Snow Trax #1, 2002

Highline Ridge, Taos Ski Valley
Highline Ridge, Taos Sky Valley

by Daniel Gibson

This column on snow sports and related travel is posted bi-weekly. In addition to New Mexico, it covers the Southern Rockies of Colorado and occasionally roams further afield in the Western United States.

Snowflakes are falling again over the pine, spruce and aspen forests of the Southern Rocky Mountains, blanketing the world in a quiet cocoon of white. It also marks the time for the return of this column. Every other week throughout the winter it will explore the snow sports and travel scene in New Mexico and southern Colorado, with occasional forays further afield. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments: dbgibson@newmexico.com.

What's New
The biggest news regarding regional resort developments takes us to Telluride, located in the spectacular San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. This season, Telluride opens a new slice of terrain that will please both beginner and intermediate skiers, and has experts chomping at the bit for the day the rope drops on entering Prospect Bowl.

Part of $14 million in improvements carried out over the summer, Prospect Bowl adds 733 new acres to the resort's base, served by an impressive three new high-speed quad chairlifts. The new terrain consists predominately of groomed corduroy beginner and intermediate slopes, which has historically been the resort's Achilles Heel. But experts are also looking forward to the first lift-served skiing on Gold Hill-1500 vertical feet of above treeline ridges and bowls that drop down to isolated glades. Gold Hill's stashes previously could only be reached via hiking. The new Gold Hill chair tops out at a dramatic 12,260 foot elevation. The new lifts are part of six new chairs installed at the resort in the past three years.

Other Telluride developments include the new Station Recreation at the Mountain Village, which offers nighttime tubing, sledding and snowbiking. Also new on the scene is Blue Point and the Noir Bar (970/728-8862). The restaurant serves fresh mussels, oysters and clams, and offers a fine selection of fish, steaks and chops, while the lounge-with leather sofas, faux fur bench seats and a fireplace-is just the place to gather for an apres-ski drink.

Other news of the region includes the installation of a new triple chairlift at tiny Sipapu (southeast of Taos). The new lift increases the area's vertical drop by 200 feet, and access to a handful of new runs and a snowboarding terrain park.

Angel Fire is opening a new 400-foot-long halfpipe for snowboarders and freestyle skiers this season. The pipe was designed by Chris Gunnarson, who created courses for the ESPN Winter X Games. It is located at the summit of the high-speed Chile Express quad chair, and has a special "grinder" machine to provide fine maintenance throughout the winter.

And, Ski Rio, which was expected to be open again for business this season, has announced it's opening would be delayed. The smallish, family-oriented resort, located north of Taos almost on the Colorado border, has been plagued in the past by financial and management difficulties, and occasional spotty snow conditions.

Resort Contact Information & Seasonal Schedule

Angel Fire: 800/633-7463 or www.angelfireresort.com, open Dec. 14 through March 24; Crested Butte: 888/463-6714 or www.CrestedButteResort.com, open Dec. 15 through April 15; Durango Mt. Resort: 800/982-6103 or www.durangomountainresort.com, open through April 7; Enchanted Forest (XC): 800/966-9381 or www.enchantedforestxc.com, open; Monarch: 800/228-7943 or www.skimonarch.com, open; Pajarito Mountain:505/662-5725 or www.skipajarito.com, opening as soon as possible; Red River: 505/754-2223 or www.redriverskiarea.com, open fulltime Dec. 14 through March 24; Sandia Peak: 505/242-9133 or www.sandiapeak.com, scheduled season Dec. 14 through March 17; Ski Rio: 505/758-7707 or www.skirio.com; Ski Santa Fe: 505/982-4429 or www.skisantafe.com, scheduled season Dec. 8 through April 7; Sipapu: 505/587-2240 or www.sipapunm.com, scheduled season Dec. 13 through early April; Ski Apache: 505/336-4356 or www.skiapache.com, open through March 31; Taos Ski Valley: 505/776-2291 or www.skitaos.org, scheduled season Dec. 14 through April 7; Telluride: 866/287-5016 or www.Tellurideskiresort.com, open through April 7; Wolf Creek: 800/754-9653 or www.wolfcreekski.com open through April 7.


SNOW REPORTS
Contact Ski N.M. at 505/984-0606 or www.skinewmexico.com for reports on New Mexico ski areas and to order a free winter trip guide; Colorado Ski Country at 303/825-SNOW or www.coloradoski.com for Colorado reports; or individual areas: Angel Fire--800/633-7463 x 3; Crested Butte--888/TO POWDER; Durango Mt. Resort: 800/525-0892, ext. 6; Enchanted Forest (XC)-800/966-9381; Monarch--800/228-7943; Pajarito--888/662-7669; Red River--505/754-2220; Sandia Peak--505/857-8977; Ski Santa Fe--505/983-9155; Sipapu--505/587-2240; Ski Apache--505/257-9001; Taos Ski Valley--505/776-2916; Telluride--970/728-7425; Wolf Creek--800/754-9653.

Daniel Gibson of Santa Fe (dbgibson@newmexico.com) is the author of four books, most recently Pueblos of the Rio Grande: A Visitors Guide (Rio Nuevo Publishers). His first day on "sliders" was 40 years ago.

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