After a teaser start — good pre-season snow then a dry, warm period — winter does seem to have arrived for good. Bases are slowly climbing, and all regional ski areas are up and running with daily operations, except Pajarito and Sandia Peak (the latter will not open at all this season). Wolf Creek — of course! — is looking great!
While COVID-19 really cut into special ski events being held at ski areas globally, there is some bounce back this season regionally. World-class competitions, themed events, parties, workshops, and other annual special activities are planned. Here’s a quick summary of happenings, so you can plan your winter calendar and road trips. More on Colorado ski events will follow in the next column.
COMPETITIVE SKI EVENTS
The most important competitive ski event of the season will be the World Pro Skier Tour Championship, to be held at Taos Ski Valley in late March or early April (date TBD). This comp brings together some of the globe’s best male and female ski racers to New Mexico ski areas in a dual format, head-to-head series down a bump course and over a large drop jump.
Skiers rack up points via a series of season-long ski events for the chance to compete for the World Championship title. Last year Olympians Alice McKennis and Laurenne Ross competed, as did U.S. Ski Team alum and NCAA Giant Slalom champion, Lindsey Cone, and Canadian Olympian, Anna Goodman. The men’s tour featured two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety, National Parallel Champion Garret Driller, and the two-time WPST Overall Champion, Rob Cone.
Taos will also host the grueling 27th annual Ben Myers Ridge-A-Thon on Feb. 24 – 25, with participants racking up verts off the hike-to ridges to raise funds for the Taos Community Foundation.
And March 21 – 25, the Freeride Competition launches off Taos’ famed steeps with a championship, plus qualifiers for the Freeride World Tour in adult and junior divisions, and a master division comp. Details on all these events can be found on the TSV website.
Ski Santa Fe will present four ski mountaineering competitions, the SkiMo Series, to be held after hours in the early evenings, on Jan. 11, Jan. 25, Feb. 8, and Feb. 22. The course will most likely include two ascents and descents of the Lower Mountain. It will also host another mountaineering challenge on Jan. 27 – 28 called the Cosmic Series Fireball Ascent and Randonee Race. On March 25 athletes will face off in a rail jam, and on March 26 compete in the Everest Deception Race. Details on these events will be posted on the area’s website soon.
While not a competition, on a serious note, the ski area will provide backcountry ski safety training, including demonstrations on using avalanche beacons and probes, and conduct a raffle to benefit the Taos Avalanche Information Center on Feb. 11 and Feb. 25. And, on Feb. 25 – 26 the Silverton Avalanche School will present a “companion rescue course.”
Wolf Creek will also hold some races that, while open to general public participants, appeal to serious skiers. It already hosted, on Nov. 19, a major mountaineering race. The Wolf Creek Challenge Series begins with a true GS race with more than 40 gates, open to both individuals and teams, on Saturday, Jan. 28. On April 1, head north for a Super G/Downhill race in their Challenge Series.
Angel Fire Resort will be the site of USASA Jedi Challenge Skiercross and Boardercross events on Feb. 3 – 5; the USASA slalom, GS, and rail jam comps on March 4; and a USASA slopestyle event on March 5. Red River is also home to several USASA comps: a slalom and GS on Jan. 7 – 8; a railjam on Jan. 28; a slopestyle on Jan. 29; another railjam on Feb. 25; and a slopestyle on Feb. 26.
FUN STUFF AT NEW MEXICO SKI AREAS
Angel Fire Resort is putting together a series of light-hearted events. These include mixology classes, whiskey tastings, cooking demonstrations for couples, and themed crafts and game nights for kids. Celebrate the holidays mountain-style at the resort with an appearance by Santa at the base area at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and catch him on the slopes on Christmas Day.
On New Year’s Eve, enjoy a torchlight parade of skiers and a firework show. Austin-based band The Staudt Brothers will be performing on New Year’s Eve at the Community Center. More live musical entertainment performances are scheduled throughout the season at the resort. For a look at all scheduled AFR events, visit their event calendar here.
Taos Ski Valley will present a skier torchlight parade down Snakedance followed by a great fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. It reprises its long-running Winter Wine Festival Jan. 26 – 29, with fabulous dinners and lunches paired with fine wines, along with seminars, talks, and other attractions. On March 25 join in the festivities at the Rally in the Valley, with an on-mountain scavenger hunt, costume contests, and other silliness.
Ski Santa Fe will present free live music on the Totemoff Deck from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday beginning Jan. 8. It will close out the season on April 1 with the return of the Gladfelter Memorial Bump Contest.
Sipapu is also known for its festivities. Enjoy its Christmas Eve party, featuring free homemade posole and tortillas, s’mores on the patio by the fire, an appearance by Santa, plus games for the kids. It will mark its 70th anniversary with a party on Jan. 28 and hold its annual February Fun Fest Feb. 25 – 26. The 6th Annual Lloyd Bolander Memorial Day and its Pine Cup Race follow on March 11, and the popular Cardboard Derby (the 16th annual) on March 25. It will close out the season with its 15th annual Pond Skim on April 2.
Pajarito also hosts an annual event high on the fun meter, Skiesta, on March 18 this season, with races, costumes, craft brews, and giveaways. Also on tap is a day tagged Telebration dedicated to burning quads, a slopestyle comp, and Hawaiian Shirt Day (dates to be determined).
Red River will conduct torchlight parades and firework shows every Saturday night throughout the season. The best viewing is from The Lift House. Red River is a favorite place for Santa to relax after his big night; find him on Dec. 25 from 10 to noon on the slopes or in the Chalet and Children’s Center.
Red River’s biggest annual blast is Mardi Gras in the Mountains, being held this season from Feb. 17 – 18. Details are available on the Town of Red River’s website. The town is also hosting a Songwriters Festival with evening solo shows, band performances, and informal jams, Feb. 2 – 3. For details, click here. The ski area closes the season on March 19 with a pond skim.
Wolf Creek also has less serious races lined up in its Fun Series, open to skiers and boarders of all ages and abilities. There are 14 age brackets (ages 3 – 70-plus) for both male and female racers. Races are held on a modified GS course in a dual format. Racers face off on a red course, then a blue course, and their fastest single time is recorded.
Medals are given to the top three finishers in each bracket. They will be held almost every Saturday or Sunday through March 25, and a final Easter Bunny Race on April 18. Sign up on race days between 9:30 and 11 a.m. at the intersection of Charisma and Turnpike. Races on Lower Charisma begin at 11 a.m., and awards are presented at 3 p.m. on the Upper Lodge Sundeck. For details, see their website’s events section.
Watch for next week’s Snow Trax for special ski events in Colorado ski areas!
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.
Posted by Ruidoso.com