Hotel Saint Bernard
Over the 2018 holiday I had finally earned enough ‘points’ with my in-laws to in be invited to attend “Ski Week” with them at the Hotel Saint Bernard.
This is a hotel and a family experience that goes back a mere 20 years in their household.
In the last decade, I have heard stories about the Hotel Saint Bernard, the fireplace, Jean Mayer (the Owner) and of the amazing skiing.
Being married into an expert level skiing family, you can guess my angst of traveling and having to ski in Taos, New Mexico. I mean, I had been skiing 5 times prior to this trip. FIVE.
Hotel Saint Bernard
The hotel itself sits on the top a hill and literally against the mountain. There isn’t a better piece of real estate or views in all of Taos.
Having spent some time in Germany, the hotel immediately conjured memories of the German countryside. In fact, it looks much like my prized coo-coo clock I brought back.
The Hotel Saint Bernard bar, dining room and dance floor are simple in décor.
Christmas lights are hung from the ceiling with care and encase the rooms with soft white light while the large family style wooden tables invite you into the dining room.
And that’s where I first laid eyes on it: the fireplace of family lore. It did not disappoint.
With its oversized copper structure, real crackling firewood and surrounding benches this was the place of ski lodge dreams.
The fire poker is a cursive capital letter ‘M’. A homage to Jean Mayer, the owner, server, breakfast bell ringer and speed demon on the mountain.
Jean Mayer. The man is never not smiling. His spirit, laugh, the whale tail on his necklace…its infectious. According to the internet, Jean was born in 1935 and grew up skiing the French Alps.
Jean was a French Junior National Champion, had worked in the kitchen at the Hotel Pierre in New York City and had graduated from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Management before taking a job lead the skit patrol for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Jean moved to Taos in 1957 after a job offer from original founder, Ernie Blake. With the help of his family, built the St. Bernard. Since his arrival, he has received various awards including Top 100 Ski Instructors, Taos Hall of Fame, and Best Ski Guide.
All well deserved. Prior to our arrival, I read about him being deemed the “Spirit of Taos”. Within minutes you understand why.
His passion about the food, skiing and ensuring you the student love the sport and are inspired to continue to ski is what makes this man tick. They simply don’t make business owners like this anymore.
In the week we were there, I asked all the staff how long they had been employees. I received answers of 8, 15, 30 years. If the dedication of his staff isn’t a testament to his spirit and love of Taos and The Hotel Saint Bernard, I challenge you to show me another.
The first day of skiing is a stressful one for many. Or maybe just me. Everyone meets at the top of the Powder Horn run for the week’s Ski Off. With Jean, the mountain’s only Technical Director, about 100 yards down the run and the week’s instructors in place, each skier makes three turns and is directed into an ability group.
For about 90% of the group these were the first turns of the season. With a quick flick of his pole, he divided the group and with an even swifter exchange of pleasantries with our new instructor, we started back down the mountain.
For the week, Dave, myself and the two others in the group would spend every morning from 9:45-12:30 working on turns, edging, speed and flowing together. I think Dave was as surprised as I was that I ended up in his group. That’s another story for another post.
The Taos Ski School is recognized as one of the best ski schools. After a week of getting pounded by the mountain and expert ski instruction I can attest that yes, this ski school can only be one of the best.
From our little kids, to beginner me and expert husband everyone in our party improved and caught the bug of skiing. Our littlest still talks about his instructor, Brandon, “Who is 24, you know! So old.” Thanks, kid.
Within the ski valley, it is not only your instructor or Jean who wants to ensure you improve and love
skiing, it is also the Boot Doctors. I’m not kidding. Bless this shop!
The first day out my boots had significantly bruised around my calf and shin. Between the tears and the black and blue showing through I was quickly sent off to the Boot Doctors to have my 10-year-old boots analyzed.
After two hours of foot analysis, trying on 4 different styles and the discussion of building up my current boots to work with my body, I was the VERY proud owner of new Rossignol boots.
The new boots are a size smaller than the previously mentioned boots, were 5 pounds lighter and fit like a dream. Skiing had never been a pain-free event for me and with these new boots I felt like I could take on the black diamonds.
Fear not fellow readers, I humbly stuck to my green and blue runs. The fit is guaranteed for 100 days and throughout the week I took them back once for a small adjustment. The staff here is friendly, knowledgeable and they have an arsenal of product.
