When clouds roll in the winter months, you can feel the excitement humming in the air amidst the curls of piñon smoke rising from wood stoves and kiva fireplaces across the county. There’s nothing like a powder day in a mountain town, and when snow comes down on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, visitors and residents alike are spoiled for choices of how to enjoy winter weather.
In the early 1950s, Ernie Blake, a Swiss ski pioneer, was captivated by the towering vertical and snowy landscape at the base of the Rocky Mountains while flying his Cessna 170 Skyhawk on a routine commute between Santa Fe Ski Basin and the Glenwood Ski Area.
In a move that Taoseños will recognize as classic, Blake along with his wife Rhoda defied all logic and sensible behavior to respond to the magnetic call of our mountains, relocating their family to an eleven foot trailer to build what is now Taos Ski Valley. Initially a modest hill with one lift and one run, the resort rapidly evolved into a world-class destination, thanks in part to contributions from ski pioneers like Jean Mayer. Mayer established the award-winning Ski School and introduced the innovative Ski Week tradition in 1957. The Blake family’s commitment to creating a genuine mountain experience, infused with local culture and European hospitality, continues to define the welcoming spirit of the resort today. Running like a swiss clock, you can expect short lines, clean and beautiful facilities, and chair lifts bubbling with laughter and conversation in many different languages from visiting snow sports enthusiasts from around the globe.
Home to 13 lifts and 110 total runs, Taos Ski Valley (TSV) is known for its diverse terrain, with over 50% of runs marked as expert- with plenty of intermediate and beginner lines left to explore. With incredible steeps and breathtaking views (such as that from 12,481′ Kachina Peak), access to this severe terrain is assisted and enabled by a world class ski school serving kids, adults and groups of all skill levels. Check out their week long Ski and Snowboard Weeks for an intensive opportunity to build and refine your mountain prowess on TSV’s cruisers, chutes, bowls, bumps, and trees. Kids and teens who are passionate about mountain sports should check out Taos Winter Sports Team, a local non-profit snow sports team with a variety of programs to help young athletes reach their maximum potential on the slopes.
Aside from the thrill of downhill mountain sports, TSV is home to a sledding hill and the Eis Haus ice skating rink, as well as a spa, fine dining, and shopping to add an element of luxury to the rugged backdrop. Keep an eye on the TSV calendar for events and winter markets. Big Al’s Snow Mobile Tours offers guided trips for those more inclined to a two-stroke powered adventure. The surrounding landscape offers some incredible trails for cross country and backcountry skiing and snowshoeing- check out Williams Lake for a good starting place!
While Taos Ski Valley stands out as a world-class and high-octane destination, not every winter enthusiast seeks such extreme experiences. For those desiring a more laid-back, family-oriented day on the slopes, Sipapu emerges as an excellent alternative. With lift tickets starting at just $9, it holds the distinction of being the most affordable ski resort in the state. Additionally, with a snowmaking start in mid-October, Sipapu proudly boasts the longest ski season in the region.
Sipapu’s appeal extends beyond its affordability and extended season. The resort features 1,055 feet of vertical drop, six lifts, and over 40 named ski trails. It caters to diverse interests, offering opportunities to experiment with snow bikes, available for rent at their ski shop. The shop also provides a comprehensive selection of gear to meet the needs of all snow sports enthusiasts. For those new to skiing or snowboarding, Sipapu offers private and group mountain sports lessons tailored to all ages and skill levels, making it an ideal starting point for beginners who might find the elite atmosphere of TSV intimidating.
Notably, Sipapu is part of the Power Pass network, granting access to mountains in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and even Chile. This affiliation enhances the appeal of Sipapu for those seeking variety and exploration across different terrains and regions.
Embarking on a journey uphill and north from Taos leads you to the charming town of Red River, nestled at an elevation of 8,750 feet. This iconic New Mexico mountain town promises an adventure every day. During the winter months, Red River Ski Area transforms into a haven for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, offering wide-open groomers, peaceful park laps, and steep powder-filled trees. What sets this destination apart is its commitment to delivering an authentic skiing and snowboarding experience in New Mexico, complete with minimal lift lines and powder stashes that endure for days after a storm.
