A Pair Of New Lifts Add Uphill Capacity At Santa Fe, Red River

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After a better-late-than-never storm cycle in New Mexico, the 2023-2024 ski and snowboard season is heading to the finish line, but it's never too early to look at the new lifts planned for next season.

Once the snow melts, crews at Ski Santa Fe and Red River Ski Area will begin work on replacing a pair of chairlifts that are more than 30 years old. These upgrades follow a trend among resorts in the West to increase uphill capacity as more and more skiers and riders than ever line up to ride lifts.

At Ski Santa Fe, the day-trip mountain will be its first high-speed chairlift. The workhorse Super Chief Quad -- one of two fixed-grip chairs that get folks out of the base area with access to the steeper upper mountain -- will be succeeded by a detachable quad along the same footprint.

In replacing the fixed-grip four-seater, mountain officials say that the ride will be cut from 10 minutes to four minutes. Serving the popular blues and greens on the mountain's west side, the new lift is expected reduce lift lines that plague the locals' mountain on busy days -- and provide quicker access to a crossover to the mountain's two upper chairlifts that rise to above 12,000 feet elevation.

Built in 1988, the Super Chief remained Ski Santa Fe's newest lift until 2005, when the upper-mountain Millennium triple was installed. The mountain's other three chairlifts are pre-1990 models.

Up north at Red River (209 a., 1,600 vert.) another old faithful chair will come down this summer. The two-seat Copper Chair went up in 1993 as Red River expanded to its eastern edge. The lift loaded in the middle of town, right behind what is now the community center, and helped mitigate lift lines on the only other bottom-to-top chair, the Platinum lift.

After 30 years, a new triple fixed-grip chair will go up along the same footprint. It's the first new lift at the northern New Mexico resort since the Platinum got reworked into a triple in 2016. The rest of Red River's lift fleet serves either the dedicated learning Goldrush area or the steep stuff around the 10,030-foot summit ridge.

 

 

 

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New Mexico Resorts Focus On More Snowmaking For This Season

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In northern New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley continues to upgrade its chairlift fleet, while other ski and snowboard mountains work to offset climate change with more and more snowmaking.

New Mexico's resorts string along the Sangre de Cristo range at the southern edge of the Rockies. The Sangres contain 10 peaks above 14,000 feet and 13 over 13,000 feet. Despite this high ground, snowfall can be moderated by the southerly, warmer-climate latitude.

As such, snowmaking is critical to the well-being of New Mexico nine skiing and riding areas. This season, more than half invested in snowmaking upgrades. Red River put in 10 new automated snowguns. Pajarito finally got its snowmaking system going by refilling its mountaintop reservoir. Ski Santa Fe jumped its snowgun capacity to 46 nozzles. And Angel Fire stepped its snowmaking capacity up a notch.

As for infrastructure upgrades, Taos Ski Valley makes the headlines. A new high-speed quad has gone up on the backside, replacing a 31-year-old fixed grip chair. Running from Phoenix lodge to Kachina Basin, the lift will service the mountain's main intermediate terrain with more efficiency.

At the main base, the Pioneer beginner chair has been moved to the other side of the regraded learning slope. The alteration. will open up space for an anticipated base-to-base gondola.

Nearby Sipapu has cut a new trail, Dysfunction, that extends the eastern edge of the trail map farther into the trees. And, Sipapu's decidedly old-time overnight cabins got a remodel this summer.

It's the future for Ski Santa Fe, as owners announced that the first high-speed chair will be installed next season. The first new lift since 2005, the detachable quad will replace the 35-year-old fixed grip Super Chief out of the busy base area.

And, above Albuquerque, dormant 300-acre Sandia Peak has new operators -- the same ones that sell the Power Pass and own  Pajarito and Sipapu -- with expectations of spinning chairlifts after a two-year hiatus if the weather cooperates.

Way down south, Ski Apache puts down manmade snow on one-quarter of its slopes, while Cloudcroft hopes temps stay low enough to fire up its guns.

Lift stats courtesy of liftblog.com

 

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If Storms Cooperate, New Mexico Can Bring A Full Winter Menu

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Nine ski and snowboard mountains in New Mexico drop the ropes each season in hopes of coaxing Pacific storms to sag to the south and bring what can be some of the lightest and deepest snow in the Rockies.

The Rocky Mountains southernmost arm is the Sangre de Cristo Range. It begins in Colorado near Salida, crosses into New Mexico just below LaVeta Pass, and stays elevated past Santa Fe to its terminus at Pecos. El Nińo and La Nińa storms that veer to the southern tier of the Rockies get captured by these mountains and drop some of the fluffiest stuff around. If they veer more northerly, not so much.

