By Kristen Lummis – Brave Ski Mom
Driving to New Mexico to ski or snowboard can be a bit disorienting.
Coming from almost any direction, the landscape is truly enchanting, a mosaic of high plateaus, desert canyons and rocky monoliths. And while mountains punctuate the horizon in every direction, it’s easy to ask yourself, “where’s the skiing?”
For skiing in New Mexico is not obvious. Ski areas are not marked with expansive resort communities, nor approached along miles of multi-lane interstate. Instead, skiing in New Mexico is more subtle, with resorts and ski areas found at the top of roads winding up photogenic canyons or approached by tram, from the sky.
In so many ways, New Mexico serves up North America’s most distinctive skiing.
Built upon a vibrant blend of Native American, hispanic and anglo culture, as reflected in the state’s cuisine, history, and art, New Mexico attracts visitors year-round.
Come winter, the 47th state’s appeal is enhanced as snow blankets the high peaks and chairlift bullwheels begin turning at each of eight completely unique ski areas.
Like many visitors to the state, Taos Ski Valley first brought me and my family to New Mexico.
We’re suckers for classic ski resorts, those that combine unique history and world-class terrain. Taos Ski Valley has both of these elements, along with recent upgrades including a children’s center, base hotel and chairlifts.
If Taos is a classic ski resort, New Mexico is a classic ski and snowboard destination.
For New Mexico’s ski resorts are classic in the best sense, maintaining proud independence and homegrown charm, despite the pressures of a consolidating industry.
This independence makes New Mexico one of the best values in skiing, not only for families purchasing multiple lift tickets each day, but for all guests seeking to maximize the time they spend making turns versus the time they spend standing in line.
Within these pages, you’ll find mountain stats and travel information for all eight New Mexico ski areas. You’ll also learn what makes each of these resorts something special.
For example, you’ll discover that thebase of Ski Santa Fe, at 10,350’, is higher than most North American ski area summits, and that this elevation yields light, dry powder that lasts for days in the trees.
You’ll learn that Ski Apache, one of the southernmost ski destinations in the U.S. is owned and operated by the Mescalero Tribe of Apaches and has the state’s only gondola, along with nearby casino gambling.
Closer to Albuquerque, you’ll discover options at Sandia Peak ranging from mostly mellow alpine terrain to nearby nordic and snowshoe trails, all just a 15-minute tram ride from the city.
Looking for a low-key resort with lodging, dining, tubing, sledding, nordic skiing and New Mexico’s only night skiing? Look no further than Angel Fire Resort, a stop on the 84-mile “Enchanted Circle,” which also includes Taos Ski Valley and Red River Ski and Summer Area.
If it’s a classic ski town you’re after, check out Red River, a western mining settlement-turned-resort, that fills the bill with lifts rising from town and everything within walking, or skiing, distance.
As you learn more about skiing and snowboarding in New Mexico, you’ll also learn a few “secrets.” For example, while Northern New Mexico’s Sipapu is sometimes called a beginner’s hill, it actually has more black runs than green and the mountain’s all-day adult lift ticket costs less than $50.
Or maybe you’ll discover the biggest secret of all: Pajarito Mountain, once a “hush-hush” ski area open only to Cold War scientists working at Los Alamos. Pajarito is popular for its strong mix of intermediate and advanced terrain.
While these are just clues, tidbits thrown out to tempt you as you make your ski season plans, the reality is you can’t go wrong when you ski or ride New Mexico this winter.
Whether you arrive by car or fly into one of three gateway airports — Albuquerque, Santa Fe or Taos — a ski or snowboard trip to New Mexico will transcend your expectations with a potent combination of value, culture, and mountains you can call your own.
Pair your skiing and snowboarding with visits to ancient pueblos and world-class museums. Fill up on authentic New Mexican cuisine, washed down with a local beer or margarita. Soak in a hot springs or hike in a national monument. And then, ski and ride again.
This is New Mexico skiing.
This is New Mexico True.