Ski Resort Improvements for 2022-23 | Snow Trax - SantaFe.com
Skier at Purgatory

In the previous Snow Trax column, I reviewed off-season projects and new programs launched at the regional ski areas. Here’s more about changes at resorts in New Mexico and surrounding areas.

Purgatory Mountain Resort

Purg has not been idle this summer. It has expanded snowmaking coverage with $1.25 million spent on improving snow production capacity, quality, and reliability through a completely rebuilt water pumping and air compression plant incorporating automated, low-energy solutions and cutting-edge snowmaking equipment.

“The significant investment in snowmaking will allow us to open as soon as possible, with better early season snow conditions, and will help us build a deep base to ensure a long season,” says Purgatory General Manager Dave Rathbun. “We expect these improvements to increase snow production by 25 percent or more,” notes Josh Hamill, Purgatory’s slope maintenance manager.

It also completed significant hazard tree removal to reduce forest fuels and aid in wildfire prevention. Additional beetle kill tree removal will continue next spring, allowing staff to skid trees over snow, reducing soil disturbance and controlling erosion. A Prinoth Leitwolf X winch cat arrived in November to complete Purgatory’s fleet rotation of snow-grooming machines, improving slope and park maintenance capabilities.

Skiers at  Purgatory this winter will enjoy a new high-performance rental fleet from Völkl. Demo skis and boards will also be available for the first time through online reservations. Modernized Wi-Fi access points in the base area, on the beach, and inside Powderhouse and Dante’s on-mountain lodges will deliver more bandwidth and improved connectivity. The improved system will make it easier for guests to access Purgatory’s online dining experience for a more convenient, contactless ordering process.

Skiers with banner reading "Monarch is open!" on chair lift.
Monarch Mountain launched daily operations for this season on Dec. 2. Photo courtesy Monarch.

Monarch

This ski area atop the Continental Divide in the mighty Sawatch Range of southern Colorado continued to improve its tree skiing this summer with the removal of thousands of beetle-killed spruce trees. They have removed almost all they can within their existing boundaries. They will now shift to clearing dead trees in the No Name Basin, the site of planned expansions in upcoming years. Monarch leadership spent much of the summer planning with Forest Service advisors, as well as meeting with architects and engineers, about the pending expansion.

Telluride

Telluride Village overview
The idyllic vacation scene at Telluride’s Mountain Village. Photo courtesy Telluride.

This San Juan Mountain gem erected a new chairlift over the summer. It replaces the original number 9 chair, the Plunge Lift, up the steep town-facing side of the resort. The Doppelmayr high-speed quad will be powered from its top, a far more energy-efficient process than bottom-powered. The new lift also required a new power line to the mountaintop, and allow for the planned replacement of the original Giuseppe’s restaurant. This was one of the resort’s first ticket offices, which was hauled up the slopes and converted into a dining spot. It has outlived its useful life, says a resort spokesperson.

Further Afield

Though it’s not a regional ski area, it’s worth noting that Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) also completed a major lift improvement project this summer with the installation of the new Thunder Lift. The new lift, made by Colorado-based lift manufacturer Leitner-Poma, replaces a chair built in 1994, and cuts riders’ time down from just over 7 minutes to 3.6 minutes. “The Thunder Lift has been the most popular chair on the upper mountain, and delivers access to some of the legendary terrain JHMR is known for,” notes JHMR President Mary Kate Buckley. “This substantial investment is being made to improve lift waiting times and give our guests more time on snow.”

Chair list with chile ristra at Taos Ski Valley.
Taos is up and running for the 2022-23 season, with skiing from the top of the front side. Photo courtesy TSV.

TSV Gondola Set Back

Meanwhile, Taos Ski Valley, Inc., suffered a setback when the Village of Taos Ski Valley rejected the ski resort’s planned purchase of a 4.4-acre tract of land key to their plans to build a gondola system connecting the Kachina Basin base complex to the main base area.

