El Monte Sagrado has had my eye for some time now. When Marriott first introduced the autograph collection, this property was in the first batch of properties included in the release. The pictures on the website looked beautiful, and I had always wanted to ski at Taos Ski Valley. For the past few years, my wife and I have been making a tradition of trying out a new ski resort and town every year. Last year it was Steamboat Springs. The year before, it was Durango / Purgatory. When it came time to plan our trip for this year, I figured it was time to pull the trigger and give El Monte Sagrado a shot!
The resort is located in Taos, New Mexico. Taos is located at just about 7000 feet of elevation in Northern New Mexico, about 90 minutes away from Santa Fe. The city of Taos is similar to Santa Fe in that it attracts artists from all over and is inundated with art galleries. It’s also about a 30 minute drive from the Taos Ski Valley resort. I’ll write a later blog post about Taos and the ski resort, but I give that background because it is relevant to how the resort markets itself, as a spa retreat. Another nice part of the resort is that it’s only a ten minute walk from the central plaza of Taos where you can find restaurants, shopping, art, and history.
We ski bums visited in the winter, but the high season for the resort is in the summer. The facilities there seem to be geared around relaxation and the well known on premises spa. Architecturally, it looks… New Mexican! And by that, I mean it fits in with the overall adobe look that is the standard in much of New Mexico, especially Santa Fe and Taos. The tallest buildings are only two stories, and it has just 84 rooms and suites. We drove up from Albuquerque one evening, and when we checked in, we were upgraded to a one bedroom suite. Each suite is named – ours was Crazy Horse.
Checking in was painless, but another thing that pointed to this being a summer resort were the lack of indoor hallways. High in the mountains in the winter, it gets really cold. Like. It snows. Keep that in mind when you plan your visit. The walk to the front desk was quite chilly, and then our short walk to the room, and every other walk thereafter, was a jump into the cold! I especially noticed it when I woke up in the morning to use the hotel gym, as I was only wearing gym clothes, making the sprint to the lobby to try and avoid the cold!
Back to check-in, the lobby is very quaint and nothing Marriott-like at all, since this is an Autograph Collection resort. It was small, rustic, and boutique-y. The lobby has a couple of couches and a chandelier, and there is local art everywhere. The check-in area has just a few small sit-down desks to make for a more intimate experience. We were informed of our one bedroom suite upgrade, due to my Marriott platinum status, and we were also given continental breakfast vouchers for every morning of our stay. I asked if we could upgrade the continental to a full breakfast, and we were informed that we could not, but we could turn the vouchers back in for 750 points each. The continental breakfast sounded like a pretty weak offering, and ordering off the menu wasn’t that expensive, $10ish for an entrée, so we turned in all of our breakfast vouchers for the points.
We walked our short walk to our suite, and it was indeed very un-Marriott and very boutqiue-y and very New Mexican. The room’s walls stayed with the adobe motif, and we had interesting Native American artwork like a drum on our wall and paintings of Indian chiefs. Very cool. The bed wasn’t terrible, but it definitely had us wishing for the standard Marriott bedding and mattress. The mattress seemed pretty old, and it was quite soft. We had a TV and large closet in our bedroom. The bedroom had two doors, one to the bathroom, the other to the hallway.
I found the bathroom to be really nice. There was a huge tub, and everything was made of a beautiful brown stone. It was very clean. It was apparent that the tub / shower was going for the spa crowd, as it had steps leading up to it, glass doors, and a large stone rim around the edges. This thing was made for soaking in the tub with a glass of wine. That’s not really our thing, though, and the funny side effect of the design was that it was actually quite difficult to get in and out of to take a shower. We had to walk up two stairs to get to the top of the tub, and then it was a fairly large step down into the basin.
The suite had an interesting floorplan. You enter into a short hallway, and there’s a bedroom in your first door on the left. The next door opens up to the bathroom, and inside the bathroom, another door connects to the bedroom. Keep walking down the hallway and you walk past a side table and then into the small living room. We had a fireplace, which was beautifully constructed in the traditional New Mexican style. There was also a comfy leather couch, coffee table, chairs, fridge, and television. We definitely appreciated the extra space of the suite. My only complaint here is that I think the room needs some general renovation. The couch wasn’t in the best of shape, and it could use reupholstering. The bed was soft and it really felt like an older mattress.
Taos is a great spot for foodies, especially those like me who LOVE green chile. Thus, we ate out every night for dinner as opposed to trying the hotel restaurant, De La Tierra. However, we did have four breakfasts there. They have a very cute breakfast area in the restaurant with vegetation planted indoors, a large fishtank, and plenty of local artwork.
We found the breakfast options to be pretty varied and also reasonably priced. Some mornings I felt like eating light and just had some oatmeal. On another morning, I went all in and had a plate of huevos rancheros. The breakfast was good, and the service was quick. We were scheduled to have Valentine’s Day dinner at De La Tierra, but I ended up changing it up last minute to eat a place in town I wanted to try. That being said, whoever was in charge of creating the pre-fixe menu for De La Tierra must have been a bit confused.
If you’re going to increase the prices and mask them behind an all-inclusive menu on Valentine’s Day, that’s fine… but then don’t also offer a la carte on the menu and print the prices of the entrees. If you add up any of the 3 entrees, your price will 100% come out to be lower than the pre-fixe price, unless you choose the steak option. It’s just bizarre to me that they would both allow you to order the items individually and print the price there. I really wonder how many people ordered the pre-fixe without doing any math.
While we didn’t utilize the hotel’s spa, we did check out the pool and the fitness center. The pool is built inside a permanently tented room, and it has a lot of vegetation growing inside, giving it a neat jungle-like appearance. The fitness center has a good variety of equipment, but it could use a bit of tuning and modernization. The treadmills were old and noisy, and the weight machines were prone to getting stuck on certain weights and not having the belts move smoothly. I know I’m a bit of a hotel gym snob, but just a bit of work and money would greatly improve this one.
We also had an issue with housekeeping one day. We came back after skiing and shopping at 5PM, and our room still wasn’t cleaned. When they finally sent someone to clean the room, after I called to complain, the attendant didn’t do a full cleaning job, as we were still left with some dirty bath mats and wash cloths.
In terms of the general grounds of the property, their website makes it look stunningly beautiful. And I’m sure it is in the summer. In the winter, everything is dead so it’s a bit on the… brown and dead side of things. Their fountains aren’t operational, etc. That can’t be held against them – it’s just an FYI in case you decide to go in the winter like us.
All in all, when we return to Taos, we would definitely stay at El Monte Sagrado again. Is it perfect? Or even oustanding? No… It’s neither, and it could use some renovation, but we really enjoyed our stay there as a hub for skiing, site seeing, and eating way too much New Mexican green chile.
I used Marriott Rewards points for this stay. The stay was 5 nights long, and it was a total for 140,000 points for the stay. There was no resort fee.