Monday, August 10, 2020

7 Amazing New Mexico Ski Areas You've Never Even Heard Of

A view of the gondola at Ski Apache, one of New Mexico’s premier yet still relatively unheard of ski areas. | Photo courtesy OnTheSnow.

 They don't call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment for nothing. It's wild. It's ancient. It's culturally-inclined. It's serene. It's a place I could die in and one where I nearly have.

But most importantly, it's a place with some of the most amazing skiing in the Rockies, given that the snow gods are playing ball that year. Just take a look at their ski areas.

The locations of all of New Mexico’s lovely ski areas. | Photo courtesy New Mexico Tourism.

And I'm not just talking about Taos, which, you've probably heard of if you even give a fraction-of-a-damn about skiing anything steep. That place is like a far-off, lucrative, steep skiing paradise. World-famous, too. Or maybe I'm just biased(in love)?

But Taos isn't all New Mexico is hiding from you. The primordial land's other ski areas — of which I can bet many of you have never even heard of — have so much to show for. Check out the list:

Angel Fire trail map. | Photo courtesy Ski Central.

Angel Fire Resort 

Angel Fire Resort began in 1966, as a small ski destination in Northern New Mexico. They have since grown into a four-season resort offering a memorable Rocky Mountain experience for families, outdoor enthusiasts, and groups. The resort is located 8,600-feet above sea level in the Southern Rockies and has views of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. Angel Fire also has one of the best mountain bike parks in the United States which operates every summer.

  • Location: Angel Fire, New Mexico
  • Top elevation: 10,677 feet
  • Base elevation: 8,600 feet
  • Vertical drop: 2,077 feet
  • Skiable area: 560 acres
  • Runs: 80 total — 21% beginner, 56% intermediate, 23% expert
  • Longest run: 3.2 miles
  • Lifts: 7
  • Terrain parks: 3
  • Average annual snowfall: 210 inches
  • Snowmaking: Yes

Ski Santa Fe trail map. | Photo courtesy

Ski Sante Fe

Ski Santa Fe is located just 16 miles from the town of Santa Fe, one of the most popular destinations in the US. The ski area is tucked away high in the stunning Sangre de Cristo Mountains and it has a base area elevation of 10,350 feet, putting it among the highest ski areas in the continental United States. The Millennium Triple Chairlift takes skiers and riders to a height of 12,075 feet with some of the Southwest's finest skiing. The vistas atop Ski Santa Fe are unsurpassed and act as the gateway for thrills including steep mogul runs, powder-filled chutes, gladed tree-skiing, and more than plenty groomed trails.

  • Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Top elevation: 12,075 feet
  • Base elevation: 10,350 feet
  • Vertical drop: 1,725 feet
  • Skiable area: 660 acres
  • Runs: 86 total — 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, 40% expert
  • Longest run: 3 miles
  • Lifts: 7
  • Terrain parks: 1
  • Average annual snowfall: 225 inches
  • Snowmaking: Yes

Pajarito Trail Map. | Photo courtesy Pajarito Mountain Ski Area.

Pajarito Mountain Ski Area

Located on the eastern edge of the Jemez Mountains in north-central New Mexico, Pajarito Mountain Ski Area is five miles west of Los Alamos. Its 750 acres of land are privately owned by Los Alamos Ski Club and were developed as a ski area in the late 1950s. The mountain has spectacular views east over the Rio Grande Valley towards the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and west over the Valle Grande from the peak.

Pajarito Mountain boasts 300 acres of skiable terrain, not counting its renowned tree skiing, plus some of the best bump skiing in the state. It is rarely crowded, and guests seldom need wait in lift lines. It is open to the public, selling both day tickets and season passes. There is no on-mountain lodging, however, hotels and other lodging options are available in nearby Los Alamos and Santa Fe.

  • Location: Los Alamos County, New Mexico
  • Top elevation: 10,440 feet
  • Base elevation: 9,000 feet
  • Vertical drop: 1,200 feet
  • Skiable area: 280 acres
  • Runs: 40 total — 20% beginner, 50% intermediate, 30% expert
  • Longest run: 0.6 miles
  • Lifts: 7
  • Terrain parks: 2
  • Average annual snowfall: 125 inches
  • Snowmaking: Yes

Red River trail map. | Photo courtesy Snow-Online.

