Saturday was all sun, smiles and snow as hundreds flocked to Sandia Peak to ski and snowboard on the mountain’s first day back open after recent snowstorms.
“There’s people here having fun, we opened on time and the skiing’s great,” said Sandia co-owner Ben Abruzzo at around 11 a.m. “And most importantly, the sun is shining.”
Abruzzo estimated around 800 to 1,000 people were on the slopes by that point.
The sun’s blinding presence warmed the mountain considerably, and skiers and snowboarders could be seen stripping off layers after a run or two as temperatures topped 40 degrees.
The 31-inch base was made all the more enjoyable when compared to the dismal conditions at Sandia last year, when the whole mountain was able to open for just two weekends.
“Last year, we barely had any snow at all. This year, it’s just magnificent,” said JT Parker, director of Sandia’s ski and snowboard school. “This is not rock ski snow.”
One hundred percent of the mountain was open Saturday.
Sandia’s gently sloping groomers make it an ideal place for beginners to learn, and scores of children and adults alike gathered at the base for lessons as the lifts opened at 9 on Saturday morning.
Kazzy Mook, 3, and his father, Bill Mook, struggled to get his tiny ski boots on in preparation for one of his first lessons in the lodge as his mother, Meeko Oishi, tightened the straps on his little orange suspenders.
“I grew up skiing here, so I love coming,” Oishi said. “The grooming is by and large beautiful and the base is solid. We’re set for a good season.”
Hitting the slopes at Sandia was a family affair for many on Saturday.
As 10-year-old Paris Sona sat dejectedly in the snow, board strapped to one foot, her father’s fiancée, Kelsea Raether, gave her a pep talk as she prepared for her very first time snowboarding.
“I was just telling her that it’s going to be really hard the first day but it gets better and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Raether said.
The ski area had only been open a few days when snowstorms led to the closure of the road up the mountain on Dec. 26. Then, over the New Year’s holiday, 17 more inches were dumped.
Sandia Peak Ski area is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day.