Powder to the People

The state’s ski resorts are eager to crank the lifts.

Dust off the ski boots, try on the gear, and get ready for another fun-filled winter spent slashing down New Mexico’s various ski slopes. According to George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico, “Natural snow usually starts in late October and early November.” Combining Mother Nature’s fluffy stuff with machine-made snow allows five of the state’s nine alpine ski areas to open this month. The rest follow soon thereafter.

“With a healthy snowfall, New Mexico skiing is outstanding—light dry snow, blue skies, no crowds,” says Kevin Brennan, who blogs about all things outdoors at HighDesertDirt.blogspot.com.

So whether you’re a big-mountain skier in search of fresh powder or a beginner looking for family-friendly slopes, there are plenty of options around the state. If you prefer cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, we’ve got intel on those activities as well.

ANGEL FIRE
The only place to night ski in New Mexico.

OPENS: December 13
STATS: Average Snowfall – 158”; Base Elevation – 8,600’; Peak Elevation – 10,677’; Vertical Drop – 2,077’
WHAT’S NEW: Powder City is a new front-of-the-mountain terrain park that stays open late for night skiing and snowboarding.
DON’T MISS: Give your skis a break and slide down the mountain on a shovel instead. The Shovel Races Championship (February 7–8) are as silly—and as serious—as the name implies. Top competitors go nearly 80 mph.
(575) 377-6401; angelfireresort.com

PAJARITO MOUNTAIN SKI AREA
Ski the Jémez—downhill or cross-country.

OPENS: Early December.
STATS: Average Snowfall – 103”; Base Elevation – 9,200’; Peak Elevation – 10,400’; Vertical Drop – 1,200’
WHAT’S NEW: The Pajarito Brewpub & Grill, in downtown Los Alamos, serves up the best food in town and stays open late. You’ll enjoy the ski décor and the vast beer menu.
DON’T MISS: Torchlight Parade (December 31). At dusk, Pajarito staff ski down the mountain holding torches, while visitors enjoy drinks and snacks on the deck.You can also access cross-country skiing trails on Forest Service land from Pajarito’s parking lot. These trails are maintained by the Southwest Nordic Ski Club (swnordicski.org).
(505) 662-5725; skipajarito.com

RED RIVER SKI AREA
Mining town turned ski town—that likes to party.
OPENS: November 27
STATS: Average Snowfall – 156”; Base Elevation – 8,750’; Peak Elevation – 10,350’; Vertical Drop – 1,600’
WHAT’S NEW: The UNM Corporate Ski Cup has a new name: the UNM Ultimate Ski & Snowboard Challenge. On January 18, 2014, compete alongside Lobo athletes in up to three races. Can’t make this weekend? The series comes to Angel Fire on January 25, Santa Fe on February 22, and Taos on March 1.
DON’T MISS: From a crawfish boil to a gator plunge, Mardi Gras in the Mountains (February 27–March 4) is a week of wild fun.
(575) 754-2223; redriverskiarea.com

SANDÍA PEAK SKI AREA
Small mountain, big views, only 25 minutes from the Sunport.
OPENS: Late November (weather permitting).
STATS: Average Snowfall – 118”; Base Elevation – 8,678’; Peak Elevation – 10,378’; Vertical Drop – 1,700’
WHAT’S NEW: High Finance Restaurant, atop Sandía Peak, now accepts lunch and dinner reservations through opentable.com.
DON’T MISS: Because Sandía doesn’t get as much powder as other resorts, it’s best to check their website before making plans. Snowshoeing, however, is almost always an option. Consider the Sandía Peak Snowshoe Race (January 18), which offers spectacular views of the Duke City, the Río Grande, and the Turquoise Trail. See sidebar (p. 18) for more snowshoeing opportunities.
(505) 242-9052; sandiapeak.com

