A Veteran Skier Can’t Find Ice On His Visit To Taos, Angel Fire, Ski Santa Fe.

Taos Kachina Peak is at 12,481 where the snow stays cold. Credit: Taos

The past three times I skied here in the East the skiing was good.  That means the trails were all skiable but every run you would encounter different conditions.  Most mornings after a cold night, you will find nice groomed corduroy which had set up overnight due to the cold temperatures.  We have not received much snow but thank God for snow making.  After a run or two the firm corduroy changes to loose large granular pieces. Then after a couple more runs that will change to a fine granulated sugar, again very skiable.  As the day progresses that sugar finds its way to the sides of the trails and the rest of the trail, especially the slightly steeper spots get scrappy and eventually Boiler plate.  Time to go home!

Now once in awhile you will hit a day when it was snowing or had just snowed.  Here in the Northeast this seems to be happening less and less and I am convinced that it is a product of global warming.

As Eastern Skiers we can usually ski any condition as it changes throughout the day and lately that has been the norm.  I still love it but it can get frustrating.

Compare that to skiing out West. West, as in New Mexico. Mountains? You bet.

Here’s what I discovered on a recent trip. The New Mexico ski areas are much higher than the Northeast and as you climb up you get colder and receive more major snowstorms.  Skiing at Taos, Red River and Santa Fe you will be skiing approximately from 9,000 ft. to 12,000 feet, that’s 6,000 feet higher than the tallest mountain in the Northeastern United States which is mount Washington in New Hampshire (6288″). 

The average snowfall in Taos is around 300″ per year of very dry fluffy powder due to the high elevation.    It’s 220″ at Ski Santa Fe, 214″ at Red River. With the higher elevations the temps are lower and the snow sits longer. Compared that to the Eastern ski areas where the elevations are below 4,000 feet.  Whiteface is the highest ski area at 4,650′ with average snowfall of just over 100″. Altitude, acreage, the snow and  weather is all the difference.

In the East we fight icy weather conditions up to 4,000 ft., whereas the higher and drier climate of the Rockies are well above 10,000 feet above sea level.

In the East there are wind chills that are very, very cold, where out West it is sunny during the day with Blue Bird sunny skiers. (Most of the time, it seems.)

Moguls are hard and icy here in the East but in the West they are constantly soft snow. No matter how big the moguls may be they are usually always soft so you actually can be a hero out West while in the East you battle the ice on the downside of almost every one. 

Length of trails at all the New Mexico areas were substantial, open Bowls compared to dense trees of the Eastern trails.  Bigger vertical gets plenty of skiing in the West compared to skiing shorter lifts in the East and more runs. 

Taos has the most expert terrain especially now that you don’t have to hike Kachina peak with 1294 acres 51% expert 25% intermediate and 21% beginner. There was only one main lift that gets you to the numerous other fixed grip lifts on the mountain.

Angel Fire has some two mile runs, and best of all 70-75 seniors pay $29, 75+ pay zero. Credit: Angel Fire

Angel Fire has 560 acres of skiing  with 23% expert 56% intermediate and 21% beginner with  their main Chile Express lift over 2 miles long so all the runs down are very long. Their two main lifts are hi speed and you get plenty of skiing in a day. And Angel Fire loves seniors: 70-74 pay $29 a day, over 75 free. 

SkiSantaFe has super senior (72+) tickets for $0. Thanks guys.

Ski Santa Fe was the smallest in skiable acres with 660 acres 40% expert 40% intermediate and 20% beginner but still had plusses. One of which is that you can stay in Santa Fe and drive to the ski area and enjoy the culture. And seniors 72 plus ski free at this resort. Thanks, Ski Santa Fe.

Bottom Line: New Mexico Ski Resorts enjoy low humidity, consistently low temperatures due to elevation and enough snowfall that ice doesn’t form.  It is consistently packed powder from top to bottom

3 Comments

  1. Avatar Cary Femrite says:

    I totally agree I skied there many years ago and I can’t wait to get back thanks for the great article

  2. Avatar Ron Magray says:

    Right on! Had great skiing at Taos, challenging vertical, but that was in my younger years. Ski Santa Fe is a hidden gem.
    Former Vermonter, 20 years in the NSP.

  3. Avatar bill tidmore says:

    Try Wolf Creek in Colorado, very close to Taos as well as the most powder in Colorado. As the locals say Taos has the mountain,Wolf Creek the snow

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