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SKI NEW MEXICO

Though people from outside the state often think of New Mexico as a dry, stark environment, more known for earth tones than green and certainly not perceived as a place receiving copious snowfall each year. They don’t realize how many alpine regions exist in the southern Rockies. Though our neighbor to the north is known for fantastic skiing, and is consistently one of the top vacation destinations for winter recreation, New Mexico resorts are lesser known, less expensive and don’t require patience for crowds at the lift lines. The higher elevations usually receive an abundance of light, dry snow, creating a haven for powder enthusiasts. The 300+ days of sunshine create skiing conditions that don’t require arctic tundra wear to avoid freezing. However, the quality of New Mexico skiing is heavily influenced by El Niño/La Niña weather patterns.

 

El Niño/La Niña load the dice for New Mexico’s winter weather, encouraging the jet stream to follow patterns that determine whether the winter storms slice through southern Colorado into Texas, or dip further south into New Mexico, blanketing the southern Rockies in snow. Every year, as the winter months approach, tales of El Niño-induced, record-setting snowfall and endless powder days for the ski season start to swirl. Often it is little more than wishful thinking, with several consecutive years of drought, and lighter than normal moisture, putting a damper on small, northern communities relying on healthy snowfall to bring skiers and snowboarders to their restaurants and businesses. However, there’s no reason not to have an optimistic outlook and the meterological indications support the influence of a moderate to strong El Niño this year. Usually that brings wetter weather and more snow to the desert southwest. Northern New Mexico has already seen a few flakes, with the mountainsides lightly covered in snow providing contrast to the fading gold of the aspens. This is good news for New Mexico ski areas and a great opportunity for everyone to take advantage of New Mexico's dry powder.

 

Taos Ski Valley is rated the best ski resort in the state by onthesnow.com, with Angel Fire ski resort coming in second. Taos  prides itself on being a rugged, authentic place for skiers to challenge themselves. With one of the top ski schools in the country, they have runs to challenge the advanced skier and facilities to train people new to the slopes. 12,481 foot Kachina Peak offers skiing and snowboarding to entertain the most experienced. For people looking for beginner and intermediate slopes and fewer crowds, Taos is a good place to start, because Angel Fire, Red River and Sipapu are nearby.

 

Angel Fire is thirty minutes to the east of Taos. Angel Fire Resort is known for an abundance of beginner and intermediate terrain. If you prefer cross country or snow shoes, the Angel Fire Nordic Area has trails that will keep you occupied and entertained until the snow melts.

Red River Ski Area and Enchanted Circle Cross Country Ski area are a short drive from Angel Fire and Taos. Red River makes getting to the slope ridiculously easy, with a chair lift heading up the mountain off of Main Street. Though not as challenging as Taos, Red River offers very affordable vacation packages for families interested in beginner and intermediate runs. Additionally, Enchanted Forest, outside of Red River, is a beautiful destination for cross country sking or snow shoeing.

 

Sipapu is south of Angel Fire, near historic Chimayo. With so many ski resorts nearby, Sipapu offers a variety of runs to challenge and entertain novices to experts, usually with fewer people than Angel Fire and Taos.

 

In the northwest corner of the state, on the Colorado border, Ski Chama hosts the cross country Chama Chile Ski Classic in mid-January. When the winter weather conditions are favorable, most of the public lands near Chama have groomed trails for some form of winter use, whether snow shoeing, cross country skiing, ice fishing, etc. Many trails are open to snow mobiles. Affordable rental on gear is available in Chama.

 

Further south, with a 12,075 foot summit, 1,725 foot vertical drop, 77 trails, 225 inches of average annual snowfall, Ski Santa Fe has the benefit of excellent skiing conditions and easy access to Santa Fe, a town consistently ranked as a top vacation destination. Between the ski area and Santa Fe, 10,000 Waves Spa provides close of day hedonism and relaxation. With so many world class restaurants, museums and galleries nearby, Santa Fe Ski Area is New Mexico’s Aspen (Taos would be New Mexico’s Vail)...maybe it is the other way around. Any thoughts?

