Flagstaff To Albuquerque: Explore A Trio Of I-40 Resorts
The Sandia Tramway offers a different way to get to the skiing and riding. (Sandia Tramway/Facebook)
Interstate 40 is the main thoroughfare between Flagstaff and Albuquerque – and its also the route to a trio of lesser-known skiing and riding resorts along the southernmost tier of the Rocky Mountains.
Turn off in Flagstaff, and you quickly find local-fav Arizona Snowbowl on the north slopes of the volcanic Humphreys Peak. Already open for 2016-207, Arizona Snowbowl debuts its first high-speed lift, a six-seater named the Grand Canyon Express that takes off from the Hart Prairie Lodge for a six-minute ride to where Midway intersects Upper Ridge.
The northern Arizona mountain will continue its renowned array of daily discounts: under 7, over 70 ski free; five-in-one-car $149 ticket; buy-one-get-one-free days; and, Friday afternoon deep discounts on ticket, rental and lessons.
Five hours east in New Mexico, you find a pair of day-trip resorts -- Sandia Peak and Ski Santa Fe. Both are owned by the famed Abruzzo hot-air ballooning family, and maintain a local, unpretentious atmosphere.
Unique to Sandia Peak is the way up to the mountain: Load you and your equipment into the Sandia Peak Tramway (also in the Abruzzo portfolio), and ride from north Albuquerque to the 10,300-foot top of the ski and snowboard mountain for $25. The company offers tram-lift ticket deals. Or you can drive up in the conventional way – after the lifts start running in mid-December. The trail map leans toward novice and intermediates, but excursions into the trees still await.
Ski Santa Fe opened Dec. 3 this year – one of the earliest openings in recent years. It also provides alternative transport to the lifts with a $5 city bus ride from various stops in downtown Santa Fe. Be nice, and regulars might show you a secret glade run on (surprise!) one of the highest mountains in the West (12,075-foot summit). Of course, when apres-ski hunger calls, the so-called “City Different” is home to literally hundreds of world-class restaurants down below.