Hungry yet? Me too.
Cuisine That Would Make Your Momma Cry
Every meal at Hotel Saint Bernard is served by Jean (expect on Tuesdays. His day off). Jean believes he has served 50,000 meals over the years.
Most meals had a very European feel to them: bread, meat and delicious cheese. His kitchen staff works in some New Mexican flavours and there’s the occasional Hawaiian touch.
Oatmeal, dry cereal, breads and fixings are available starting at 7am. At around 8:15am Jean rings the bells and a hot breakfast is served. You guessed it, by Jean.
We were pleasantly surprised to see his brother, Dadou serving alongside him for a couple days during our stay. With the same infectious smile, he greets you, inquires about your night and sends you on your way to fuel up. Seconds are always encouraged. Coffee and organic teas are also available.
After skiing in lessons all morning, you are invited to grab an open table. The bar is open for any drinks you need. Tables are served one by one as Jean brings out the first course, a soup. Drawing the soup up, wafting in the steam and fragrance from the copper pot he poetically explains the ingredients.
Fresh, real bread accompanies the soups. The second course is comprised of meat, salad and a grain of some kind. This course is delivered on a pewter tray before setting it down on the candle lit warming salver he greets you with “qu’est-ce qu’il y a ” French for “What’s up?” according to my mother in law.
With his right pinky, he proudly boasts about the meal, sourcing and why he has chosen it. Beautiful presentation only adds to the aroma in the dining room and the anticipation to demolish the food could make a grown man cry. Lunch is always accompanied by a small desert and coffee.
Presented in the same fashion as lunch, a wine menu is available and drinks by the fireplace are encouraged prior to dining. The wines are sourced from small wineries and bottle prices are incredibly reasonable for being in a Taos Ski Valley hotel.
They offer a couple wines from New Mexico wine makers that are out of the park!
Didn’t finish your bottle at dinner? Because no one likes a quitter, you can have the bar store it for you.
If you are looking for the 4 Seasons Hotels, I apologize for wasting your time and having you read this far in the review. I recommend The Blake.
However, if you are an outdoor, European, ski and family loving individual, you are at home in the Saint Bernard. Like the dining room and bar, the hotel rooms are simply decorated.
Plenty of towels, quilts and reading material. What you won’t find is a TV or a fridge. If you enjoy Taos Ski Valley and the food prepared by Jean’s kitchen team, you won’t miss any of those.
In addition to the rooms located in the hotel, there are a few A-frames located just outside. Some have a loft with a bed but most are one large room with a private bathroom.
It feels like Grandma prepared the room for you in all her excitement and anticipation of your arrival. The walls are a little thin so I suggest some ear plugs if you are a light sleeper.
What To Pack:
You’re at about 10,000 feet in elevation, pack your warm ski gear. For the week, our bags included:
- Mitten Gloves
- Additional Glove Inserts
- Phunkshun Neck Tube
- Hot Chilly’s Long Underwear (2 sets)
- Picture Organic Clothing Jacket and Pants
- Ski Helmet and Goggles
- Smartwool Ski socks (3 pairs)
- Defunkify Detergent– rinsing out any active gear that gets too smelly.
- Sven Can See Anti Fog spray
- Underarmour Down vest
- Aquaphor Gel– protects the cheeks from the cold.
- Liquid Chlorophyll Dietary Supplement
- Ear Plugs
- Nalgene Water Bottle
- Camelback Hydration System
- Knit Cap
- Thick Body Lotion
- Truman’s Gentlemen Lip Moisturizer
- Lander MOAB Phone Case– Protects your phone’s battery from the bitter cold.
- Ahnu Winter Boots
- Craghopper Voyager Jacket– Doubles as a pillow!
- Saline Nasal Spray- If you’re not used to the dry conditions, this is a blessing.
Don’t forget a swimsuit and flip flops for the World’s Largest Teak Hot Tub!
In conclusion, you owe it to your family to spend a week in Taos at The Saint Bernard. The memories you create here will last for generations. I hope for you and for my family that we continue to add memories of the Saint Bernard for many, many years to come.
We were brought back to our roots, ‘forced’ to spend technology free time together and reconnect. I don’t know if I’ll ever earn enough of those Daughter-In-Law points to be invited back, but I’ll find a way. 😉