Snowmaking guns a-blazin’: Ski resorts work to open up terrain


December has not been the kindest month for the start of the 2017-2018 ski and snowboard season. It’s been minimal snowfall on all of the four mountains in Northern New Mexico.

However, investments in snowmaking pumps, pipes and guns are paying big dividends this season. All the mountains are open because of a coating of artificial snow laid down since temperatures got cold enough. That means at least a couple of runs are open at each resort, and a solid base continues to be put down in anticipation that the skies will bring plenty of the natural stuff – sometime soon.

At Taos Ski Valley, it’s the usual progression of openings for early-season conditions. As of Tuesday, Lifts 1, 2 and 8 were running on the front side. Upper trail Bambi opened during the Christmas weekend to combine with Powderhorn-Whitefeather for top-to-bottom runs. Next on the schedule is Porcupine, a blue run off the top of Lift 1 and then a trail on the backside so that skiers and riders can go “‘round the world” back to the main base area.

“The snowmaking crews are doing all they can,” TSV marketing manager Dash Hegeman told The Taos News. “Temps have gotten warmer during the day, but they are still low enough at night to fire up the guns.”

As with all these resorts, having slim coverage during the holiday season can reduce crowds – and revenues – that are critical to a season’s financial success. Despite the conditions, Hegeman said TSV is holding its own.

“While it’s not been fun to look at the forecasts, it seems like the crowds here are having a good time despite the confined space,” he said. “People seem to be happy, and they get it that Mother Nature isn’t doing her part right now.”

Because of the lack of snowfall, the New Year’s Eve celebration may be truncated to only fireworks, Hegeman said, but the torchlight parade that typically winds down Snakedance may go off just on the very lower part of the mountain.

Over the hill, Angel Fire Resort has opened Exhibition so that skiers and snowboarders can strut their stuff in full view of the base area. Five lifts are running and six trails have enough coverage to get in some turns.

In January, Angel Fire will join most of U.S. resorts in Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. For a single price, those who have never strapped on skis or ‘boards get rental equipment, lesson and a lift ticket. An added feature is a GPS for each student, allowing parents or friends to track locations and progress throughout the day.

Red River reports the deepest base depth in the region, and top-to-bottom skiing and riding. The mountain measures 20-24 inches on 13 trails. Three chairlifts are up and running – Cooper, Gold and Platinum – and two beginner lifts.

At 7 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 30), Red River continues a weekly tradition of a torchlight parade down The Face above the Lift House with a fireworks display in the dark sky.

At Sipapu, a combination of three inches over the weekend and full-bore snowmaking has put down a base of 18 inches. That means nine trails – novice and intermediate only – off four lifts are open for skiing and riding. On Monday (Jan. 2), a number of 2018 specials kick into gear. The first Two-for-One Tuesday of the new year allows anyone who buys a full-price, all-day ticket gets a second ticket of equal or lesser value for free. Neither ticket can be linked to a rental or lesson special. On the same day, the first local appreciation day kicks off in 2018, with $25 for adults and teens, and $15 tickets for kids and seniors. And, up to five people in a single car ride or ski for $50.