by: Clay King - 18th August 2011

  • 4
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced/Expert
  • 5All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 4Family Friendly
  • 2Aprés Ski
  • 4Terrain Park
  • Overall Value
Truly great runs, high speed lifts
Short ski season, unreliable snow

Full review

Unless you are going in the middle of February, do not plan a trip to Angel Fire months in advance, because you cannot guarantee there will be snow covering the mountain. However, if you get there when there is enough snow to have everything open, you are in for a treat. My dad and I took a New Mexico ski trip right around New Year's of 2010, and luckily, that was a great snow year for New Mexico (Angel Fire had more snowfall so far that season than Arapahoe Basin or Loveland in Colorado). We skiied a different mountain each day of our trip: Sandia Peak (don't bother), Ski Santa Fe (nothing special), Angel Fire, and Pajarito Mountain (also a lot of fun with enough snow). The two of us agreed that our day at Angel Fire was one of the best days of skiing we'd ever had. Other than 3 black runs at the far edge of the resort, every trail at Angel Fire is accessible by a high speed quad lift (one on the front and one on the back). I would imagine that this layout could lead to some long lift lines, but we had no wait longer than a minute or two on the day we were there. Angel Fire has a surprisingly impressive vertical at just over 2000 feet, and they use it well. Here is my advice for a great day at Angel Fire: After riding the Chile Express lift to the top of the mountain, get to the back side and fly down Hully Gully. This was by far our favorite run. It is 50 or 60 yards wide and very mellow at the beginning with a couple of steeper pitches along the way. It was groomed to perfection, and we must have gone down it six times throughout the day. It's a great warm-up run (gentler than other blues on the back) and you'll want to return to it. After that, pick your route, because no matter which backside run you take, you will end up at the bottom of the Southwest Flyer chair. All of these runs are good, but Arriba and La Bajada stand out as having the most character. They had some fun dips and turns through the woods. Also, there are several gladed areas that have been nicely thinned out, making them do-able for non experts. After you've spent the entire morning covering the backside of the mountain, there's a good place to eat just above and skiier's left of the Southwest Flyer chair's base. They serve good mountain food at reasonable prices (Chili, burgers and sandwiches cooked to order, hot dogs, etc). On the front side of the mountain, Headin' Home is a masterpiece of a run. I would compare it to Schoolmarm at Keystone. It follows the ridgeline above a plethora of blue trails (jump in wherever you want, they all come out at the bottom and none will lead you to a black) and it goes from being wide and smooth, to gladed, to twisting and narrow. It's a fantastic, long run, and it's one green that you don't have to be a beginner to enjoy. After you've done this run and returned to the top, you have a multitude of blue routes to choose down the frontside. My favorites were Bodacious, Gusto Grande, and I-25. I could easily spend several days at Angel Fire without getting bored, and I plan on returning soon. If you like cruising nicely-manicured blues like me, then do yourself a favor and check out Angel Fire. The bigger northern resorts have nothing on the terrain quality to be found here.
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