 

Pajarito is located on the eastern slopes of the Jemez mountains, northwest of Santa Fe, near Los Alamos. Conditions vary yearly based on weather conditions. With a 1440 foot vertical drop, 300 acres of terrain and little traffic, they often have outstanding powder conditions for local skiers alert to the opportunity.

 

The Valle Caldera, also in the Jemez Mountains, offers the opportunity to cross country ski or snow shoe in a super volcano. There are a limited number of opportunities to camp in this amazing, breathtaking area. They also provide horse drawn sleigh rides when the conditions are right in the winter (note: this makes for a splendid Christmas or Valentine’s Day gift).

 

Sandia Peak ski area, outside of Albuquerque, is New Mexico’s oldest ski and snowboard resort. Access to the ski area involves driving through the canyon from Albuquerque, around and up. For those seeking more immediate satisfaction, the ski lift can be accessed within 20 minutes by taking the Sandia Tram, which is an experience unto itself. The 60-person aerial tram rises 4,000 vertical feet, going through three distinct biospheres on the way. The rock formations along the way are beautiful and formidable.

 

Ski Apache, in southeastern New Mexico, is owned by the Mescalero Apache Native America Tribe and is home to the state’s only gondola. Their beginner run, Snow Park, is known for being one of the most difficult beginner runs in the world, steeper than some blues at the resort.

 

Ski Cloudcroft, near Alamogordo in the Lincoln National Forest, is 9,000 feet above sea level, often with ski conditions conducive to a t-shirt. Not that I recommend that. A wicked sunburn would be inevitable. More affordable and less crowded than some of the more prestigious ski areas, Cloudcroft is a good alternative for families looking for a getaway without congestion on the lift lines.

 

Click on any resort below to check on weather reports and ski conditions for New Mexico ski resorts. Please leave comments about your favorite New Mexico ski area, winter destination or activity. Most importantly, be thankful when the snow arrives and ski New Mexico!

 