So it's clear why most of New Mexico's ski and snowboard resorts cluster in the Sangres. The northern range around Taos holds four destinations. The choice ranges from tight snowboarder haven Sipapu (215 skiable acres); easy-peasy Angel Fire (560 a.); pitchy but gentle Red River (209 a.); and, steep and bulky Taos Ski Valley (1,300 a.) above town of Taos.

All of these are within an hours' drive of each other, with Taos as the "big city" hub with beds, bars and classic red-sauce cuisine. Taos Ski Valley is an Ikon Pass partner, Angel Fire is Powder Alliance resort, and Sipapu takes the Power Pass.

Across the Rio Grande, Pajarito Mountain's 750 acres sprawls along a ridge above the town of Los Alamos. Originally cut for scientists working on the Manhattan Project, it remains a town hill but has gotten some upgrades as a member of the Power Pass family.

Near the south end of the Sangres, Ski Santa Fe pokes up above treeline to 12,075 feet at the summit. A windy access road out of "City Different" Santa Fe reaches a tall and tight hill: 660 acres with 1,700 vertical drop. Expect weekend crowding.

Just off the range, Sandia Peak (200 acres) is an on-again, off-again enterprise on the back side of the Sandia Mountains above Albuquerque. Reached by a winding access road or a tram ride from town, the east-facing trails rarely get more than two weeks' of snowfall as season, but 30% snowmaking and a recent infusion of operating capital can offset that.

Owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe, Ski Apache nestles on the shoulder of Sierra Blanca Peak (11,981), the most southerly mountain in the U.S. of that elevation and the only real snow-catcher in the region. To augment its locale, Ski Apache covers about a third of its terrain with manmade snow. The summit gondola drops off at timberline, and winds can be high.

An hour-and-a-half drive south, Ski Cloudcroft's 9,100-ft summit rises out of the Sacramento Mountains. A true "town hill," it sits five minutes from the artsy tourist town of Cloudcroft with 70 acres, 750-ft vertical drop, a nice mix among 25 trails, one chairlift, and plenty of snowmaking.

 

 

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Northern New Mexico A Hidden Gem For Downhill Bikers

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The high-altitude mountains and relative quiet along New Mexico's northern tier have become prime stops for any mountain biking tour.

For years, Angel Fire has reigned supreme in northern New Mexico. With more than 60 miles of downhill trails, high-end features and world-class competitions, Angel Fire is ranked among the nation's best.

One advantage is that the resort sits on private land, allowing it to cut trails and built features as desired. Riders of all abilities will find something to their liking. Running daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the high-speed Chili Express unloads at 10,677 feet elevation for 2,000 feet of vertical drop.

Experts get right to it off the summit, with Upper Supreme feeding into Upper Chillin' on one side, or the long and wiry Angel's Plunge on the other. After a short run along the ridge to bikers' left, a spider web of intermediate tracks awaits. The blues contain the most features. Novices find their runs on the lower half of the mountain off the ridge.

Above Los Alamos, Pajarito Mountain spins the fixed-grip Aspen chairlift Saturdays and Sundays from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. With jumps, walls and berms sprinkled throughout, the bike park trails spread across the mesa front, with greens and blues on either side of the trail system. Featured novice runs include lazy Longing Road and East Road.

The center of the mountain gets steeper, and that's where you'll find the toughest pitches. A trio of expert routes -- Breaking Bad, Bone Crusher and Muy Loco -- challenge the most daring MTBers on the hill.

Red River has one trail for bikers who ride up the Platinum chair to the summit at 10,350. The single route, marked as Easy Way Down/Lariat and rated intermediate-advanced, weaves across the front face of the mountain for 1.5 miles. Riders drop 1,600 feet along the way.

The fixed-grip triple chairlift runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and Sundays, and until 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Ride up takes about 12 minutes.

Taos Ski Valley takes a hiatus from mountain biking this summer in order to put in a new high-speed Lift 4 on the backside.

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SnoCast: Seeking Out Fresh Flakes

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If you're a weekly reader of SnoCast, this week's outlook sounds and looks a lot like the last.

A storm system treks across the lower Great Lakes Thursday delivering a wintry "mixed bag" to Midwest ski areas and parts of the Northeast. Out West, we'll see a brief lull before the next system digs in next week with healthy snow expected.

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Angel Fire, Red River Suit Themselves To Those New To The Slopes

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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.

 

 

 

 

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SnoCast: 2023 Kicks Off With Epic Snowfall

A fresh 8 inches of snow at Red River in New Mexico (RedRiver/Twitter)

It's a new year, but the same story continues across the West as atmospheric rivers yield feet of more snow and create blizzard-like conditions!