The tract had been conveyed to the village by the Kachina Homeowners Association, which was originally given the plot by the Pattison Trust, with the stipulation it be used as open space and for trails. The electric-driven lift would operate year-round, with the primary function of reducing auto traffic within the narrow Lake Fork/Hondo valleys. It is believed that the ski area will seek an easement, instead, across the property. This would maintain its open space characteristics while allowing the environmentally proactive project to proceed.

Conde Nast Traveler Magazine Feature

Conde Nast Traveler magazine recently published a major feature article I wrote about the state’s snowsports scene. The story, “The Best of New Mexico Skiing,” focuses on five state ski areas — Taos, Santa Fe, Angel Fire, Ski Apache, and Red River — and includes details on what makes each one unique, suggestions on places to eat and lodge, and après-ski suggestions.

Of Taos, I report, “The grand dame of New Mexico’s ski scene attracts hardcore skiers and boarders from across the planet to sample its delectable powder — often even lighter than Utah’s famous fluff — its charming Euro/Hispanic/Pueblo Indian vibe, and some of the most challenging in-bounds terrain on the continent.”

About Ski Santa Fe, I note,  “While overshadowed by Taos Ski Valley, Santa Fe’s local ski area has a lot going for it. Just 15 miles above town, you can enjoy all that this global vacation destination has to offer — 200 art galleries, six major museums, one-of-a-kind boutiques, acclaimed dining, an international mix of worldly residents and visitors — while also getting in some excellent skiing. Though compact, with just 1,725 feet of vertical, it has perhaps the best tree skiing in the state — on runs like Tequila Sunrise, Richard’s Glade, and the steeper Big Rocks — great wide groomers like Gay Way, tough bump lines, tremendously fun powder slopes like Cornice, and even some short technical chutes.”

To read the article, click here.

Top image: This photo taken at Purgatory on about the same date in 2015 shows just how great early-season skiing can be! Photo courtesy DMR.

 

Dan Gibson
Snowsports journalist Daniel Gibson, photographed at Red River.

Daniel Gibson was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame in October 2022 for his snowsports writing. He is the co-author of Images of America: Skiing in New Mexico (Arcadia Publishing, 2021), with 183 historic photos; and author of New Mexico’s only comprehensive ski guidebook, Skiing New Mexico: Snow Sports in the Land of Enchantment (UNM Press, 2017). He is a member of the North American Snowsports Journalist Association and has written on the topic for newspapers coast to coast, websites, and magazines including PowderSki, and Wintersport Business. He can be reached at [email protected] or via DanielBGibson.com.

This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

Please Share!

Snow Trax 15 | Snowmaking: An Art and Science
Snowmaking at Sipapu Ski Resort

This week we take a brief look at another key function of ski areas that largely goes unnoticed by skiers, but plays a huge role in how good or bad the experience on the slopes is. As with snow grooming, making manmade snow is an activity carried on largely at night and thus out of sight. None in New Mexico do it more, and better, than the crew at Taos Ski Valley, led by Tommy Murray, snow surfaces manager. Here’s a brief look at the process, plus details on current conditions.

Snow Trax | Winter Blues
Wind damage at Enchanted Forest Cross Country and Snowshoe Area

With the ongoing scarcity of winter storms, there’s no way to continue to ignore the bull in the china shop: the regional ski scene is in disaster mode. Several New Mexico areas are still closed, and those open are limping along with a run or two open. The worst news to report is the hurricane force wind disaster that struck Enchanted Forest Cross Country and Snowshoe Area (EFXC) near Red River on the morning of Dec. 15. Ski conditions for the week of December 20 are also in this post.

Snow Trax 17 | Gathering The Harvest: Corn Snow Delight

Gathering the Harvest: Corn Snow Delight | By Snowsports Journalist Daniel Gibson | Just when you think the season here is winding down, a clandestine storm slips over the northern border and lays down some of the biggest snowfall of the winter, while barely making an impression on our urban centers. A conditions report follows, but before that here’s a look at squeezing the most out of the more typical conditions this time of year skiing, or boarding, on that … Read More

Featured Businesses