SANTA FE – Last weekend’s snowstorm may have wreaked havoc on the roadways, but it paved the way for an early opening to the New Mexico ski season.
Several ski areas confirmed they are opening this week, including Ski Santa Fe, which will have a Thanksgiving Day opening for the first time in 11 years.
“We’ve been working toward a Thanksgiving opening since last week,” said Candy DeJoia, a spokeswoman for Ski Santa Fe. “With the storm coming in, we wanted to see how much snow we’d get because that would determine how much of the mountain we could open. The storm came through for us.”
The storm brought 15 inches of new snow, leaving Ski Santa Fe with a 27-inch base.
DeJoia said 90 percent of the mountain will be open to skiing and snowboarding. The only lift that won’t be open is the conveyor at the Chipmunk Corner Children’s Center.
Ski Santa Fe has been preparing for the 2013-14 ski season since Nov. 1, when snow-making operations started up.
The cold blast that preceded last weekend’s storm also helped efforts to meet the Thanksgiving target date.
“Actually, we had some real nice snowstorms come through for us (earlier), but this time temperatures have stayed cold,” DeJoia said.
Taos Ski Valley also plans to open Thursday.
“This is going to be the best opening we’ve had since the 1997-98 ski season,” said Adriana Blake, marketing manager for Taos Ski Valley. “We’ve gotten 26 inches in the last five days. It just keeps snowing, and snowing, and snowing.”
Blake said both sides of the mountain will be open Thanksgiving Day. By then, she expects a 35-inch base.
Down south, Ski Apache near Ruidoso also plans to open for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The ski hill is reporting 10 inches of new snow on the upper mountain over the weekend, and snow-making machines are going full blast.
One New Mexico ski hill is already open and another is planning to open Wednesday.
Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, near Vadito, opened its ski season Nov. 16, becoming the first ski hill to open in New Mexico for the 12th straight year.
Also following tradition, Red River Ski Area plans to open the day before Thanksgiving, according to its website. It also announces its annual Frozen Turkey Race, where friends and family can race each other down the hill while riding frozen turkeys on Thanksgiving Day.
New Mexico’s other ski hills plan to open in the coming weeks.
Pajarito, near Los Alamos, is aiming for a Dec. 7 opening.
“It’s looking very promising, but it’s dependent on the weather,” said Pajarito’s Lori Tepley.
Tepley said the slope could use about 8 more inches of snow before opening.
A little less wind would also help. While Pajarito has snow-making equipment to help meet the target date, Tepley said the equipment hasn’t been used because of the windy weather.
Angel Fire Resort plans a Dec. 14 opening, while Sandia Peak is shooting for a Dec. 21 start.
“It all depends on Mother Nature,” said Debi Owen, a spokeswoman for Sandia Peak. “At least this is the first snow we’ve had where the snow has stayed.”
Owen said Sandia Peak got about a foot of snow over the weekend, and the low temperatures are keeping it on the ground.
Sandia Peak is holding a hiring fair from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 7 at the ski area. Hiring is for full- and part-time seasonal positions in all departments, she said.
Cross-country and snowshoeing enthusiasts also have the opportunity to hit the trails early.
Geoff Goins, owner of Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Area in Red River, said a few dozen people have laid tracks since the operators decided to open the area last Friday after getting about 8 inches of new snow.
“It only takes two people to run this place, so we figured why not?” Goins said.
Goins said another 10 inches of powder fell over the weekend, leaving a 20-inch base.
Valles Caldera is scheduled to open for cross-country skiers and showshoeing Dec. 6.