New Book Released on New Mexico’s Ski History in Photos
New Mexico has one of the oldest ski cultures in the American West, going back to the miners of
the late 19th century who used skis as practical tools for accessing snow-covered terrain, and for
fun. Recreational skiing arose in the 1920s among students of the Los Alamos Ranch School,
and on the first developed ski runs in the 1930s in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque and
at Hyde Memorial State Park near Santa Fe.
The rich, fascinating and extensive history of the state’s ski scene has now been documented in a
just-released book from Arcadia Publishing, titled Skiing in New Mexico. The book is part of
their series titled “Images of America,” consisting of historic black and white photos run with
detailed, informative captions. It was compiled by two New Mexico natives and lifelong skiers,
seasoned ski journalist Daniel Gibson and veteran Sandia Peak Tram director Jay Blackwood.
Skiing in New Mexico includes 183 images, mostly photos, but also historic posters and other
The images include perhaps the oldest image in existence of an American Indian on skis, a photo
taken circa 1900 of a Taos Pueblo Indian thought to be delivering mail to the mining community
of Twinning above Taos. It also includes a photo taken in 1896 of a woman on skis, wearing a
dress, taken in the Sandias, photos of the mining community of Twining that would later become
the base area for Taos Ski Valley, and other early images.
Photos of Los Alamos Ranch School students leading horses with skis lashed to them through
deep snow, the first skiing explorations of what would become the Santa Fe Ski Basin and
“backcountry” outings to Lake Peak, and photos of the first forays in the Sandias are also
included. The visual history of Taos Valley is amply illustrated, with numerous shots of Ernie
and Rhoda Blake, Jean Mayer, Dr. Al Rosen and other Taos founders. There’s also photos of
many other New Mexico ski pioneers like Kingsbury Pitcher (founder of Sierra Blanca, today’s
Ski Apache), Robert Nordhaus (founder of La Madera and the Sandia Peak Tram), the Abruzzo
family (long associated with both Sandia Peak and Ski Santa Fe) and many more.
The book retails for $24, and can be found in many local bookstores, in ski area gift shops, and
online book outlets, including Amazon. For additional details or to order a copy. More Information
Photo: This fine photo reveals the deck of the new Sierra Lodge at the Santa Fe Basin in the early 1950s. It looks east toward Lake Peak. The parking lot is where today’s Tesuque Peak and Millennium chairs begin, with both running up to the highest slopes seen here. At the base of the flagpole sits the ski school office. The first chairlift began just out the frame’s left edge, and ran up today’s slopes Slalom and Thunderbird. The ski area’s brochure for 1949-50 promised “skiers can choose between pleasant, easy-to-ski slopes or a number of fast, daring downhill runs from the top.” Graeme McGowan’s prediction for grand skiing here was finally a reality. (By Starr Jenkins for the USFS; courtesy Pitcher Family Collection.)
Skier Photo – Kingsbury “Pitch” Pitcher would schuss into the New Mexico ski scene after World War II, but here he’s seen as a young man racing from Stanford University in Sun Valley, Idaho in 1940. Born in Los Angeles. He told Marian Love in the Santa Fean Magazine of January-February 1980, “I learned to ski in the Sierras when I was ten years old. My skis were seven-foot boards with toe straps. It wasn’t a popular sport and ski clothes were an oddity. Once, when some friends and I went to a race, we stopped to get some food and the counterman asked, ‘Is youse guys acrobats?’” His grandfather was the famed Otto Mears, builder of the Million Dollar Highway in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, where Pitch spent his summers. (Courtesy Pitcher Family Collection.)