Report from Thursday 24th February 2022
New Mexico has mountains. Big mountains. Ski Sante Fe’s base area is at 10,350-feet, the highest in New Mexico and the top ten highest in North America. The peak is at 12,075-feet, in the top ten in North America. And the view from up there is stunning.
Or so we were told. Yesterday morning the mountain was socked in, clouds shrouded the peak and blocked our view. The temperature at the top of the mountain was -15ºF. The wind was blowing. But none of this mattered because there was 5″ of fresh snow. This might not sound like much, but after the dry winter we’ve had so far, we’ll take it. Oh, and it was the best snow I’ve skied all season, from Colorado to Alaska.
The ski resort is a 40-minute drive through the national forest. A family-friendly resort, Ski Santa Fe has seven lifts across 660-acres. It still has that independent, ski-bum vibe; people are there to ski. They don’t care about how perfect the corduroy is or how good the food is in the lodge, just take them to the top of the mountain and let them slide down.
Bill was our guide for the morning. Currently the ski school director, he has worked there for over thirty years in almost every position available and even met his wife there. There was probably no one better equipped to show off the best Ski Santa Fe had to offer. We started off easy, taking the Santa Fe Super Chief chair up and cruising down the groomers. The snow was amazing. 5″ of light, fluffy snow, blanketed the mountain, as good as anywhere else that advertises ‘Champagne Powder’ or ‘the Greatest Snow on Earth.’ Everything funnels back down to the base area, it’s impossible to get lost.
Back up the same chair, we cranked it up a notch, hitting some mogul runs. The hard, gnarly, bumps were filled in with deep, windblown snow. Hard to get a rhythm going. Sometimes it was awesome, sometimes you slammed into what you thought was powder but was the backside of a bump, and sometimes you dropped into knee-deep snow. We skied Muerte, which apparently used to be a longer, narrower, bump run, hence the name.
As fun as all that was, the glades were where it was at yesterday. We were skiing fresh lines in the trees all day. From wide open glades to slightly tighter trees, the pitch was always perfect. Easy turns in light fluffy snow as the pines trees rushed past in a blur. The snow covered up the sketchy base from the dry winter, so there was the odd obstacle to be aware of, but nothing dangerous. The clouds were still clinging to the mountain, and the temperature wasn’t getting much warmer, but the skiing kept us going.
We skied off the Tesuque Peak lift and the resort’s newest chair, the Millenium lift, Bill leading us into glades and fresh snow every turn. Sunrise Glade, Tequila Sunrise Glade, an area known by locals as the Black Forest, we hit them all. All the trees between the pisted runs are fair game, offering an unlimited number of lines.
It’s not all groomers and glades, the ski area does have some gnarly-looking cliff areas and boulder gardens visible from the chairlift, but unfortunately, the snow coverage is not sufficient enough this season for them to be skiable.
The cold finally caught up with us so we stopped mid-mountain at Totemoff’s Bar and Grill. This was a cool, old-school mountain bar with a real log fire, offering up liquid refreshment as well as local food such as green chile and tamales for prices that don’t require a bank loan. The building is steeped with history, as Bill recounted stories of Pete Totemoff, the ski area owners, and fatal hot air balloon accidents. People were inside keeping warm, but on a sunny day there is live music on the deck and an old tram car serves as a bar.
After a couple more runs, we hit some more moguls, we headed back to the base area for lunch. The cafeteria-style restaurant served what you’d expect. Except alcohol. A licensing wrangle means the resort can only have one location selling alcohol, so they chose to only sell booze at Totemoff’s, and keep the base area family-friendly.
Fueled up and warmed up we headed back out. The sun was making an effort and the clouds were starting to part. We hit more of the same in the afternoon. Still finding fresh lines in the trees, and even at the edges of the groomers. When the clouds finally did depart, the view from the top of the Millenium chair was stunning and apparently is the only view in the world where you can see all three categories of mountains – volcanic, fold, and block.
The day ended by hugging the ski area’s left-hand boundary all the way down. We weaved in and out of the power lines as we went down Cornice, kicking out on Desafio which took us back to the base.
Ski Santa Fe is one of those real, independent resorts that will reignite your passion for skiing. No glitz and glam, no lift lines, just downhill skiing and riding that puts a smile on your face and has you whooping, yeehawing, and wanting more.