When you ski New Mexico, there’s no shortage of light, dry powder. Cold temperatures and low humidity combine to keep the snow soft and nice at resorts throughout the state.
Skiing powder can present its own unique technical challenges though. To maximize our fun and minimize the risk of injury, we visited some of New Mexico’s top instructors to see how best to thrive in the soft stuff.
Tom Long | Pajarito Mountain Ski Area
First stop was the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area outside of Los Alamos, N.M. which boasts some of the best powder in the Land of Enchantment (to go along with surprisingly short lift lines). Pajarito’s general manager, Tom Long, shared his top tips for enjoying a fun, injury-free day in the powder.
“Pick a slope that’s in your comfort range,” Long said. “Start out slowly, but try to remain in the fall line. Turning too much across the slope can really cause some balance issues.”
For skiers, Long said it’s important to keep your weight balanced on the skis.
“Don’t pressure the downhill ski as much as you would on groomed or harder snow,” he said. “Work on developing a rhythm for your turns.”
According to Long, snowboarders should focus on many of the same principles.
“Rhythm, balance, and flow are the keys to success for enjoying the fluff,” he said. “Keep increasing the terrain as you get comfortable, stay balanced on your equipment and enjoy.”
Jeff Mugleston | Taos Ski Valley
Next we headed north to the Taos Ski Valley and spent some time with Jeff Mugleston, manager and longtime instructor at the Ernie Blake Snowsports School. Mugleston said skiing in deep powder is akin to water skiing in the summer.
“How much fun is it to water ski at 5 miles per hour?” he asked. “That’s called snorkeling. Momentum is your friend when skiing powder to help you plane on the snow.”
Mugleston said today’s modern skis offer greater width that help them “float” to the top of the powder.
“Tip your skis to sink them in the powder and flatten them to rise back to the surface,” he said. “Don’t forget to keep your lower abs contracted to avoid the head plant!”
Robin May | Angel Fire Resort
Finally, after a beautiful 45-minute drive along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, we arrived at the Angel Fire Resort and met up with Ski & Snowboard School director Robin May who offered more important pointers.
Like Mugleston, May said it was important to first choose the right equipment — wide boards for both skis and snowboards. Then, he warned against making long, finished turns on the slopes.
“Allowing your feet and hips to follow too far across the hill is unnecessary and too much work,” he said. “Start on a moderately sloped pitch and be prepared to make shorter radius turns down the fall line.”
In a straight run, May said to start by bouncing softly with both feet.
“Now your skis can porpoise in and out of the snow,” he said. “Continue by adding a strong pole plant, allowing the skis to begin to deflect into small directional changes. Then add some active steering of both legs to develop into short radius turns.”
Above all else, May told us to remember one piece of advice.
“Never sit back,” he said “That’s an old wives tale from people who don’t know how to ski powder.”
With those great tips from some of the best in the business, there was nothing left to do but hit the slopes and enjoy the best of New Mexico’s soft powder!