New Mexico’s image outside the USA tends to be of barren deserts, striking rock towers and historic adobe settlements. But the general dry climate also helps to form some wonderful powder snow which falls on no less than nine ski resorts in New Mexico – including the USA’s southernmost major ski area.
Map of New Mexico Ski Resorts
Ski resorts in northern New Mexico
A cluster of New Mexico’s best-known ski resorts are located in the northern section of the state in the Sangre de Cristo range of the southern Rockies.
Red River Ski Area
Red River is a classic ski resort town with the lifts accessible on foot from downtown. it is a former mining settlement originally founded to extract the precious minerals from the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Red River has just under 500 inhabitants and is the northernmost ski resort in New Mexico.
The skiing, although not extensive, is nicely balanced between grades of difficulty and it has a deserved reputation as a family-friendly ski area with few lift lines.
Red River Ski Video
Red River Ski Stats
Lifts: Red River Ski Area has seven lifts, including three triple and one quad chairlifts
Terrain: The ski area covers 209 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between the valley and the top station is 1600 feet
Summit elevation: The skiing at Red River Ski Area tops out at 10350 feet
A congenial family ski resort with short lift lines and few crowds. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or expert skier or snowboarder, you’ll find beautiful forest trails from top to bottom.www.travelingmom.com
Ski Area Website: www.redriverskiarea.com
Taos Ski Valley
Taos Ski Valley is the best known of New Mexico’s ski resorts, with its European-style base village contrasting with the historic and artistic town of Taos nearly 20 miles down the road.
It can trace its history back to the days of copper mining in the 19th century. In the Fifties, Ernie Blake, who managed the Santa Fe ski area at the time, moved to the deserted valley above Taos and lived in a camper van while he constructed his dream ski resort.
Taos ski resort was renowned for its quirky nature, with a different independent atmosphere, renowned bump runs and a ban on snowboarders until 2008. The ski resort was bought by billionaire businessman Louis Bacon in 2013 and the chairlift to Kachina Peak is one of a raft of improvements planned for the future development of the valley and ski slopes.
Taos Ski Video
Taos Ski Valley Ski Stats
Lifts: Taos Ski Valley has 14 lifts, including a gondola and a high-speed quad chairlift
Terrain: The ski area covers 1294 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between the valley and the top station is 3274 feet
Summit elevation: The summit elevation (on Kachina Peak) is 12481 feet
Taos is one of those rare, special spots where phenomenal skiing intersects brilliantly with the sport’s European heritage. The pride of Taos is towering Kachina Peak, which features countless steep bowls, big cliff s, and tight lines that loom over the rest of the ski area.SKI Magazine
Ski Area Website: www.skitaos.com
Angel Fire Ski Resort
Named after native American legend, Angel Fire ski area is located to the east of Taos and has been up and running since the Sixties. It is one of the closest resorts to Texas and has even been nicknamed ‘Little Texas’ because of the number of visitors from the neighbouring state.
Angel Fire Resort was actually created by a Texan who had previously used the land for cattle grazing. It has changed hands several times and is now owned by a private company in Texas.
Angel Fire is renowned as a good ski resort for families and skiers looking for easier runs – many of the runs on the front side, which boasts the longest chairlift, are blue and green standard. (Shorter harder runs can be found on the other side of the ridge for those looking for more of a challenge.)
The ski resorts also offers the only night skiing in New Mexico – although it should maybe be termed early evening skiing as it runs from 17.00-19.00.
Angel Fire Ski Video
Angel Fire Resort Ski Stats
Lifts: Angel Fire Resort has seven lifts, including two high-speed quad chairlifts
Terrain: The ski area covers 614 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between the valley and the top station is 2077 feet
Summit elevation: The highest point in the ski area is 10677 feet
The resort is very popular with skiers from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas because it is the one of the closest resorts to those states, and it is much easier than Taos. The views of the valley and the highest mountain in New Mexico Wheeler Peak are spectacular.skinorthamerica100.com
Ski Area Website: www.angelfireresort.com
Sipapu Ski Resort
Sipapu ski resort is a smaller ski area with a long ski season just off the road between Santa Fe and Taos. It is the oldest ski resort in northern New Mexico, having been founded back in the Fifties. Sipapu means “land of paradise” in the Tewa language of the Pueblo people.
Despite its small size, the resort is expanding and now offers a good mix of runs and lift ticket prices which are comparatively low compared to the competition over the border in Colorado. The resort base offers various different styles of accommodation from a lodge through to cabins, RV hookups and campsites.
Sipapu Ski Area Video
Sipapu Ski Stats
Lifts: Sipapu Ski Resort has six lifts, including one quad chairlift
Terrain: The ski area covers 205 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between the valley and the top station is 1055 feet
Summit elevation: The skiing at Sipapu rises to a maximum of 9255 feet
Sipapu is a thumb of a mountain near the High Road to Taos. It’s small, but it also has a claim as one of New Mexico’s most influential ski areas, due to the number of local children it has introduced to the sport over the years.New Mexico magazine
Ski Area Website: www.sipapu.ski
Ski Areas near Santa Fe
The ski resorts listed above are of course not too far away from the artistic and foodie centre of Santa Fe. But the skiing at Pajarito is under an hour to the northwest of the city, while Ski Santa Fe is only 16 miles away from downtown.
