I’ve been skiing at Ski Santa Fe for some 62 years, and yet I still treasure every day spent on its slopes and deep in its old-growth forests. With a summit elevation of 12,075 feet, it is a world apart. Many days have been spent inside a maelstrom of a blizzard when one’s tracks disappear under new snow every run, and the best skiing is found in its abundant woods among the Engelmann spruce. At the end of the day, driving out of the canyon mouth, often the city is bathed in golden sunlight, with nary a flake in sight.
Other days one stands atop Tesuque Peak and looks down on clouds, hiding the city from sight, while you are awash in a bluebird sky and warm sun.
While overshadowed by Taos Ski Valley, Ski Santa Fe has much to offer.
Terrain, Elevation, and Snowfall
I am enchanted with the terrific variety of terrain here, from the already noted excellent tree skiing on runs like Tequila, Pope Snows, and Richard’s, to challenging bump runs, such as Roadrunner, that put the burn on your legs. There are fine groomers, like Gayway that sweeps off the summit, and many on the lower mountain, such as Open Slope, where intermediates hone their craft. Hiding at the bottom of a great glade named Big Rocks are some short but dicey chutes, cliffs, and fields of immense boulders. And, for those seeking powda, there are the in-bounds Cornice or the out-of-bounds — but legally accessed — Big Tesuque. The latter, an ungroomed and unpatrolled sector, puts intrepid, experienced skiers and boarders into a basin that descends to the ski area access road some 2,500 vertical feet below.
With its high elevation, Ski Santa Fe also gets good to excellent snowfall — it averages 225 inches — and its elevation and generally north-facing slopes protect what comes down.
Only 16 miles from town, it is also very accessible, which is important, as there are no lodging facilities on site. This requires visitors to find accommodations in Santa Fe, but hey, that means you have to hang out in one of the nation’s most historic and cultured cities with an amazing array of dining and bedding options.
I’m not the only writer singing Ski Santa Fe’s praises. In an article titled “Santa Fe: World Class Hotels, Spas & Skiing” published in Everette Potter’s Travel Report on Nov. 13, 2022, William Triplett reports, “It’s not size that makes Ski Santa Fe interesting — seven lifts and 86 trails on 660 skiable acres. (Colorado’s Steamboat, in contrast, sports 18 lifts and 169 trails across 3,000 acres.) What I loved about Ski Santa Fe was its maximized use of relatively compact terrain and its nice mix of trails — 20 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate, and 40 percent expert. There’s some beautiful glade skiing, the majority single- or double-black diamonds; moguls are fairly represented, and the views from its 12,000-foot peaks can take your breath away.
“Best of all, I thought, was the prevailing vibe of the place — extremely chill — probably a result of the many locals who spend a fair amount of time on these slopes. A big backyard resort, in a way.”
This includes policies designed to support and encourage “uphill skiing;” i.e. people who earn free turns by skinning up the mountain under their own power. Few ski areas allow this practice and even fewer allow it during operational hours, but Ski Santa Fe does. Skiers and split-boarders with adequate backcountry safety training and equipment cruise up through the ski resort to reach even more challenging and isolated terrain inside the Pecos Wilderness Area above and beyond the boundaries.
Fueling the Run
Dining is perhaps the weakest link in Ski Santa Fe’s gilded chain but is constantly improving. At the base is La Casa Lodge, with better-than-average ski area fare, including salads, sandwiches, daily soup and lunch specials, a hot meals section, and lots of snack options. To have a tap beer, a glass of wine, or perhaps a hot alcoholic beverage, head to mid-mountain Totemoff’s, and pair it with a green chile cheeseburger, a bowl of tasty chile stew, tamales, brats, and so forth. The newest addition here is fresh sushi. Sit on the deck, grove to some tunes, soak up the sun, and watch the skiers and boarders descending the slopes above. What could be finer?
Ski Santa Fe has a ski school with a wide range of group and private lesson programs; an excellent childcare center called Chipmunk Corner that gets the kids out on the snow for either play or actual skiing; a retail shop for essentials; a rental shop; a ski/board tuning service; and an Adaptive Ski Program for disabled boarders or skiers. It hosts a handful of special events annually; for a complete list and details, see my previous Snow Trax column on special events.
It offers a variety of ticket options, including half-day, full-day, multi-day, and various passes. Kids under 46 inches ski for $15, as do seniors ages 72 and up.
It can be accessed via a public transportation service called the Blue Bus. It makes stops at the Fort Marcy Recreation Center, the South Capitol Rail Runner Station, and downtown Santa Fe. For details, visit RideTheBlueBus.com.
It maintains an active Facebook site and Instagram account with lots of photos and reports from staff and patrons. It is expected to be open through April 9, 2023. For further details on operations and programs, call 505-982-4429 or visit SkiSantaFe.com.
Top image: This aerial view taken from the northwest shows most of Ski Santa Fe in all its glory. Photo courtesy Ski SF.
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 Powder, Ski, and Wintersport Business. He can be reached at [email protected] or via DanielBGibson.com.This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead