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N.M. ski areas welcome back visitors

While this is one of those rare years when snow still lingers not just in high-elevation shady spots but all across the northern ski areas, operators are still gearing up for the increasingly important summer season.

“For many years, Taos was much more of a winter destination,” said Dash Hegeman, Taos Ski Valley marketing manager. “As of late, we’ve been making more and more efforts into becoming a year-round destination and having a vibrant summertime scene going on at the Ski Valley.”

Ski areas are doing more to expand their customer base in the summertime with activities that complement skiing, said Krysty Ronchetti, spokeswoman for Angel Fire Resort.

“I think it’s vital to the success for any of our resorts,” she said. “Angel Fire has been pretty dedicated to certain yearlong activities like golf and we’re increasing those activities with the zip line and a bike park and lake activities.”

Summertime becomes a great way to promote the resort, but also generate revenue during the off season, said Christiana Hudson, spokeswoman for Mountain Capital Partners, which owns and operates Sipapu and Pajarito, as well as Purgatory in Durango, Colorado.

“From a business standpoint, it’s very important if you only have a season that lasts from November through March,” she said. “Summer helps. From the perspective from Sipapu as a resort and Pajarito as a resort, we really are all about getting outside. There are a lot of different amenities that make it more accessible for more people to be outside. It’s vital for the resorts to keep adding events and activities for all age brackets and interest levels.”

That has been theme at many the resorts.

A natural way to enjoy the summer at the resorts is making use of the ski lifts, lofting mountain bikers, hikers and sightseers into the high country without the expenditure of much effort.

Taos Ski Valley is getting ready to open its lifts, Hegeman said.

“Scenic chairlift rides are always a popular one,” he said. “We weren’t able to offer them last year because of construction, but we’re excited to have it back up and running this summer. People always like being able to take a ride up, see what everything looks like from the top of lift four, then ride back down or hike back down.”

At Angel Fire, the Super Zip zip line is quickly gaining in popularity, Ronchetti said. It starts at an elevation of 10,700 feet, 200 feet above the ground and zooms 1,600 feet at speeds of up to 70 mph. Coupled with the shorter runs, the zipl ine tour can take two hours and advance reservations are recommended, she said.

“It’s been a big success for us,” Ronchetti said.

While Taos will begin building its first mountain bike trails this summer once the snow clears, Angel Fire has a large trail system of 60 technical miles on the mountain, as well another 40 miles of cross country.

It’s annually ranked the top bike park in the Southwest by Mountain Bike Park News, she said.

Pajarito also has an extensive mountain bike trail system, checking in at No. 4 in the Southwest.

It contains 30 trails requiring various degrees of experience and ability, covers some 1,200 vertical feet of downhill, cross country and free ride opportunities.

At Sipapu, the big summer attraction is the world-class disc golf course that criss-crosses the lower end of the mountain, Hudson said.

“It’s a really pretty course,” she said. “My kids don’t love to hike, but when we take them to go hiking and there is disc golf, all of sudden hiking is a game. It’s a great thing for families.”

One of the popular ways of attracting summer visitors is through the use of special events. Taos Ski Valley’s third annual Bacon & Brews starts July 6. It will feature local and regional craft brewers and several local restaurants.

Pajarito’s Summer Solstice Festival is on June 20 with live music and craft beer.

And Angel Fire has a Father’s Day weekend ballooning event that draws more than 40 hot air balloons, live music and other assorted activities.

“It’s a really fun weekend,” Ronchetti said.