Travel time: 6 hours

Taos Ski Valley ( is the place to plummet—and at times nearly freefall—down expert terrain. Case in point: the wide-open bowls off Kachina Peak, which descend from a dizzying 12,450-foot summit. Until now, a 45-minute hike was the only way to reach the revered peak, marked with Buddhist prayer flags. But the new chairlift—one of the highest in North America—rises 1,100 feet in five minutes, giving easy access and boosting the mountain’s lift-serviced advanced terrain by 50 percent. Hold on tight as you fly up, then enjoy the long, scenic plunge down the Main Street run.

Lift tickets: From $82

While there: The bohemian town of Taos has inspired creative thinkers from D.H. Lawrence to Georgia O’Keeffe. Join their ranks—hey, you can try—with a full day of tagging along with nature shutterbug Geraint Smith, author of the photo book Rio Grande del Norte: An Intimate Portrait. His Rio Grande Gorge tour ($395, explores the Orilla Verde Recreation Area and is ideal for spotting bald eagles and bighorn sheep in the winter. “We cross a trestle bridge and you can see all the way up the Rio Grande to the 14,000-plus-foot Blanca Peak,” says Smith.

Where to stay: Book a room or a one- to three-bedroom condo at Edelweiss Lodge and Spa (from $230,, a no-brainer for its ski-in, ski-out access at the base of Taos Ski Valley.

Getting there: Fly direct to Albuquerque in three hours, then drive another three to Taos Ski Valley.

Lift ticket prices are per day and based on purchase at least a week in advance.