Artists have always been seduced by Taos's rugged beauty and low-key lifestyle. Georgia O'Keeffe fell in love with the desert landscape surrounding the Sangre de Cristo Mountains when she first visited in 1917. A year later, Mabel Dodge Luhan, a New York society doyenne and patron of the arts, traded concrete and couture for sunshine and sandals when she left her husband for a full-blooded Pueblo Indian. Luhan's hacienda became a way station for visiting creative types, including Greta Garbo, D. H. Lawrence, Willa Cather, Ansel Adams, and Thornton Wilder. Other artists followed, setting up their studios at the foot of the mountains. Today, there are at least 50 galleries within walking distance of the downtown plaza; more than a thousandartists and craftsmen work in the area, including minimalist painter Agnes Martin. But Taos is also a haven for skiers. With an average annual snowfall of 312 feet, the four nearby ski resorts, each less than 30 miles from town, lure experts who live for pristine chutes and moguls as tall as minivans. And although you might bump into a celebrity or two—Julia Roberts and Donald Rumsfeld both have houses here—Taos is still as resolutely bohemian as it was back in the twenties.
Where to Stay
Most bed-and-breakfasts in Taos are adobe houses with magnificent mountain views.
Alma del Monte When Jan Waye and his wife, Phyllis, took over this B&B last November, the first thing they did was transform the décor from English country to cowboy chic—think red antique lamps and hand-carved rocking horses. Guests breakfast on zucchini frittatas or "celebration" French toast (brown sugar, dried fruit, and nuts) while gazing at 360-degree views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 372 Hondo Seco Rd.; 800/273-7203 or 505/776-2721; www.almaspirit.com; doubles from $160.
Casa de las Chimeneas More like a small luxury hotel than a B&B, this eight-room house has fabulous perks: a wellness spa,self-operated kiva-style fireplaces, and an outdoor hot tub. In spring, owner Susan Vernon grows fresh herbs to use in her flavorful cooking. The spa's full-service menu includes a hot river-rocks massage for sore muscles après-ski. 405 Cordoba Rd.; 877/758-4777 or 505/758-4777; www.visittaos.com; doubles from $165.
Historic Taos Inn Thirty-three rooms and three suites are decorated with Spanish colonial antiques and handwoven Guatemalan bedspreads. At night, the lobby, built around an old town well, becomes an extension of the Adobe Bar. Live music and a rotating exhibition of artwork—from watercolors to murals—make the inn the living room of Taos. 125 Paseo del Pueblo N.; 888/519-8267 or 505/758-2233; www.taosinn.com; doubles from $60.
Inn on La Loma Plaza This walled hacienda dates back to the early 1800's, when it protected settlers from Indian attacks. Most rooms have balconies with mountain views, as well as Mexican-tiled bathrooms, antique Turkish rugs, and fresh flowers. The "Georgia's Garden" room is decorated with prints of O'Keeffe'sflowers and has its own entrance and secluded courtyard. 315 Ranchitos Rd.; 800/530-3040 or 505/758-1717; www.vacationtaos.com; doubles from $110.
Laughing Horse Inn BEST VALUE This former printing press—where D. H. Lawrence and local eccentric Spud Johnson published a literary "sporadical"—was converted into an inn in 1984. Fans return year after year to stay in one of 12 modest rooms, which—be forewarned—have loft-style beds and communal bathrooms. 729 Paseo del Pueblo N.; 800/776-0161or 505/758-8350; www.laughinghorseinn.com; doubles from $68.