A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
They call New Mexico “The Land of Enchantment” for good reason. It is indeed enchanting in so many ways – not the least of which is the skiing and riding. It may be the fifth largest of the 50 states, but with only 2.1 million residents, it ranks 35th in population and 45th in population density.
The diversity of its people, and the vast beauty of the terrain combine for the enchantment. It can’t come as a surprise that the state has become Hollywood, but slightly east. New Mexico broke its own records for film and TV production spending, reaching about $623 million in the most recent fiscal year. And, no, it’s not all “Breaking Bad” around here. It’s breaking pretty good for skiers and riders.
Most of the skiing in New Mexico is located in the northern part of the state – i.e. the Colorado southern border. The only outliers are Ski Apache high (and we mean high) above the tourist mecca of Ruidoso in South Central’s Sacramento Mountains and even higher, but smaller Cloudcroft.
Taos Ski Valley: Taos is the king here. t is the biggest ski area in the state Taos Ski Valley with 1,294 skiable acres. Swiss ski pioneer Ernie Blake spotted this mountain’s towering vertical from his Cessna 170 over 60 years ago. The Blake family created a mountain experience where local culture and traditional European hospitality came together. Following Ernie’s death, the family sold the resort to hedge fund conservationist Louis Bacon in 2013 who has subsequently pumped $300 million dollars worth of improvements and expansions
Taos ski resort is primarily known for its steep and difficult terrain, but relax, there’s beginner and intermediate trails off the top of every single lift. For the advanced to expert skier/rider Taos offers some of the most challenging and varied terrain in the country, especially off its hike-to ridges. The area’s 111 runs are divided with 24 percent for beginners, 25 percent intermediates and 51 percent advanced. There are 14 lifts, including a gondola. Kachina Peak now includes a lift up its iconic 12,450-foot peak. The vertical drop here is 3,274 feet.
Angel Fire Resort: You’ll find a traditional western ski resort here that came on the ski scene in 1966. It has grown from a small destination into four-season resort that offers a family-friendly atmosphere. It is located 8,600-feet above sea level and has views of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. But the top ski elevation is 10,677 feet. One of the reasons Angel Fire is popular with families is there is good terrain for all skill levels. Most is dedicated to beginners and intermediates, but advanced skier will stay fulfilled. There are more than 80 runs and a terrain park. It may not be the most charming resort in New Mexico, but it makes up for that by what it offers families. And, the prices are right, too.
Red River: Come here for a classic throwback ski experience in a fun little western town building on its mining heritage. It’s a bit of a drive from just about anywhere, but you won’t regret. The ski mountain rolls up out of the main drag and brings you back the same way… right into the center of town. The skiing is on both sides of the mountain. Red River ski resort features 63 trails served by 7 lifts on 209 skiable acres with a vertical drop of 1,600 feet. The base elevation is 8,750 feet, and the top elevation is 10,350 feet. The area receives 214 inches of annual snowfall. It’s funky and fun and it’s skiers are loyal and passionate about the area.
Ski Apache: This is a mecca for West Texas skiers and it’s located in the south central part of the state, highabove the resort town of Ruidoso (Noisy Water). The ski area is owned and operated by the Mescalero Apache tribe and it is on the reservation. The base is 9,600 feet and the top elevation is 11,500 and it’s 750 skiable acres are accessed by a long road where you don’t want to doze off. This is the southernmost ski area in the United States. There are good bump runs, a wide beginners area and good-sized bowl. You’ll learn to speak Texan quick.
Ski Santa Fe: Start out at one of the highest base elevations in the country at 10,350 feet and rise to over 12,075 feet (pack an aspirin or two). The vertical is 1,725 feet. This is a family-owned independent ski area owned by the Abruzzo brothers took it over from their father Ben, who was killed in a plane crash in 1985. Ben was a famed balloonist (first transatlantic flight). He is saluted each fall at Albuquerques world-famous International Balloon Festival. The resort is 16 miles above this iconic city, a must stop for any visit to New Mexico looking to be enchanted.
And there’s more: Sandia Peak, towers over Albuquerque with its popular year-round tram and is also owned by the Abruzzo brothers. It’s small with 25 miles of slopes and trails with three chairs and two surface lifts. When the snow falls, it’s good skiing and riding at a family-friendly price. There is limited water supplies for snowmaking.
Pajarito Mountain is high above Los Alamos (two hours from Albuquerque) tops out at 10,450 feet, with a 1,200 foot vertical. There are 280 acres of skiable terrain, 40 trails and plenty of tree skiing.
Sipapu Ski Resort usually claims state's longest ski season. It is surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Carson National Forest and sports more than 40 trails, five lifts and three terrain parks. You’ll find it in Vadido, 20 miles southeast of Taos and two hours north of Albuquerque.
Finally, if you are into cross-country skiing, be sure to visit Enchanted Forest. You’ll discover more than 30km of groomed ski trails, 18km of snowshoe trails, and 5km of trails for yopu and your pup. It’s 3 miles east of Red River on NM highway 38 in the Carson National Forest.
The truly wonderful town of Santa Fe is where you’ll stay when playing at Ski Santa Fe up the mountain. The Plaza is loaded with great shopping (bring your credit card and plan to deplete it), classic hotels and eateries.
Wait, there’s more. Red River is a classic historic mining town turned “western” town. No glam here, just a relaxed, fun place to stay, where the ski mountain climbs up from the main street.
Ruidoso is a favored getaway for the denizens of West Texas and Ski Apache is high over it. There are plenty of good lodging properties, vacation rentals and restaurants here. Meanwhile, an hour away up a gorgeous mountain drive in Cloudcroft. Visit Irma’s restaurant in the Lodge at Cloudcroft, it's presided over by, well, Irma, the resident ghost. Say hello. There is skiing at Cloudcroft -- one lift, ride up with the sun in your face.