After a lackluster winter, Northeast skiers and snowboarders may not be surprised to hear that some of the best snow of the season fell in the deserts of New Mexico. “This year we’ve been particularly blessed,” says Kevin St. John, a private instructor who has been skiing in New Mexico for more than 40 years. “We’ve gotten these wonderful little storms, one after another.”
Ski Santa Fe, a ski area 16 miles northeast of the city, has received more than 132 inches of snow this winter. Angel Fire Resort reported 126 inches, and the season isn’t over yet. “We’ll be skiing through the first week of April,” says St. John.
Northern New Mexico’s excellent ski conditions may be an unintentionally well-kept secret. Even though the state is home to the venerable Taos Ski Valley, a recent focus group held by the state tourism department revealed that many Americans were unaware that it even snowed in New Mexico. And it’s not just any snow: The region’s combination of high altitude and dry, desert air creates ideal conditions for the light, fluffy and eminently ski-able snow known as “champagne powder.”
St. John describes New Mexico’s snow as “user-friendly.” The snow back east, he says, is wetter, more dense and turns into ice very quickly. “Western snow is dryer and lighter, and so much easier to ski.”
New Mexico’s snowstorms don’t linger. After depositing fresh snow on the trails, the clouds clear quickly, giving way to the warm sun that the state is known for, even in the winter. “There’s lots of sunshine to ski in, along with the powder,” says St. John. “That combination is just extraordinary.”
More ski spots
Taos Ski Valley
Taos offers a challenging ski area. Book early for a chance to stay at the St. Bernard (www.stbernardtaos.com).
Red River Ski Area
This is “a funky little ski hill in the middle of a funky little town,” per local institution Wally Dobbs. Don’t skip the sunset snowmobile ride.
Angel Fire Resort
A casual, family-friendly resort that includes a Nordic Center for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.