A look at the northernmost NM and southern Colorado ski areas - Albuquerque Journal

A look at the northernmost NM and southern Colorado ski areas

Skiers like John Caylor are head over heels about ski season quickly approaching at Taos Ski Valley. (Courtesy of Michael Hawkins)

While it is still just over a week before first ski resort in New Mexico opens its slopes, snow operators are overjoyed at the promising early start to the snow flying, which portends to a successful season.

Here is some information about the northernmost New Mexico and southern Colorado ski areas.

SIPAPU SKI AND SUMMER RESORT

sipapu.ski

Usually one of the first ski areas in New Mexico to open, Sipapu did not undergo major on-hill changes, but it still has made significant efforts to upgrade visitor experience with renovation and infrastructure projects.

The lodge will benefit from a new plumbing system that increases water pressure and hot water availability to all rooms. And several of the individual cabins were given new flooring and sleeper sofas.

Scheduled opening day: Nov. 18.

Although the snow is just starting to fall, the folks at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort are already grooming the mountains for skiers and snowboarders. (Courtesy of Sipapu Ski Summer Resort)

ANGEL FIRE RESORT

angelfireresort.com

One of the biggest improvements centers on improved, energy-efficient snow-making equipment, said Greg Ralph, Angel Fire Resort marketing director. This will allow the resort to start and continue making snow earlier and in less-than-optimal conditions.

The resort has also made it a point to provide more activities for nonskiers, he said.

“Along with skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and night skiing, we are also creating fun, interactive, entertainment opportunities for families and couples,” Ralph said. “One of our newest and most popular off-mountain activities are the seasonal evening snowshoe hikes with stargazing guided tours.”

This also includes “snow-play activities” at the base like snowman-making contests, ice sculpture demonstrations, relay games and snowball fights for kids.

Scheduled opening day: Dec. 16.

TAOS SKI VALLEY

skitaos.com

In an ever-expanding effort to become more environmentally friendly, Taos Ski Valley is the first ski resort in North America to use an all-electric snowcat. Additionally, operations like chairlifts and snowmaking will use 100% renewable daytime solar power through a partnership with the local utility. The resort also will be using 207 high-efficiency snow guns, further reducing energy and water use. And in a major innovation, the Blake Hotel uses geothermal wells and ground source heat pumps to heat and cool the building.

In light of the devastating fire that ravaged the area in the summer, Taos Ski Valley also has taken some mitigation steps that not only will serve as a fire break, but also help create better skiing terrain, said CEO David Norden. Dead and diseased trees on 320 acres determined to be at-risk were thinned, providing benefits to the area watershed and the overall health of the forest.

Scheduled opening day: Nov. 24.

RED RIVER SKI & SUMMER AREA

redriverskiarea.com

Red River has expanded its snow-making capabilities significantly this off season, said marking director Reed Weimer. This includes seven new snow guns and upgraded waterlines to further expand on the most powerful snowmaking in the state, he said.

And those runs will be smoother than ever with the use of a new, top-of-the-line PistenBully groomer, Weimer said, which will have skiers barreling down those hills faster than ever.

Scheduled opening day: Nov. 23.

PURGATORY

purgatory.ski

Expanded snowmaking coverage will allow the resort to open more high-elevation early season terrain even if temperatures do not allow for top-to-bottom skiing. This is part of a $1.25 million upgrade to boost snow production capacity, quality and reliability that includes completely rebuilt water pumping and air compression plant incorporating automated, low-energy solutions, and cutting-edge snowmaking equipment.

“The significant investment in snowmaking will allow us to open as soon as possible,” said general manager Dave Rathbun. “With better early season snow conditions and will help us build a deep base to ensure a long season.”

In addition, other improvements include expanded terrain, lodging, dining, and skier services, as well as continued lift modernization, he said.

Scheduled opening day: Nov. 19.

WOLF CREEK

wolfcreekski.com

The two-year installation of a 750,000-gallon water tank to assist with snowmaking efforts is a highlight of off-season improvements at Wolf Creek and coupled with a new pump house for the tank, will allow for much needed snowmaking on the top ramps of the upper lifts.

The system is designed to not only help snow-making capabilities, but will be a boon for firefighting efforts. It will also assist in keeping high traffic areas in better coverage, allowing for as much as 10 acres of snow on bare ground.

Wolf Creek is now open.

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