No crowd, fun runs, gorgeous views
No snowmaking, small vertical
Pajarito does a surprisingly good job with what it has. If you come here with the correct expectations, I think you'll be impressed. What I mean by that is that you can't come here looking for big resort amenities, lifts, or vertical, but you can also expect to lose the big resort crowd and get in significantly more runs.
The fact that Pajarito has no high speed lifts is really not a big deal, because frankly, the lift ride is short anyway (5 to 7 minutes, at the most). Yes, this translates into short runs if you take the direct path straight down the mountain, but this place has some other routes that really stand out. Whether you are an expert or a cruiser, you could spend the whole day on the Mother lift. Here is a quick synopsis of the terrain to be found:
My favorite route was Rim Run to Milt's Meadow. Rim Run starts out as a road above the double black runs before it widens and turns into a dipping roller coaster ride (tons of fun). Milt's Meadow is a great way to introduce yourself to glade skiing, because it really has the pitch of a green run and the trees are nicely spread out. I took this route multiple times. Other runs that stand out to me on this side of the mountain are Why Not and Pussycat. These are just fun blues with varying pitches, and they were perfectly groomed. On a side note, the runs marked as double black are that way because of at least waist-high moguls. I did one of them just to say that I did. It's very steep for the first hundred yards or so, but after that it's only black because of the moguls.
On the other side of the mountain, East Road provides a really pleasant surprise. Usually, we all complain about the mere existence of roads, but this one is incredibly different. They cut it perfectly so that you never have to pole (yes, even snowboarders can take this road). In fact, you will quickly find that you have to check your speed, and this run gives you a great tour of the mountain. Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae are also good runs. On the down side, the Spruce chair has the least vertical on the mountain, so these are the shortest runs.
Unfortunately, when we were there the Townsight lift was not open. From our tour on East Road we could see that there were some high weeds sticking up through the snow over there, but some people had jumped the ropes and shot down Boomer and Townsight anyway. Those two didn't look like anything special, but I do wish we had been able to get over to the three Confusion runs.
I give the staff at Pajarito a ton of credit for the quality of mountain conditions on this day. Almost everything green and blue was groomed, and if I'm being honest, we were skiing on about a six to ten inch base. I know that sounds crazy, but we all know there is far less snow in the middle of the runs than the base that is claimed in the trees. However, they spread the snow so well that we didn't notice. We were able to carve smoothly, and the only places we kicked up rocks were at the very top getting off of the lifts. Also, the food in the cafeteria at the base area was excellent. The place is unpretentious -- you sit at long picnic benches or cafeteria tables -- but they serve some good food with a great view of the mountain.
One last note is that if you are staying in Santa Fe, this place is less than ten minutes further away than Ski Santa Fe. You have to drive 15 miles up a winding mountain road to get there, and it takes at least 45 minutes (if you don't get stuck behind an extra cautious driver). The trip to Pajarito is completey on wide highways until the last two or three miles up the mountain above Las Alamos and it takes less than an hour from Santa Fe. I would much rather come here than fight the crowds at the overrated Ski Santa Fe.