WHAT’S NEW AT TAOS AND SKI SANTA FE
Written by Snowsports Journalist Daniel Gibson
Top image: While we wait for conditions to get this good for the 2021-22 season, we can enjoy this view of a “typical” spectacular day at Ski Santa Fe overlooking the Rio Grande Valley and Jemez Mountains to the west. Photo courtesy Ski SF.
Well, it’s that time of year again! I feel fortunate that I so enjoy skiing, as I look forward to winters — the snowier the better! People who don’t ski or snowboard often dread the season, and its cold and dark, but for winter recreationalists, it’s a wonderful period and we are now underway for the 2021–22 season. From now until the end of March, look here every week for a story about our regional ski scene — its people, places, events, news, and snapshots of conditions.
We begin with a look at what’s new at regional ski areas and what ski areas are open.
A new entryway plaza will greet skiers at Taos Ski Valley this winter with in-ground radiant heat flanked by newly finished condominiums, retail spaces, and an outdoor ice rink. David Norden, TSV’s CEO, notes, “This winter our visitors will enjoy the benefits of Taos Ski Valley’s renaissance while having the pure mountain experience that has defined our resort for almost 70 years. Our goal is to deliver a world-class adventure on an intimate scale.”
The Eis Haus skating rink will be open afternoons and evenings all season, and will feature rental skates, fireplaces, seating and food and beverage services. A session will run $20 in the afternoons and $25 in the evenings.
Taos will also be hosting dinner by sleigh rides for the first time this winter. They will be offered on Friday and Saturday nights, with participants seated under thick blankets on the ride from the main plaza to the Bavarian restaurant for a three-course prix-fixe dinner, complete with wine. The sleighs will be towed up the mountain by a snowcat. An online reservation system should be operational around mid-December.
The ski area will also launch a program to match intermediate to expert skiers and boarders with a professional guide to explore the mountain, uncovering secret stashes, insights into local botany, history, and other “insider” knowledge. Prices will range from $550 for a half-day to $880 for a full day at peak periods. For reservations, visit https://www.skitaos.com/things-to-do/snowsports-programs/guides-privates.
Olympic gold medalist Deb Armstrong, who served a TSV Ambassador for several years in the past, will return this winter to lead four, three-day Ski Strong sessions. Slots are limited, so act quickly if you wish to take part! For reservations, go to https://www.skitaos.com/things-to-do/snowsports-programs/skistrong
With 13 new snow guns and water piping, TSV will also offer better early-season skiing conditions on its most popular runs. It will also resume its parking lot shuttle system and maintain a drop-off area to aid in getting guests from their cars to the slopes. And while it will limit its indoor special activities this season, due to ongoing COVID concerns, it will once again host a competition of the prestigious Freeride World Tour, plus some outdoor festivities and fundraising activities. Stay tuned for details as they become available.
Other new improvements include resumption of Taos Air this winter, with direct flights on commuter planes to the town of Taos from Dallas; Austin; Carlsbad, California, and Hawthorne, California. The new Blake Residences, the condo project that serves as centerpiece of the base area development, will also be available for the first time this winter, from studios to multi-bedroom units. Guests will have full access to the adjoining Blake hotel’s spa, outdoor pool, locker rooms, steam room, restaurant, and bar. And, Pioneer Glade, located between Rubezahl and Pioneer, has been renamed Free Tacos Glade, in honor of George Medina, a beloved TSV instructor who helped lead the campaign to open Taos to snowboarding. As part of the effort, he and associates ordered thousands of “Free Taos” stickers, but a spell check error at the printers resulted in stickers that read “Free Tacos.” Being different has its challenges!
Ski Santa Fe undertook only minor projects this summer and fall. It continued to expand its snowmaking system and made improvements to the outdoor decks and facilities at mid-mountain Totemoff’s and the Terrace Grill.
Next week, we’ll look at developments at other regional ski areas.
OPENINGS & CONDITIONS
With an unusually dry and warm fall, only a handful of regional ski areas are open, and those with very limited terrain. Here’s a summary.
Ski Santa Fe opened for daily operations on Nov. 27, and reports a 20-inch base, including five inches or so of natural snow that fell on Nov. 23. The Super Chief quad is running, serving one run from its top, Midland. Also open is the beginner terrain at the base. They are busy making snow as conditions allow. They are operating at full capacity this season, with walk up tickets available, but face masks are required indoors.
Taos Ski Valley launched daily operations on Nov. 25, on a base of 18–24 inches. Chair 1 is running, serving only Powderhorn as this is written, plus the Pioneer Glade beginner chair and two beginner zipper lifts.
Sipapu became the first New Mexico ski area to open when it commenced operations on Nov. 19 with two beginner runs on manmade snow. General Manager John Paul Bradley, summed it up nicely, “Winter is
short in New Mexico. We want to take advantage of every second of it. If we can ski, we’re gonna ski.” It will re-open for daily service on Dec. 3. It reports a 16-inch base, with just a handful of runs open. Its restaurants are open but require online ordering.
Wolf Creek was the first regional ski area to open, and one of first in the nation, when it began spinning lifts in late October for Halloween weekend. It has a 14-inch base and has received 36 inches so far. It is operating on a Thursday – Sunday basis until the next significant snowfall. The Bonanza, Treasure Stoke, Raven, Lynx, and Nova Lifts have been operating, giving access to one-quarter of the mountain, including substantial intermediate and expert runs. The Upper Lodge has been open, serving a limited but tasty menu. Prospector, Base Camp, and the Pathfinder Bar are also open.
Red River opened on a very limited basis for Thanksgiving, and will re-open Dec. 3 – 5, and on a fulltime basis on Dec. 10. Ski Apache began very limited operations on Nov. 27. Angel Fire Resort plans to launch on Dec. 10; Pajarito and Sandia Peak when conditions allow.
Purgatory is open on a daily basis, spinning chairs 1 and 2 to the summit to access four expert runs. No beginner or intermediate terrain is open. Crested Butte is open, but only with 4 percent of its vast terrain skiable. Monarch Mountain has received 31 inches so far but with no snowmaking, it is awaiting another good storm to open. Telluride is also on hold.
Arizona Snowbowl opened on Nov. 24. Its Arizona Gondola currently provides access to Upper Ridge, Midway Catwalk, Logjam, and Wild Turkey on an 18-inch base, and the Grand Canyon Express chair and a surface lift is providing skiing on intermediate and beginner terrain.
Daniel Gibson is the author of New Mexico’s only comprehensive ski guidebook, Skiing New Mexico: Snow Sports in the Land of Enchantment (UNM Press, 2017). He is a member of the North American Snowsports Journalist Association and has written on the topic for newspapers coast to coast, web sites, and magazines including Powder, Ski and Wintersport Business. His first day on wooden skis with wooden edges came at age 6 in 1960 on a snowy day at the former Santa Fe Ski Basin. He can be reached at [email protected] or via www.DanielBGibson.com.
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