Red River’s allure extends beyond the pristine slopes; it’s a place where the enchanting small-town charm harmonizes seamlessly with the spirit of family adventure. The town boasts three distinct terrain parks that cater to various skill levels, providing opportunities for showcasing skills on jumps, jibs, and hits. Red River is also home to the region’s best cross-country skiing at Enchanted Valley Cross-Country Ski Area, with 30 km of trails groomed for cross country and skate skiing, as well as 14 km of snowshoeing trails to explore.
Adding to the appeal, Red River hosts a variety of awesome events throughout the ski season. Thanksgiving festivities kick off the season with unique events like the frozen turkey race, where competitors ride frozen turkeys down the slope for a chance to win prizes. December brings Santa to the slopes, spreading holiday cheer, and February hosts the Ski Ranch Rodeo, adding a touch of the Wild West to the winter wonderland. Saturdays during the ski season are marked by torchlight parades and fireworks shows, creating a magical atmosphere. For those seeking a competitive edge, the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) regularly organizes Slopestyle competitions and rail jams, adding an exciting dimension to the vibrant winter scene in Red River. Whether you’re drawn to the slopes, festive events, or competitive spirit, Red River offers a multifaceted winter experience that captivates visitors throughout the season.
Embarking on Paseo del Cañon east out of Taos unfolds a picturesque journey, a winding odyssey that effortlessly soothes your senses, even if the road can pose a bit of a challenge during the winter months. Yet, the venture is undeniably rewarding: as you descend into the vast embrace of the Moreno Valley, the panoramic vista is nothing short of breathtaking. Nestled within this scenic wonderland lies the village of Angel Fire, home to the renowned Angel Fire Ski Resort.
At Angel Fire Resort, a bounty of unspoiled and uncrowded ski and snowboard trails awaits, catering to every skill level. Short lift lines ensure a swift return to the mountain’s exhilarating slopes. What sets Angel Fire apart is the ski base’s central location in the heart of town, seamlessly integrating the skiing experience with the core essence of Angel Fire. The real gem in Angel Fire’s repertoire is its standout offering: night skiing. Distinguished from other resorts in New Mexico, Angel Fire beckons adventurers to experience the thrill of skiing under the stars, adding an enchanting and unique dimension to the winter wonderland experience.
While we’re talking about the Moreno Valley, it’s essential to spotlight the hidden treasure nestled in the final quadrant of the Enchanted Circle—Eagle Nest. This quaint village, located on the northeastern arc of the circle, boasts a rich and dynamic Wild West history that will take you back in time Home to fewer than 300 people year-round, Eagle Nest exudes an idyllic frontier atmosphere, with a charming main drag adorned with saloons, gift shops, diners, and lodges.
Just beyond the village lies the picturesque Eagle Nest Lake State Park, a haven for winter enthusiasts. The park offers a perfect setting for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, providing a serene backdrop as herds of deer gracefully cross distant meadows blanketed in powdery snow.
Eagle Nest is renowned for hosting an exhilarating Polar Plunge event, drawing courageous thrill-seekers from all corners of the state. This festive event transforms the frozen waters of Eagle Nest Lake into a playground for those seeking an adrenaline rush. The atmosphere is charged with energy, as friends, family, and participants gather to cheer each other on, creating an almost electric sense of camaraderie.
For those preferring to keep their toes dry, Eagle Nest Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. Regularly stocked with trout, salmon, northern pike and yellow perch. During the winter months, ice fishing becomes a popular pastime. Experienced anglers showcase their skills at the annual Eagle Nest Lake Ice Fishing Tournament in January, adding another layer of excitement to the village’s winter offerings. Whether you seek an adrenaline-pumping plunge or a tranquil day by the lake, Eagle Nest stands as a testament to the diverse and vibrant experiences awaiting winter enthusiasts in the Enchanted Circle.