When the skiing is cheaper and just as fun in NM. When I told my friends that I was going on a weeklong skiing trip to New Mexico, I received two completely different answers. The first was by non-skiers who had no idea that people skiied in NM and the other reaction was by people who had skiied before and wanted to know which town I was skiing and they then proceeded to tell me about their last skiing trip. I am still a new skiier with only four trips under my belt and I got to experience four of New Mexico’s wonderful skiing areas. Traveling to ski areas in New Mexico will require you to either drive there directly (14-15 hours from Houston to Santa Fe) or fly into Albuquerque or Santa Fe and rent a car. Continental flies direct from Houston to Albuquerquer five or six times a day, and to fly to Santa Fe, you would need to fly American via Dallas. Also, before I begin, I implore you to take lessons if you are a new skiier. Even a half-day will help you more than I can explain. Don’t rely on Uncle Billy to teach you; he doesn’t have the experience the instructors have. I decided to take lessons at each of the four facilities I visited and was provided with amazing instruction. They were extremely patient and identified issues I was having immediately. After five days of lessons, I was skiing the more difficult terrain with ease. Please, please, please take a lesson.
The first area I skiied was Ski Santa Fe. Ski Santa Fe is 15 miles from downtown Santa Fe and doesn’t offer any accommodations on site. The benefit to that is that you get to stay in Santa Fe. I stayed at the beautiful Hotel Plaza Real in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. It is near all of the great shopping and walking distance to several of the wonderful downtown restaurants. My room also featured a fireplace, which was nice to light as the snow slowly fell outside of my window. A search on their website featured a weekend room for just under $100/night. The drive up to Ski Santa Fe is relatively easy if you don’t have any qualms about driving in snow. The Ski Santa Fe facilities are very capable, and their rental staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Also to note was their wonderful made-to-order breakfast omelettes with fresh chile on top. Definitely a delicious way to start your day on the mountain! Rentals are $22/day for skis, boots and poles and a lift ticket sets up back $60 for an adult 21-61. Teens (13-20) are only $45. The skiing area itself offers several runs across all types of difficulties. Ski Santa Fe is for the group that wants to travel not only to a skiing destination, but have the convenience of having a major city in the immediate vicinity. Santa Fe offers a wide variety of things to do besides skiing, so this may be a good choice if you have several non-skiers in your family. Find information about Ski Santa Fe atwww.SkiSantaFe.com
The next stop on our trip was at Taos Ski Valley, arguably the most famous of the ski areas in New Mexico. Taos offered some of the best rental equipment I got to use on the trip and has some of the more difficult terrain. Taos Ski Valley is owned and operated by the Blake family, and has been for more than 50 years. Taos Ski Valley is located up in the mountains about 20 miles from the actual town of Taos, NM. There are several lodging choices at both with ski in/out lodging available as well. Of note was the wonderful slopeside restaurant, The Bavarian, where we enjoyed a great German dinner and a half liter or two of some cold Spaten beer. The skiing itself was more challenging than the other ski areas, but this was expected. Taos Ski Valley is a great choice for the group that has some skiiers looking for more challenging terrain and a touch of luxury in their dining and lodging. Lift tickets are $69, but you receive lots of high quality runs. Find more info on Taos at www.skiTaos.org Next on my New Mexico journey was the Red River ski area. This is only about a 45-minute drive from Taos, so it’s very possible to mix and match your ski areas between these two locations. Red River is another family-owned ski area and is situated right at the town of Red River. They don’t offer any on-site lodging, but the town of Red River offers a ton of choices. I stayed at the Riverside Lodge & Cabins which is borderline walking distance to the base of the mountain. Parking is free at Red River, so you are better off just driving. The rooms offered a full kitchen and separate bedroom. Rates start as low as $78/night, which is a great deal. A three-bedroom unit runs you only $190/night. The skiing was great with a good balance of beginner and more difficult terrain. This is actually where I conquered my first black diamond. It was the fastest way to get to the great on-site bar at the bottom of one of the sets of runs though. Speaking of bars, there are several in the city along with some restaurants and all offer a great value. If I was going with my buddies to go ski NM, then we would probably stay in Red River and ski the combo of Red River and Taos. Check out www.RedRiverSkiArea.com for more information.
My final destination is another well-known ski area called Angel Fire. Angel Fire is definitely the most family-friendly of the bunch with a large amount of ski in/out lodging available on site. It’s actually called the Angel Fire Resort because they offer things like an indoor swimming pool and several restaurants all under one roof. The convenience of being able to park your car and forget about it for a few days is really nice. We definitely saw more families with smaller children here than anywhere else, but it could also have been the spring special they were running. $472 total got you two nights in the hotel, four lift tickets each day and four breakfasts each morning. It’s hard to top a deal like that. The dining on site was still top notch as I got to enjoy a wonderful steak one night in one of the restaurants but also a delicious, but casual, pizza lunch another day. The facilities were recently remodeled, and are very nice, but I wouldn’t consider the room I had to be luxurious. Angel Fire was also the largest ski resort we stayed at and offered almost double what some of the resorts offered. The rental staff and rental skis were also top notch. Angel Fire is a great all-around choice for a family. My whirlwind of a skiing trip in New Mexico was over and I was impressed. I have skiied in some prime skiing areas in Colorado, but the cost could easily be twice as much for a family. New Mexico not only offers daily lift tickets in the $60 range instead of the $100 range, but the savings on lodging and food make a big difference as well. The skiing is just as challenging as most over mountains and you won’t have to fight the crowds that a Saturday at Breckenridge can bring. Why go further away when the slopes that are closest to Houston are just as good at a great price?