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  • Angel Fire Resort
    Angel Fire Resort
  • Angel Fire Resort
    Angel Fire Resort
    Angel Fire Resort | 10 Miller Lane Angel Fire, NM 87710 (575) 377-6401 reservations@angelfireresort.com Host to the Shovel Racing World Championships and home of the Big Ol’ Texas Weekend, New Mexico’s Angel Fire Resort accommodates skiers and riders of all ages and abilities. The mountain features an abundance of trails, with terrain parks and excellent tree skiing. The resort is located near Angel Fire, New Mexico and spans over 560 acres. The base village sits at 8,600 ft and is host to multiple restaurants, ski rentals and ski schools. The ski area also features an extensive snow-making system.
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  • Chama Cross Country
    Chama Cross Country
  • Chama Cross Country
    Chama Cross Country
    Ski Chama| HC 75 Box 66 Chama, NM 87520 (575) 756-2294 info@skichama.com This is a cross country, winter sport area rather than a downhill delight; however, winter is a time of dreamlike beauty in the Rio Chama Valley. Days are sunny. Nights are clear, with a million stars lighting the sky overhead. Chama is encircled by mountains that sparkle with freshly fallen snow during the winter months. The gentle terrain of the mesas makes for perfect cross country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Equipment is available for rent in Chama at very reasonable prices. Groomed trails and marked tracks crisscross the accessible public lands. Ski Chama hosts the Chama Chile Ski Classic in mid January.
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  • Enchanted Forest
    Enchanted Forest
  • Enchanted Forest
    Enchanted Forest
    Enchanted Forest XC Ski and Snowshoe Area | 29 Sangre De Cristo Red River, NM 87558 (575) 754-6112 Enchanted Forest offers the best of all worlds - stunning mountain vistas along meandering forest trails for both skiing and snowshoeing, with a back country feel in a signed and patrolled area. Located 3 miles east of Red River in the Carson National Forest, they offer 33km of 12 - 16 ft wide, groomed trails for both classic and freestyle skiing, 15km devoted to snowshoes, 5km of trails to ski with your dog and access to miles of backcountry trails. Enchanted Forest is a short 45 minute drive from Taos, just 2 hours from Santa Fe and 3 hours from Albuquerque.
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  • Pajarito
    Pajarito
  • Pajarito
    Pajarito
    Pajarito Mountain | 397 Camp May Road Los Alamos, NM 87544 (505) 662 5725 ski@skipajarito.com Pajarito Mountain is located on the eastern slopes of the Jemez Mountains, near Los Alamos. A typical season runs from Christmas to early April, but an outstanding season may run from Thanksgiving to late April. Our weather is fickle. The mountain has an impressive 10,440 foot summit elevation as well as a 1,440 vertical drop over 300 acres of skiable terrain. Depending on the year and the whimsy of Mother Nature, Pajarito sometimes serves up plentiful amounts of powder, with the added benefit of beautiful views of the Rio Grande Valley and small crowds.
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  • Red River Ski Area
    Red River Ski Area
  • Red River Ski Area
    Red River Ski Area
    Red River Ski Area| 400 Pioneer Rd Red River, NM 87558 (575) 754-2223 skierservices@redriverskiarea.com The ski area has exceptionally easy access from Red River, with one chair rising a block off Main Street. The terrain is mostly beginner and intermediate. Lots of excellent vacation deals for families. The toughest run: Catskinner. The town of Red River looks like a stage set for a western. When explorers, fur trappers and prospectors settled the area, gold, silver and copper mines were carved into the mountain, with names like Golden Treasure and Silver King. The population soared. There were two general stores, a livery stable, two newspapers, a sawmill, a blacksmith, a barber shop, more than a dozen saloons, several hotels and boarding houses, a dance hall, a hospital and a thriving red light district with plenty of gambling and bar room brawls.
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  • Sandia Peak
    Sandia Peak
  • Sandia Peak
    Sandia Peak
    Sandia Peak Tramway Ski Area | 11 NM-536 Sandia Park, NM 87047 (505) 242-9052 Sandia Peak ski area is New Mexico's oldest ski area and offers beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders some long cruisers. It isn't the best skiing in the state, but it is very convenient to Albuquerque for a quick day trip. The Sandias don't always get enough snow to open the area, but when the powder hits weekends can get crowded. Sandia Peak is possibly the nation's easiest ski resort to access from a major city due to the Sandia Tram, a 60-person aerial tram that rises more than 4,000 vertical feet to the top of the mountain in less than 20 minutes. The tram takes you directly to the ski lift. You can hop out, put on your skis and head down the mountain.
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  • Sipapu
    Sipapu
  • Sipapu
    Sipapu
    Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort| 5224 NM-518 Vadito, NM 87579 (800) 587-2240 Home to the longest ski season in New Mexico, Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort offers mountain terrain perfect for all ability levels. From green and blue groomed cruisers to the steeps and powder stashes found above Lift 1, this mountain has something for everyone. Additionally, the resort is family friendly and, usually, all runs can be accessed without waiting in lift lines. Free lift tickets.
