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.