The Enchanted Circle highway loops through scenic northern New Mexico, providing the route to a pair of ski and snowboard resorts up high in the the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that cater to those who are learning the sport.
The southernmost is Angel Fire which sits on 560 acres of a former cattle ranch with 8,600-foot base elevation. Mostly, Angel Fire appeals to never-ever, novice and leisure skiers and riders.
Known also as a mountain biking mecca, the all-season resort's menu of kind-and-considerate blues and greens sling off a long ridge. A large terrain park runs its own chairlift off the 10,677-foot-high summit. Less than one-quarter of the trail map is rated black.
Appealing to vacationing families, Angel Fire deeply discounts day and season passes for kids 6 and under, seniors 75+ and fifth-graders. It's a member of the Powder Alliance, and pass partner with Cooper, Monarch and Powderhorn. Night skiing lights up on selected evenings, and ample tubing and sledding hills beckon. Not much of an apres-ski scene.
Head north over Bobcat Pass (9,820 ft. high) to Red River Ski Area in a tight canyon 8,750 feet above sea level. A half-day's drive from Texas Panhandle, the Red River valley draws heavily from the high plains. It exudes a Western cowboy vibe with plenty of eats, rooms and music.
The trail map depicts just over 200 acres on a compact but surprisingly steep pitch off its 10,350-foot summit that attracts storms with its persistent northern aspect. Expert runs dive off the high ridge, blues fill up midmountains above lower greens. Snowguns reach more than 85% of Red River. Crews added more snowguns and water lines this summer.
A secondary base at Main Chalet is a premier learning area aimed at improving skill by moving through progressions. Two moving carpets, slow chairs, gentle terrain and a novice terrain park serve the beginner in a non-threatening way. Kids 5 and under and seniors 70-plus ski and ride for free.
Along with Ski Cooper and Sunlight, Red River is in the Freedom Pass system, meaning a passholder from any of 21 U.S. mountains gets three free days at any of the others. A Red River season pass partners include Monarch, Powderhorn, Snow King, Diamond Peak and Red Lodge.
As we say farewell to 2022, we also say hello to more storms and mountain snow across the West and a warm up in the East. Details on ski conditions ahead in this week's SnoCast.
There's new snow falling this Sunday (Dec. 11), so grab those skis and boards and get to your favorite mountain. Check out the live cams as snow falls across the Northeast and a powerful storm continues to dig across the West.
With more resorts opening, chilly temperatures, and new snow for the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest, we're officially calling it ski season. Let's dive into the weather outlook in this week's SnoCast.
With opening dates on the horizon, crews at many resorts in the West have been testing snow guns -- and looking longingly to the skies -- in hopes of putting down a base of snow in October.
Most ski and snowboard resorts have announced their anticipated opening days, although persistent warm weather in some regions may have something to say about that. A frequent check of resort websites is recommended.
However, hints of winter whiff the air and the high-country leaves are turning, so it's time to haul skis and snowboards out of storage and get them ready for the season.
The informal race to be the first to open in the nation falls upon the highest-elevation mountains along the spine of the Colorado Rockies. Traditionally, it's been Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Loveland that vie for the title, but Wolf Creek surreptitiously snuck in last season by firing up its chairlifts on Oct. 16.
This year -- if official dates are to be believed -- Keystone will lead the pack by opening on Oct. 21, followed by Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 22, and Loveland and Wolf Creek on Oct. 29.
In California, 7,700-foot-high Boreal on Donner Pass is optimistic to begin on Oct. 28, while Mammoth Mountain plans to be in second place with an Nov. 11 opening. Tahoe's Heavenly has penciled in Nov. 18 for its first chairs.
Despite having middle-of-the-pack summit elevation, Lookout Pass (5,650 feet) on the border of Idaho and Montana has pushed its first day all the way up to Nov. 6 -- a full two weeks ahead of its previous earliest opening. Schweitzer, Sun Valley and Tamarack all plan to follow later in the month.
Skiers and riders in Washington will have to wait until December for Stevens Pass (Dec. 2) and 49 Degrees North (Dec. 3), while Oregonians will have to bide their time until Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline (Dec. 11). Mt. Bachelor expects to follow close behind on Dec. 12.
In New Mexico, Sipapu has had a lock on first-to-open in recent seasons. For 2022-2023, the family resort tucked into the Sangre de Cristos has tabbed Nov. 18 to begin spinning its lifts.
At least a dozen ski and snowboard resorts in six states in the West have strung ziplines at or near the mountain to augment their offerings during the summer months.
In New Mexico, Angel Fire put its zipline network at the summit, with broad views of Sangre de Cristo Range. Guide-required for four-zip tour with six people max. Tours run every hour until 1 p.m, Friday-Monday.
Neighbor Red Riverloads two-seat Pioneer Flyer for backwards pull up to 600 feet elevation. A short pause for viewing, and then pairs are released for 35-mph free-ride back down. A shorter zip ride is incorporated into Hidden Treasure Aerial Park.
A couple of Colorado mountain resorts have ziplines at the mountain. Vail's on-mountain Epic Discovery Park incorporates a kids-only zipline -- about 10 feet in the air -- among its adventure package.
Utah is home to one of the world's highest and longest ziplines, at Sundance Mountain Resort. Tucked up above Provo, the Sundance Zip has four spans with side-by-side cables that total two miles in length. And, you drop 2,100 vertical feet with control of speeds up to 65 mph -- with mid-air stops, too.
Above Salt Lake City, zipliners climb a 50-foot tower at the base of Snowbirdand reach 30 mph on side-by-side cables, landing on the deck of the tramway building. The ride is 1,000 feet long on a 15% grade.