Pajarito Mountain ski resort is located in the eastern Jemez Mountains, five miles west of Los Alamos and under an hour’s drive away from Santa Fe. The ski area is on the north face of Pajarito Mountain and is privately owned by the Los Alamos Ski Club.
It was originally developed as a ski area in the late 1950s and long had a reputation as a hidden gem for the advanced skiers among the scientists and staff at Los Alamos. Around 80% of the 44 runs are intermediate or expert, although there are some green runs suitable for beginners.
But Pajarito, say regular skiers, is perfect for those who like their runs steep, lined with trees and with some bumps for added spice.
There is no accommodation at the base of the ski area so the nearest option would be the town of Los Alamos.
Pajarito Mountain Video
Pajarito Mountain Ski Stats
Lifts: Pajarito Mountain has six lifts, including one high-speed quad chairlift
Terrain: The ski area covers 280 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between the valley and the top station is 1400 feet
Summit elevation: The skiing at Pajarito Mountain reaches 10440 feet at its highest
With its Rio Grande valley views, well-known tree skiing and bump runs, fabulous terrain park, lack of lift lines and fabulous weather, Pajarito may be New Mexico’s best-kept skiing secret.New Mexico magazine
Ski Area Website: www.pajarito.ski
Ski Santa Fe
Ski Santa Fe is not actually in the city itself but 16 miles up a winding road from the city centre. The base of the ski area is at a similar elevation to the highest point of some of its New Mexico ski area competition and rises to one of the highest skiable areas in the USA.
The height of the resort means that the area can count on an average snowfall of more than 200 inches in a season. It has a good mixture of difficulty grades but is one of the New Mexico ski resorts which will offer the advanced or expert skier more of a challenge with its bumps and the possibilities of glade skiing.
Accommodation for skiers is in Santa Fe itself and there is a local ski bus service offering daily transport to the ski resort for those who do not wish to drive.
Ski Santa Fe Video
Ski Santa Fe Ski Stats
Lifts: Ski Santa Fe has seven lifts, including one quad chairlift
Terrain: The ski area covers 660 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between the valley and the top station is 1725 feet
Summit elevation: The Ski Santa Fe area tops out at 12075 feet
Santa Fe is a somewhat hidden gem, and if we are in New Mexico we will definitely go back. The town is a great destination itself, and when combined with the skiing it’s a great place to visit.skinorthamerica100.com
Ski Area Website: skisantafe.com
Ski resort near Albuquerque
Skiers who are visiting Albuquerque can use the spectacular Sandia Peak Tramway to access a family-friendly ski area on weekends (if there is enough snow).
Sandia Peak Ski Area
The Sandia Peak ski area is on the other side of the mountain from the city but can be accessed by car or via the ‘Sandia Peak Tramway’ cable car from the northeastern edge of Albuquerque.
The cable car runs for an impressive 2.7 miles from the city outskirts to the ridgeline of Sandia Peak. On the other side of the ridge chairlifts provide the ride back up after sampling some of the long open cruiser runs.
Sandia Peak Video
Sandia Peak Ski Stats
Lifts: Sandia Peak ski area has five lifts, not including the tramway
Terrain: The ski area covers 300 acres. It is only open Friday-Sunday and on holidays in the winter months.
Vertical drop: The difference between the valley and the top station is 1700 feet
Summit elevation: The top Tramway station is at 10378 feet
Sandia Peak is a great area for the Albuquerque, NM visitor who wants to get in a quick day or half-day of skiing. The resort is on the eastern slope of the Sandia Mountains that is pitched to average of 15 degrees leading to a family resort of intermediate skiing. However, there is glade skiing and some advanced pitches to keep the day interesting.Todd, USA
Ski Area Website: sandiapeak.com
Ski resorts in southern New Mexico
Skiing in southern New Mexico means that you are skiing the southernmost ski resorts in the continental USA. Ski Apache is one of the biggest ski resorts in New Mexico, while Ski Cloudfront is a relatively tiny area which needs good snow to open up.
The Ski Apache ski resort is situated on land owned by the Mescalero Apache tribe 16 miles outside the resort town of Ruidoso in the Sierra Blanca mountains.
It has been open since the 1960s and was the first New Mexico ski resort to install a gondola lift. It is the second largest ski area in the state and has the third highest summit elevation.
Seventy per cent of the skiing is either beginner or intermediate level, although there are a few more difficult ski runs, such as the lift line under the gondola.
Ski Apache Video
Ski Apache Stats
Lifts: Ski Apache has nine lifts, including an 8-person gondola lift
Terrain: The ski area covers 750 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between the valley and the top station is 1800 feet
Summit elevation: The highest point of the ski area is at 11400 feet
Ski Apache has many long runs, no waiting in lines at the lifts and gondola, not crowded at all when we visited, and a wide variety of terrain. While I like to ski, the creature comforts make the experience more enjoyable for me and Ski Apache is lacking in this area.Kathy B, USA
Ski Area Website: www.skiapache.com
Other ski resorts in southern New Mexico
Ski Cloudcroft is a very small ski area just outside the town of Cloudcroft in the Lincoln National Forest east of Alamagordo. It has a double chairlift which rises 700 feet to a top elevation of 9100 feet and is open Friday-Monday outside holiday periods (when it is open every day).