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Ski Apache Will Open Thanksgiving; New Gondola, Two Lifts Added After Fire

Ski Apache, Little Bear Fire

The Little Bear Fire surrounding Ruidoso, N.M., took out nearly 250 homes and structures in June. But, it certainly scared, if largely spared, Ski Apache . The ski area, extremely popular in the West Texas market, still plans its regular Thanksgiving opening and will debut three new lifts and $15 million in improvements.


A new 8-passenger Doppelmeyer gondola will travel 1,646 feet in eight minutes, twice as fast as the old gondola. Another quad and triple chair will also be added, carrying an additional 3,000 skiers per hour.


Ski Apache is owned by the Mescalero Apache tribe, which also owns the Inn of the Mountain Gods, a sprawling hotel and casino and Casino Apache. Both are on the Mescalero Reservation and are major economic draws for the resort community of Ruidoso, and of course, the tribe.


The Little Bear Fire fussed and fumed all around the ski area and, in some places, on its trails. Ski Apache trail crew members worked the snowmaking lines to help fight the fire.


“We are happy to invest in something that has proven such a valuable asset not just to the tribe but to the surrounding communities as well, especially considering the effects on the region from the Little Bear Fire,” said Mescalero Apache President Frederick Chino Sr.  


An earlier statement from the tribe following the fire reads in part:  


Ski Apache trail crew, Little Bear Fire

“As surrounding communities continue to recover from the Little Bear Fire, we here at the Inn of the Mountain Gods and Casino Apache continue to give thanks as we were spared from the most damaging consequences of the fire. In addition, while Ski Apache did sustain minor damage and flooding, the Ski Apache team has been working hard consistently to mitigate issues as they arise, resulting in positive results across the board…


“Not to worry! Ski Apache will be open this winter, ready to send you sliding down the mountainside all season long,” the statement concluded.


The ski area, high atop 12-mile Ski Run Road (NM 532), was scheduled to be open for summer recreation, but immediately announced plans to close for the full season once the fire broke out. The Inn of the Mountain Gods offered numerous recreation options. However, most of the Lincoln County Forest campgrounds and lakes have been closed.


Ski Run Road re-opened up to mile marker 10, but there is no public access all the way to Ski Apache at this time. Burned trees adjacent to the Ski Run Road were a falling hazard, causing the road to remain closed since June.


gallery of photos taken at the ski area during the fire show how close the ski resort came to dealing with far more than “minor” issues.


What It Means: Ski Apache is the significant economic factor in Southern New Mexico in the winter, just as Ruidoso Downs Racetrack is the summer tourism driver. It is devastating enough for this community to recover from the loss of all those homes surrounding Ruidoso, but the news the ski resort was spared and will open on time is good news indeed.


Top photo: Ski Apache South face, lower trench, Little Bear Fire; Bottom photo: Ski Apache trail crew during a break from fighting the fire. (Ski Apache photos)

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