Ski Apache Suspends Summer Operations; Assessing Lift Damage After Fire
You won’t reach anyone at Ski Apache, high above Ruidoso, N.M., by phone and you can't drive up the long, winding access road to see for yourself. But, you will get a cryptic message that begs for more details that are not forthcoming.
The phone recording says summer operations at the ski area (due to have begun June 29) have been suspended, fire damage to lifts 4 (Capitan Triple) and 8 (Elk Quad) is being assessed, and there has been no damage to structures at the base area. The resort website has no information whatsoever on the fire.
The “Little Bear Fire,” as it has come to be known, is now at 60 percent containment (June 20). It has consumed 41,718 acres. Some 254 homes and structures have been destroyed – the most in New Mexico history. Crews are wrapping up setting “backing fires” to burn out undergrowth fuel inside the containment area. There is very low humidity and close to 1,000 fire personnel remain on the scene based at Incident Command Center in the heart of Ruidoso.
The most popular summer activity at Ski Apache, owned by the Mescalero Apache tribe, is riding the gondola over the valleys, up the peak of Sierra Blanca, and taking in panoramic vistas at the mountain-top Gazebo, about 500 feet from the summit. The ski area bills itself as the “Switzerland of the Southwest” because of its Alpine feel. Sierra Blanca soars above 12,000 feet literally giving it its own weather system.
A resort official was quoted by InciWeb.org at the height of the fire danger as saying the ski area had sustained some damage, but would open for the 2012-13 season. The phone message is the first update.
Ski Run Road, leading from Highway 48 above Ruidoso to Ski Apache, remains closed to all but fire officials and residents who have cabins or homes. A new advisory warns those returning to their homes to boil their drinking water.
A dramatic YouTube video of the ski area’s webcam (see SnoCountry.com’s earlier story) showed snow guns being deployed to ward off the fire.
The huge High Park fire near Fort Collins, Colo. is reported to be 55 percent contained. Closest ski resorts are at least two hours away. None are threatened by this fire.
This report is filed live from Ruidoso, N.M.
Photo: Little Bear Fire, Kari Greer/U.S. Forest Service