Over in Idaho, Zip Tamarackruns four tours a day for a max of eight people, which lasts four hours. Each tour hooks onto eight ziplines with two suspension bridges interspersed -- plus a total of 1.5 miles of downhill hiking between platforms.
In California, Heavenly Mountainhas several ziplines on the hill. The rock-star zip is Blue Streak, one of the longest at 3,300 feet with a 525-foot vertical drop. Speeds reach 50 mph. The nearby Heavenly Flyer also reaches 50 mph as it skims the tree tops on an 80-second ride. And, an introductory ride can be had on the Red Flyer, which goes 100 feet at 15 feet above the ground.
And at Mt. Hood SkiBowl in Oregon, the resort has set up an aerial park the in air above the base area that includes an 800-foot long zipline. It's open Thursday to Sunday.
Many other resorts in the West sit near independent zipline operations, like Ski Cooper, Palisades Tahoe and Big Bear.
Summertime mountain biking has taken hold at most ski and snowboard resorts in the West, including a trio of northern New Mexico mountains whose MTB trail maps cover more than 100 miles in riding routes.
At all these resorts, base elevations are 8,000 feet or more above sea level. Flatlanders should allow a day or so to get acclimated before taking on strenuous rides. Drink plenty of water and carry more with you. Thunderstorms regulary roll through the southern Sangre de Cristos, so pack rain gear and warm clothing.
At Angel Fire, mountain biking has put down deep roots. Host to pro MTB competitions in the past, the resort has built an enviable bike park. A web of trails feeds off of the high-speed Chili Express, and the park's 60-mile trail systems consumes most of the front side of the mountain. Plenty of downhill for freeride and technical MTB-ers -- 2,000 vertical drop -- and miles of easy beginner routes, too.
The northern New Mexico resort boasts a base skills park, a dual slalom course, a long uphill-only trail and upper mountain hiking offshoot. Resort quote: " ... the best skinnies, jump lines, manicured flow and super chunk trails the United States has to offer."
Over the ridge, Taos Ski Valley is in the nascent stages of bike-park bulding. The resort has carved out its MTB trail system on its backside. Lift 4 out of the Phoenix base delivers riders to the head of Kachina Basin, right below 12,481-foot Kachina Peak.
Once there, two choices await: a 4-mile green run that winds back and forth down the hill, and a 1.5-mile blue run that is more directly downhill. On the front side there area a couple of beginner flows and steep-steeps, but no lift access this summer.
Down the Rio Grande, Pajarito Mountain spreads across 280 acres below a ridge above Los Alamos. Volunteer-built and raw in nature, the Pajarito Bike Park begins on the Aspen and Mother chairlifts that run up the middle of the trail map. Topping out at more than 10,000 feet, some 48 trails total 39 miles in length, and tend toward the higher skill levels on both downhill and technical routes.
The lifts run on Saturdays and Sundays only, and tickets must be bought at the hill. The park is part of the Mountain Bike Power Pass system that includes all-summer season access to Brian Head in southern Utah, Purgatory in southwest Colorado, and Spider Mountain Bike Park in Austin, Texas.
With prices for 2022-23 comparable to recent seasons, the two-days-each Mountain Collective ski and snowboard pass returns with a shuffled resort lineup that includes two big mountains in the West coming back to the fold.
The Southwest Rockies' multi-mountain ski and snowboard season pass is on sale, as the Power Pass focuses on its seven winter resorts -- and a year-round mountain biking destination in Texas.
As we close the book on 2021, we’ll get off to a busy snow start for the new year. A storm treks from coast to coast delivering new snow from the Southwest to Quebec. Details in this week’s SnoCast.
All across the country, resorts have been working hard to bolster their offerings and to fix systemic issues, from addressing long lift lines and the mountain-town housing shortage to investing in renewable energy. With the proper precautions, there are more reasons than ever to hit the slopes this season.
New trails, new lodging, and plenty of on-mountain upgrades mark the start of the 2021-22 ski and snowboard season for the seven resorts on the Power Pass.
Last season, Covid gave a jolt to the time-honored habits of skiers and riders, but the 2021-2022 season promises to be a bit less restrictive -- with exceptions.
It's been almost a decade since electric-assisted e-bikes hit the streets and bike paths of the urban West, and now they are gaining acceptance as a summer option at ski and snowboard mountain resorts.
In the waning days of January, Mother Nature got to work -- dropping her glorious bounty upon the mountains of the West, and finally giving skiers and snowboarders the deep powder they've been waiting for.
Prior to the start of this year’s ski season, which began for many resorts in early December, questions lingered throughout the ski industry concerning just how many people would come to the slopes considering the current environment. From all reports, those questions have been answered emphatically. People want to ski, and they have been packing the resorts while at the same time adhering to strict social distancing guidelines.
With a torrent of people hitting the trails and the outdoors across the country, XCSkiResorts.com wanted to give a shout out to hidden gem destinations for cross country (XC) skiing this winter. There may very well be an overflow of skiers at the most popular XC ski trails, so this guide will share some of the lesser-known but excellent destinations.
The network of Mountain Southwest resorts under the Power Pass season ticket continues to grow, and ownership has built a reputation for putting out money for upgrades.
Snow guns are ready, chairlift inspected, and snowcats ready to go as the New Mexico 2020-2021 ski and snowboard season begins to open in late November.
We’re not here to split hairs about chair placements and tap choices. The selection of a mascot is the single most important choice a ski area can make. Some say a good pick can make or break a resort. To that end, we’ve created a list of the very best ski area mascots and ranked them. If you didn’t make the cut, sorry—this list is extremely selective. Ivy League who?