Red River Ski Area

Located in the self-proclaimed "Ski Town of the Southwest," Red River Ski Area is a family-owned and operated mountain in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of the southern Rockies of New Mexico. The ski area is positioned along the famed Enchanted Circle near Texas, Albuquerque, Taos, and Santa Fe, and has a base elevation of 8,750 feet along with 209 skiable acres. The mountain is steeper than first meets the eye and has some epic tree skiing.

  • Location: Red River, New Mexico
  • Top elevation: 10,350 feet
  • Base elevation: 8,750 feet
  • Vertical drop: 1,600 feet
  • Skiable area: 209 acres
  • Runs: 64 total — 31% beginner, 31% intermediate, 38% expert
  • Longest run: 2.5 miles
  • Lifts: 7
  • Terrain parks: 3
  • Average annual snowfall: 214 inches
  • Snowmaking: Yes
  • Average days of sunshine: 300+

Sandia Peak trail map. | Photo courtesy

Sandia Peak Ski Area

Sandia Peak is perched above Albuquerque in the Sandia Mountains and is arguably the nation's easiest accessible ski resort from a major city due to its 60 person aerial tram that rises more than 4,000 vertical feet in less than 20 minutes. It is New Mexico's oldest ski area since 1937 and offers beginner and intermediate terrain. Weekends can get crowded and lifts are old, but a weekday powder dump is never something anybody living in or around Albuquerque can complain about.

  • Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Top elevation: 10,378 feet
  • Base elevation: 8,678 feet
  • Vertical drop: 1,700 feet
  • Skiable area: 200 acres
  • Runs: 39 total — 31% beginner, 46% intermediate, 23% expert
  • Longest run: 2 miles
  • Lifts: 5
  • Terrain parks: 1
  • Average annual snowfall: 100 inches
  • Snowmaking: Yes

Sipapu Ski Resort trail map. | Photo courtesy Sipapu Ski Resort.

Sipapu Ski Resort

Sipapu is the definition of a "family-oriented mountain," but one with some actually GREAT skiing. Family owned and operated since 1952, everything at this ski area seems to have been designed to please families and protect their budgets, from lodging to terrain, according to OnTheSnow. There are 41 runs, a vertical drop of 1,055 feet, an average snowfall of 190 inches, and a snowmaking system that covers 70 percent of Sipapu's 200 acres. There's also plenty of diversity in its terrain. Here you'll find some of the best tree skiing in the state, a couple of terrain parks, some long cruising trails, and an abundance of novice and beginner terrain.

  • Location: Vadito, New Mexico
  • Top elevation: 9,255 feet
  • Base elevation: 8,200 feet
  • Vertical drop: 1,055 feet
  • Skiable area: 200 acres
  • Runs: 41 total — 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, 40% expert
  • Longest run: 0.5 miles
  • Lifts: 6
  • Terrain parks: 4
  • Average annual snowfall: 190 inches
  • Snowmaking: Yes

A photo from the historic 45″ powder day at Ski Apache, New Mexico in 2018. Photo: SnowBrains.

Ski Apache

I saved the best for last. Well, not really. You can't say that this ski area is the best ski area on this list in terms of mountain stats. But I can, because I grew up skiing here and it will always be one of the best ski areas ever to me. Ski Apache has seven chairs, a high-speed gondola, wicked tree skiing, bowls and glades and mogul fields, and fun, flowy terrain that is exceptional on powder days. With 750 skiable acres and a 1,900-foot vertical drop, this mountain is seriously slept on. It doesn't get as many big dumps as it did in the good ol' days, but when it does — like when they got a historic 45 inches in 24 hours in December of 2018 — there's no other place I'd rather be skiing.

  • Location: Ruidoso, New Mexico
  • Top elevation: 11,500 feet
  • Base elevation: 9,600 feet
  • Vertical drop: 1,900 feet
  • Skiable area: 750 acres
  • Runs: 55 total — 20% beginner, 60% intermediate, 20% expert
  • Longest run: 2.5 miles
  • Lifts: 8 + 1 gondola
  • Terrain parks: 3
  • Average annual snowfall: 185 inches
  • Snowmaking: Yes
Ski Apache trail map.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Proposed British Columbia Mega-Resort That Would Be the Biggest Ski Area in North America

The proposed VGD Resort would be the biggest ski area in North America with the third largest vertical drop in the world | Photo courtesy Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.

