Ski conditions in New Mexico, Colorado are already better than last year

December 7, 2018

Welcome to another season of Snow Trax!

It’s wonderful to say ski conditions are already better than at any time last winter. I was up at Ski Santa Fe on Monday with an old friend, Jim Walton, and his friend, and we had a great day — both on the groomers and in the woods and glades. We found nice patches of fresh powder all over the mountain.

The early morning light was at a low angle, and spindrift coming off the trees filtered down in a golden glow. In the afternoon, thin clouds raced past the sun, creating beautiful rainbows. The trees at the summit were coated in thick rime and the views west stretched over 100 miles. The air was a piney blast of freshness, and everyone had smiles plastered across their faces.

What’s not to like?

What’s new

The most important development is the new high-speed quad chair at Taos Ski Valley, which is a part of its ongoing $300 million investment in improvements. The new chair from the base to the top of Al’s Run replaces two older lifts. The chair rises 1,691 feet in just over five minutes, and was operational on opening day. TSV also has continued its extensive renovation and expansion to the Phoenix Restaurant and the adjoining Bavarian at the foot of the Kachina Basin.

Other summer projects included thinning in the Wild West Glades, removal of the old Chair 6 to the summit, renovating restrooms and adding new seasonal lockers and kitchens in the main resort center. Another significant investment was in high-capacity snowmaking equipment that included new pumps, 30 new tower guns and 50 new hydrants.

“Everything we do is about improving the guest experience while preserving the underlying spirit, soul, and history of the mountain,” TSV CEO David Norden said. “Amid the rapidly consolidating ski industry, Taos Ski Valley remains proudly independent, but we recognize the need to give visitors a world-class experience.”

Purgatory, north of Durango, Colo., launched its Inferno Mountain Coaster this winter. It snakes some 4,000 feet, has a 360-degree loop, and descends 300 feet. It will operate on weekends and holidays, and rides are $20. Purgatory also opened two new gladed tree skiing trails on the front side of the mountain. Mark’s Park is an intermediate trail with natural terrain park features, and the other is a beginner gladed tree skiing run near Lift 2.

The resort is offering a deal for kids ages 10 and younger. The Power Kids Pass provides free skiing or boarding at Purgatory, Sipapu, Pajarito Mountain, Hesperus Ski Area and Arizona Snowbowl with direct-to-lift access and no blackout dates. Register online, pick up the pass at the on mountain ticket office or stop by Purgatory Sports at 2615 Main Ave. in Durango.

Angel Fire Resort upgraded 15 snow guns on Headin’ Home with new V3 heads, which will allow workers to cover more terrain more efficiently. The Moreno Valley resort also rolled out its new season pass for K-12 teachers.

Conditions and events

Ski Santa Fe began the season on Thanksgiving Day with skiing on 65 percent of its runs, and continues to open more terrain with every storm. It has a 27-inch base, with 69 of 83 runs open. On Saturday, enjoy live acoustic, Americana, Latin jazz and alt-rock music from Ry Taylor on Totemoff’s deck from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Taos opened on Thanksgiving and reported a 31-inch base, with skiing off Chairs 1 and 2 from the summit. No expert runs are open, but Rubezahl, around the backside, offers a long, fun run, and many more are set to open with a bit more snow. It will host demo days on Dec. 14-15, with a dozen brands attending. Registration inside Tenderfoot Katie’s costs $10 (free to season pass holders).

Sipapu received 31 inches of snow by mid-November and was the first New Mexico ski area to open on Nov. 16. It has a settled base depth of 18 inches, with 10 runs open. Early-season pricing is in effect, with adult tickets at $39.

Red River is open Fridays-Sundays, until Dec. 14 when it begins daily operations. It has a 24-inch base.

Pajarito is set to open Dec. 21 and is holding a job fair from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. In addition to the Power Kids Pass, Pajarito is offering a free pass to fifth-graders, which is also good at Sipapu and Hesperus.

Angel Fire will open on Dec. 14 and reports a 20-inch base.

Ski Apache, near Ruidoso, plans to open Friday, with very limited runs on mostly man-made snow.

Sandia Peak has a 10-inch base and hopes to open Dec. 22.

Wolf Creek opened for weekends Oct. 13 with a 24-inch midway base, its earliest start ever. Now open daily, it has received 88 inches of snow. It has a midway base of 41 inches and all 1,600 acres are open, including the Knife Ridge and Horseshow Bowl. The free Horseshoe Bowl snowcat shuttle will be running through Sunday, and the Nordic trails have been groomed.

Telluride has a 37-inch base, with 21 of 148 runs open off the Polar Queen Express. Many more runs are expected to open soon.

Purgatory opened Nov. 17 on a 29-inch base. It has 17 runs open, including a few from the summit, and two beginner terrain parks.

Crested Butte has been blessed with 65 inches and has a settled base of 33 inches. It has 51 of 121 runs open, and one terrain park.

Monarch, just west of Salida, has a 32-inch base of all-natural snow. All its lift-served runs are open, as is Tilt Park, but Mirkwood Basin remains closed.

Arizona Snowbowl, just north of Flagstaff, kicked off the season Nov. 16 and reports a base varying from 26-36 inches.

Daniel Gibson can be reached at DanielGibsonNM@gmail.com.

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