New Mexico offers many options to hit the cross country ski trails - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico offers many options to hit the cross country ski trails

Wide open glades that is the Angel Fire Golf Course provide the setting for wintertime cross country skiing. (Courtesy of Angel Fire Resort)

After 90-mph-plus winds whipped through northern New Mexico just about a year ago, leveling trees in its wake, the trails within Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area were thoroughly impassable.

But thanks to “hundreds of volunteer hours,” the popular site near Red River is back open, said Geoff Goins, Enchanted Forest co-owner. “There was so much dead fall. Tens of thousands of trees fell. It was pretty severe.”

The cross country ski area set among 600 acres of the Carson National Forest has nearly 19 miles of trails and another 11 miles for snowshoeing.

After a recent visit to the site, Goins said it will look different but will be ready to go once the snow starts falling in earnest.

“The U.S. Forest Service worked with a local salvage operation to remove some of the dead fall and the wind-blown trees,” he said. “We got all of the ski trails cleared. The ski trails are going to be 100% open this year.”

The trademark trails among the evergreens, however, will not quite have the same feel this season.

“You used to be going through forest, just skiing through a tunnel of green,” Goins said. “Then you’d come around the corner and get a sneak peek of Wheeler Peak and the Latir Wilderness.”

Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area offers cross country skiing for the whole family. (Ellen Miller-Goins/Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area)

On the bright side, however, that opens up the exposure significantly, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Since the wind storm, we have amazing views all through the trails system,” he said.

And even if things are more wide open now, the remote experience remains.

“Even if we’re busy around the base areas, you get out on to the trails and you might not see another person,” he said. “It’s a groomed skiing experience that feels like the wilderness because you won’t see another person.”

Another concern was that exposure might take a toll on the snow pack, but that didn’t seem to be a problem last spring, Goins said.

“We were really concerned with the loss of trees that provided a lot of shelter from the wind and the sun, that the snow might be burned off,” he said. “That has happened in a couple of spots, but overall we’ve been able to maintain the snow pretty well and keep it into later March.”

Angel Fire Resort also has several groomed cross country paths that crisscross the golf course.

The three separate trails cover almost two miles, 2½ miles and just over three miles.

“We tried to lay them out as classic cross country tracks,” said Evan Sales, Nordic center director. “They’re all on the golf course so they’re pretty flat. There are some slopes here and there. It’s definitely a good workout. Each trail takes from 30 minutes to an hour to complete.”

The trails are set at 8,600 feet in elevation, so that adds to the workout factor.

And being run down the golf course fairways, there is room to groom wide trails.

“The trails are also not only for classic cross country skiing, but we groom it wide enough so you can skate ski,” Sales said. “They’re basically in the meadows. One of the great things is the views. They’re just amazing. And they’re in fairways that are tree lined so you get a good mix of different environments.”

Closer to Albuquerque, volunteers from the Sandia Nordic Ski Club keep about five miles worth of trails groomed twice a week in the Sandia Mountains. The trails begin at the Ellis parking lot – the second-to-last parking lot before the crest parking lots – on the backside of the mountain, sitting at 10,300 feet. The trails wind down the mountain to the 10K parking lot.

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