanted he moved here. It's not hard to see why.
Taos remains a relaxed and eccentric place, with classic mud-brick buildings, quirky cafes and excellent restaurants. Its 5000 residents include bohemians and hippies, alternative-energy aficionados and old-time Hispanic families. It's both rural and worldly, and a little bit otherworldly.
Need to know
Taos destination guides
Best 'après-ski' spots of the Americas
OK, we get it. Europe dominates the après-ski world. The most famous scenes for post-ski boozing, eating, ballyhoo always seem to be the Zermatts, the St Antons, the Mont-Blancs.
Some like it hot: green chile tour of New Mexico
New Mexicans love their chile. Welcome signs on the interstates feature huge red and green chiles, red ristras hang from adobe homes, and even McDonalds offers green chile on its burgers.