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  • Ski Apache
    Ski Apache
  • Ski Apache
    Ski Apache
    Ski Apache | 1286 Ski Run Road Alto, NM 88312 (575) 464-3600 Located in Mescalero, on the slopes of Sierra Blanca, Ski Apache is owned and operated by the Mescalero Apache Tribe. It is the only ski resort in New Mexico with a gondola lift. Popular runs include Apache Bowl, an intermediate run on the upper west side of the mountain known for wide, open space, and breathtaking views. Capitan, a steep, intimidating pitch that drops 475 feet and the Gondola Liftline, a steep and narrow advanced run that runs from the top of the mountain to the main lodge. The beginner run, Snow Park, is known for being one of the most difficult beginner runs in the world, steeper than some blues at the resort.
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  • Ski Cloudcroft
    Ski Cloudcroft
  • Ski Cloudcroft
    Ski Cloudcroft
    Ski Cloudcroft | 1920 1/2 U.S Highway 82 Cloudcroft, NM 88317 (575) 682-2333 info@skicloudcroft.net Ski Cloudcroft, near Alamogordo in the Lincoln National Forest, is 9,000 feet above sea level, often with ski conditions conducive to a t-shirt. I have witnessed this phenomenon. As a note, it is a bad idea unless looking like a well boiled lobster is part of your agenda. More affordable and less crowded than some of the more prestigious ski areas, Cloudcroft is a good alternative for families looking for a getaway without congestion on the lift lines.
    Hit the slopes
  • Ski Santa Fe
    Ski Santa Fe
  • Ski Santa Fe
    Ski Santa Fe
    Santa Fe, NM 87501 (505) 982-4429 info@skisantafe.com Ski Santa Fe benefits from its 12,075 foot summit, 1,725 foot vertical drop, 77 trails and 225 inches of average annual snowfall. With a range of terrain, from isolated beginner slopes to lots of cruisers, some long bump runs, great glades and tree runs and even a few short chutes and small bowls. Big Tesuque run is a powder hound's delight that ends on a luge-like forested trail leading to the access road. Hitch back up or park a second vehicle at the turn-out. Ski Santa Fe has the perk of being located above Santa Fe. For winter visitors, this offers the opportunity to ski all day, have world class cuisine at night, with numerous options for sight-seeing, museums, galleries and shopping nearby. After a long day of skiing, hit 10,000 Waves on your way back down the mountain. Aromatherapy, Japanese style baths and a variety of spa treatments are available.
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  • Taos Ski Valley
    Taos Ski Valley
  • Taos Ski Valley
    Taos Ski Valley
    Taos Ski Valley | 116 Sutton Place Taos Ski Valley, NM 87525 (866) 968-7386 (575) 776-2291 tsv@skitaos.org Taos Ski Valley is located in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains north of Santa Fe. This family-owned ski area boasts the top-rated ski school in North America and rarely has lift line delays. Taos is known for their light, dry powder. With 110 trails, 305 inches average annual snowfall and 300+ days of sun, Taos Ski Valley is a skiing and snowboarding paradise. The resort grants access to 1,294 acres of terrain, with trails for all ability levels and interests.
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  • Valles Caldera
    Valles Caldera
  • Valles Caldera
    Valles Caldera
    Valles Caldera | 39200 New Mexico Highway 4 Jemez Springs, NM 87025 (866) 382-5537 recreation@vallescaldera.gov How about skiing a super volcano? Cross Country skiing and snowshoeinG at the Valles Caldera National Preserve on Saturdays and Sundays between December 27 and March 30. Everything north of NM 4 requires day-use permits. Overnight skiing is a reservation-based opportunity, with limited availability each winter. Overnights will be spent at the bunkhouse, about 2 miles from the Valle Grande staging area and within 1 mile of the South Mountain trailhead. The bunkhouse is equipped with everything you'll need except sleeping bags, clothing, food and personal effects. The cost is $480 per night for up to 13 people, plus the $10 per day per person day pass. There is also a $150 security deposit required.
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New Mexico Outdoors
Sandia Peak Ski Area Opening
 

The  ski area outside of Albuquerque doesn't always get enough snowfall to stay open for long, but it is cause for celebration when it does. For those that would prefer not to drive up the through Cedar Crest, you can catch the tram to the top of the ski lift and be there within 20 minutes. Capulin Snow Play Area also provides good snow shoeing or cross country with tubing runs open some seasons. Call in advance.

New Mexico Outdoors
Salomon Freeski TV
 

Taos Ski Valley is home to some of the most abundant and aggressive inbounds ski terrain in North America.  1294 acres of terrain for all skill levels. Here's a short adrenalin clip of downhill skiing at Taos.

 

When in Taos, stop by Michael's. The coffee is good and the green chile cheese bread is awesome.

New Mexico Outdoors
New Mexico True Winter
 

From the New Mexico True Campaign, another short clip showing off the beauty of our state.

 

"The inner, undeniable desire to explore and experience the wonders of winter outdoors is New Mexico True. This winter get out and about to explore everything that New Mexico has to offer."

 

Good advice.

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