SIPAPU SKI RESORT
Uncrowded slopes, family-friendly atmosphere.
OPENS: November 16 (Sipapu’s earliest opening ever, and the 11th straight year the resort has been the first ski area to open in New Mexico).
STATS: Average Snowfall – 190”; Base Elevation – 8,200’; Peak Elevation – 9,255’; Vertical Drop – 1,055’
WHAT’S NEW: Fourth- and fifth-graders ski free every day (report card required). Kids six and younger, active-duty military, and adults ski free, as do those aged 40, 60, 70, and older (special promotion).
DON’T MISS: Forget about sand castles. February Fun Fest, a free event held President’s Day weekend (February 15–17), boasts a multistory snow castle that’s full of slides, steps, and tunnels. “No one else in New Mexico builds anything like this,” says marketing director Stacey Glaser. “It takes our mountain crews a full week to create it!” In addition to the castle, the weekend includes scavenger hunts, a costume parade, face painting, and games.

(800) 587-2240; sipapunm.com

SKI APACHE
The southernmost ski resort in the country—and it has a new gondola.
OPENS: November 28
STATS: Average snowfall – 149”; Base Elevation – 9,600’; Peak Elevation – 11,500’; Vertical Drop – 1,900’
WHAT’S NEW: Ski Apache’s 51-year-old passenger gondola was retired in January and replaced with the Apache Arrow, a new, high-speed, Doppelmayr gondola. The vessel carries eight passengers to 11,500 feet twice as fast as the old lift. In addition, four swift new ski lifts will whisk 3,600 more skiers to trail heads hourly.
DON’T MISS: Gather together a team of five for the Ski Apache Cup and Vertical Challenge (mid-January). See how many vertical feet you can total in four hours. Unwind afterward at the Inn of the Mountain Gods.
(575) 464-3600; skiapache.com

SKI CLOUDCROFT
Celebrating 50 years of southern skiing in the Sacramento Mountains.
OPENS: December
STATS: Average Snowfall – 57”; Base Elevation – 8,350’; Peak Elevation – 9,050’; Vertical Drop – 700’
WHAT’S NEW: Ski Cloudcroft has been operating since 1963. This year the resort celebrates 50 years with great skiing (weather permitting; no snow-making) and new activities (check Facebook for updates). The Silver Spoon Ski School and Mustard’s Last Stand restaurant are as good as ever.
DON’T MISS: Cloudcroft might be small (fewer than 800 residents), but holidays are a big deal here. Bring an ornament to decorate the tree at the Lighted Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting (December 7), or chow down on Cajun cuisine during Mardi Gras in the Clouds (February 28–March 2).
(575) 682-2333; skicloudcroft.net

SKI SANTA FE
A sunny slope only 20 minutes from the capital city.
OPENS: November 28
STATS: Average Snowfall – 189”; Base Elevation – 10,350’; Peak Elevation – 12,075’; Vertical Drop – 1,725’
WHAT’S NEW: The recently renovated La Casa Lodge features a new rental facility that offers more than 1,000 sets of Head skis and Burton snowboard equipment, plus boots, poles, helmets, and more. The lodge’s spiffy new food court features a bakery and a pasta bar.
DON’T MISS: Rando skiing, which combines aspects of alpine, telemark, and backcountry skiing with mountaineering, is all the rage among winter-sports buffs, and Ski Santa Fe is offering the state’s first competition. The Santa Fe Fireball Rando Race (February 8) is approximately 4,200 feet and includes multiple ascents on climbing skins and at least one bootpack.
(505) 982-4429; skisantafe.com

TAOS SKI VALLEY
Big-mountain skiing.
OPENS: November 28
STATS: Average Snowfall – 236”; Base Elevation – 9,207’; Peak Elevation – 12,481’; Vertical Drop – 2,612’
WHAT’S NEW: The upcoming December issue will include a report on exciting new developments in the works at TSV.
DON’T MISS: With both a ski event and a benefit auction, Breast Cancer Awareness Day takes place February 22. During the K2 Bumps Challenge, teams of two ski Al’s Run as many times as possible in four hours. That evening, bidders can take home snowboards that have been painted by local artists during the Paint for Peaks Art Auction. The Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships (February 27–March 1) showcase some of the best double-diamond terrain in the country. Over 150 athletes compete for more than $15,000 in prizes.
(575) 776-2291; skitaos.org

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