The area for the proposed Valemount Glacier Destination Resort, which is expected to be the largest year-round ski resort in North America with the third tallest vertical drop out of any ski area on earth, could be described as a “mini AK.” Once completed, the resort will have up to 12,448 acres of skiable terrain and over 6,500 feet of vertical drop giving it the most vertical out of any ski resort in North America by far.
Excited yet?
VGD Resort terrain and lifts digital rendering | Photo courtesy Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.
The European alps-like ski Mecca would cover an area of nearly 31 square miles across a range of the Cariboo Mountains in the interior of British Columbia. Plans have been proposed and the project has received the blessing of the Simpcw First Nation, an indigenous community with over 12.3 million acres of unceded territory in BC. The First Nation community has even gone as far as to contribute several hundred acres of land to the project, with revenue-sharing plans in mind.

Approved in 2017, Valemount Glacier Destinations and its partners have already spent roughly $2.3 million on the first phase of the three-phase project, according to CBC Canada. Yet, although plans have been proposed and an initial investment has been made, the actual construction phase of VGD Resort’s Master Plan still hasn’t to come to fruition as several building constraints and financial dealings still need to be sorted out.
The behemoth resort is to be placed on Mt. Arthur Meighen near the humble Canadian village of Valemount that has a quiet population of about 1,000, a delicious pizza joint, a beautiful mountain bike park, and an award-winning brewery. The town is about a five-hour drive away from the nearest international airport in Edmonton, AB. Valemount has a small airport that is currently too small to support large commercial airlines from flying in ski tourists. But as the gears on this project begin to turn faster and faster, this may change.

The village of Valemount | Photo courtesy Facebook.

Owen Torgerson, the village’s mayor since 2018, sat down with me for a socially-distanced, FaceTime interview about the current status of the resort project. He, like myself, was beyond eager to talk about how to get this beast of a ski hill out of the planning phase and into the building phase.
What are you most excited about with this project? 
“Well, having a couple of ski poles in my hand,” Torgerson chuckled. “[VGD Resort] will be North America’s first all-season resort. That means skiing year-round. Sight-seeing year-round. You name it. It’s the best combination of geography and climate and it will have the highest lift-accessed glacier skiing for year-round sight-seeing and snowsports." 
Valemount, BC on a map | Photo courtesy Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.

Valemount has a population of about 1,000. How do you expect it to grow with the development of this ski area?
“We have a lot of horizontal area but what we’re working on right now is densification. So, the sky’s the limit.”
The last observable news on the project’s website is from 2017. Can you tell me the latest news on this project coming out of Valemount? 
“We’re still seeking investment during these trying and certainly unprecedented times. But with the support that this project has from the Simpcw First Nation, we are confident this will boost investor confidence.”
What can you tell me about the airport in Valemount? Can it handle commercial airliners? Are there plans to reconstruct it?
“Valemount’s airport cannot handle, say, a 727 commercial airliner at this time. It’s a bit too short and the touch-down zones are a bit too thin. So, working with the resort throughout phase one and phase two, we’d be looking to expand that for sure. [The runway] is currently 3,900 feet long and we’d like to take that to 5,000+ and then widen it from 75 feet to about 150 feet wide. But it’s fully serviced right now with GPS landing, precision approach, fuel distribution, and a small terminal.”

The proposed study area for the VGD Resort | Photo courtesy Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.

VGD has the same developer as the controversial Jumbo Resort, which was opposed and then barred from development. Do you see this as a problem at all?
“No. Because the major difference between Jumbo and this project was consultation with the indigenous communities. With this project, I think they learned from Jumbo that you have to have consultation early and often and that’s exactly what they did with this project. The Simpcw First Nation have been in support of this project from the getgo, and the proponents [of this project] have been meeting their requirements, working toward archaeological overview assessments, cultural heritage assessments, and extensive environmental assessments.”
What are you working on right now with this ski resort project?
“We’re working with the province for road design. The requirements are quite extensive and we’re trying to make it a bit more realistic for where we are right now. Having road construction to meet future specifications is key but we also need roads to be a bit more feasible, construction-wise, for what we’re doing right now.”
An artistic rendering of the proposed base village of VGD Resort | Photo courtesy Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.