Western U.S. & Canada

Bomb cyclone. Atmospheric river. You’ve heard the terms before and these significant weather events kick off our first SnoCast of 2023. A storm (that has already “bombed” out over the Pacific Ocean) will be ongoing in California’s Sierra Nevada Thursday. Strong winds up to 100 miles per hour, along with snow rates of 3"/hr, will continue through Friday morning. In total, 1-2 feet of snow will be likely above 5,000 feet elevation and 2-3 feet above 6,500’. Road closures and the halting of lift operations will be likely, so be patient when going to ski and ride this snow! 

The aforementioned California storm will scoot across Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming Friday dropping 3-6” of snow. Then this weekend, another coastal California storm will arrive and bring another 1-3 feet to the central and northern Sierra Nevada. Many of these weather systems will impact Cali-Nevada, with lighter snow falling in surrounding areas.

The incoming West snow will fall atop amounts up to 40-50" in the past week in California, and on 40-70" across the Rockies. Always check the avalanche forecast and exercise extreme caution!

Eastern U.S. & Canada

Recent snow will end Thursday in the Upper Midwest, with totals from this event ranging between 4-8". A couple of weather systems bear watching across the East, one on Thursday-Friday and another on Saturday night. Both of these, as of this writing, will be lighter winter storms with 1-4 inches of snow possible through each event.

However, there’s a small potential for each of these to get a little stronger and gather more moisture to drop a few more inches than just “freshies.” Nonetheless, Maine will get 1-4” of snow Thursday-Friday, while the mid-Atlantic could get a swipe of that 1-3” Saturday night. Otherwise temperatures will continue to stay mild, trending colder on Tuesday.

Read our holiday SnoCast next week as we highlight the snow you can expect for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend! Until then, happy skiing and riding!

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SnoCast: Tricks and Treats in the Forecast

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The weather won't be too scary this Halloween weekend. Tricky weather for the East, while the West eagerly awaits it's next fluffy, white treat. Let's dive into this week's SnoCast forecast. 

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Strap In For High-Wire Thrills On Ziplines in the West

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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.

Purgatory has strung a pair of short, parallel ziplines that load on a condo deck and run over the base village center. Not long, the Plunge runs on weekends and can reach 35 mph.

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.

 

 

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SnoCast: Major Storm Hits Southern Rockies, Now Targets the Northeast

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According to Punxsutawney Phil, we have six more weeks winter, and we are LOVING that report. Rodents aside, the weather clearly looks like winter this week with heavy snow from the Rockies to New England. Here’s the scoop in this week’s SnoCast.

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New Mexico First State To Delay Resort Openings Due To COVID

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Several New Mexico ski and snowboard resorts will delay openings, as the governor brought her state back to early-Covid restrictions this week by issuing a stay-at-home lockdown.

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SnoCast: Who Gets Tricks, and Who Gets Snowy Treats?

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Halloween weekend and first days of November will feature forecast tricks and treats. With a leftover hurricane delivering snow to New England and ski areas opening in the west, this time of year is always a treat to build ski season excitement.

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Northern New Mexico Resorts Ready For Season Of Limits

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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.

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Time For Plan B: 10 Of The Best Small Ski Resorts To Ski During COVID Season

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What is this winter going to look like? Based on what we’ve read and seen down south (Australia & New Zealand), it isn’t going to be candy canes and gum drops.

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Flyin' High: Ziplines Open Up In The Rockies

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Skiers and snowboarders craving speed, views, and adventure -- and social distancing -- can find gratification this summer with ziplines right at the resorts in the Rockies.

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Seniors Have To Get Older And Older To Ski-Ride For Free

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Once there was a time when you reached age 60, you'd skied for free. Then you had to be 70. And now, at a half-dozen Western resorts, 80 is the new 60.

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Mountain Dining: The 'Cat Knows The Way To Carry The Sleigh

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There's nothing quite as satisfying as a gourmet meal after a long day on the slopes, and a number of Rocky Mountain resorts spice up the experience with a snowcat ride for on-mountain dining.

SnoCountry put out a call for some of the best “sleigh-ride” meals in the Rockies and came up with a sample listing.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Winter Weather Holding Strong

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In this week’s SnoCast, every corner of the country will get snow. In this continued active weather pattern, see what days will be best to hit the slopes in your area.

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Sandia Peak Finally Open Weekends As March Comes In Like Lion For New Mexico Spring Break

Sandia PeakThe storms in February tended to swing toward the south, putting smiles on powder hounds in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico – and finally getting Albuquerque's Sandia Peak open.

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Trip Report: Skiing New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle At Taos Ski Valley, Red River

Taos Ski Valley steepsContinuing my exploration of skiing northern New Mexico, aka the Land of Enchantment, I headed north of Santa Fe up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range to legendary Taos Ski Valley and Red River. The landscape varies from red rock desert to steep mountain terrain as sapphire blue skies hang overhead and uncrowded slopes beckon. (See Mike's Trip Report -- "Santa Fe and New Mexico Are A World Apart From Everyday American Skiing" here).

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