How has the pandemic set you guys back, project-wise?
“Canada and British Columbia especially have been focused around the health aspects of COVID and we’re just now getting to the economic rebuild of the process. And I think this project can be a spark. If anything, COVID has positively had an impact on this project, because now this project’s economic potential is being realized. Once our provincional health officer lifts restrictions on international travel and if phase one is well underway by that time, people will be clawing to get up here.”
How do foresee this project — do you see the project taking off right away?
“Yeah actually, I do. Again, just reiterating the support from indigenous communities, this isn’t just going to have economic activity locally. This is going to have an economic boom for the entire province of British Columbia.”

Vertical drop comparison of the world’s tallest ski areas. VGD Resort would clock in at #3 | Photo courtesy Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.

Anything else you’d like to add about the VGD Resort project?
“What we’re trying to achieve is the largest vertical rise and one of the most exhilarating mountain experiences in North America. We’ve got the climate. We’ve got the geography. We’ve got the support. It’s right next to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ve got the groundwork ready for transportation and hotel partnerships. I can’t reiterate this enough: we’ve got clear and supportive agreements in place already with the First Nation which is imperative for business/investor confidence here in British Columbia and this is designed for the visitors of today and tomorrow, taking climate change into consideration. The design and development team have a very unique track record and we’re very excited to get this project underway.”

Mt. Arthur (10,515′) is the proposed peak for the VGD Resort to be centered on near Valemount, BC | Photo courtesy Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.

According to the Resort’s master plan, in total, the resort will have 18 lifts built over three phases. The planned inventory includes:
• 2 magic carpets;
• 4 gondolas;
• 6 detachable quad chairs;
• 2 Fixed grip quad chairs, and
• 4 glacier T-Bar lifts.
“There will be a total of 813 hectares (2,009 acres) of ski runs at build-out and the lift network and the ski area will have an Adjusted Comfortable Carrying Capacity of 9,500 at build-out. The Balanced Resort Capacity will be 11,086. Water will be supplied from wells, and the resort will have its own state-of-the-art tertiary treatment sewage plant.
The project proponent is Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd., a single-purpose company based in Vancouver, BC with investors from British Columbia and Ontario.” — VGD Master Plan
The project was drafted in 2017 on a five-year agreement with hopes to be completed by 2022. However, there is a chance, Mayor Torgerson said, that the project may go beyond the initial five-year agreement. But he, like myself, and the other million anxious skiers and snowboarders who are drooling over this proposed monster ski area, prefer that they just get going right away.
To learn more about the VGD Resort project, download and read the master plan from the project’s website here

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Quote of the day

"Studious of ease, and fond of humble things,
Below the smiles, below the frowns of kings:
Thanks to my stars, I prize the sweets of life,
No sleepless nights I count, no days of strife.
I rest, I wake, I drink, I sometimes love,
I read, I write, I settle, or I rove;
Cotent to live, content to die unknown, 
Lord of myself, accountable to none."
— Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

West Texas Poetry


the nasty storm paving way for still waters 

the golden merger of the sunset and the lake

the orange then red then purple clouds

the easy drifting into the silent reeds

the coyote family howling on a distant shore

the peace from waiting 

the flaring lightning in the distance 

the starry canvas up above 

the dancing water from the boat being towed

the relief that we didn't have to swim back

the rising moon

the humor shared afterward


Monday, July 6, 2020

Virtika Outerwear CEO David Lesh Turns New Leaf, Announces Priesthood and Path to Salvation To Right Wrongs and Save Damned

DENVER, CO — Virtika Outerwear CEO and Founder David Lesh, who has been the target of ridiculous amounts of social media-driven hate speech over the course of the past few months despite a global pandemic and nationwide, racial controversy which you thought would have had everyone mad enough already, has just vowed to make it all right.
In the name of the Lord, David Atman Lesh announced today that he is taking a higher path towards salvation that will cancel out his previous wrongdoings and surely please the thousands of social media users who have sent him hate mail, death threats, and called he, his organization, and his mother an unmeasurable list of bad names. Because now, with God in his heart and in his pocket, the off-the-rails bad-boy is turning a new leaf, saving himself as well as everyone who hates him via divine love and a profound desire for eternal harmony with the unknown.

Lesh, readily on his way to sainthood, said today in an Instagram post
"I’m taking my life in a new direction. It’s touching to receive life tips from professionals all over the world and I wouldn’t know how to hike, snowmobile, or run @virtika without them. The countless death threats, news stories, and hate mail from so many caring people made me realize I have been going off the rails for a long time. My goal has always been to please, so I hope they will continue to invest their valuable time in guiding me through the minutia of my daily life. May the Lord walk with you all. 🙏🏻"