SnoCountry SnoCast: A Battle Of The Seasons

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Fall and the first tastes of winter continue to duke it out across North America. With occasional bursts of cold and spurts of snow continuing in this week’s forecast, it’s a reminder that winter, truly, is not far away.

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Regular Air Service Comes To Taos From Dallas, Austin

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The owner of Taos Ski Valley has purchased a 30-seat passenger jet and will begin regular flights to and from Texas to the airport serving the northern New Mexico resort.

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Sipapu Plans To Double Size With Lifts, Blue And Green Terrain

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Another small ski and snowboard area in the southern Rockies is ready to expand: Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort has announced projects to add lifts, trails and more on-mountain dining.

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‘Iron Roads’ Climb Over The Rocks Of The West

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Rock climbing is a specialized sport, with its own equipment and techniques. But European-based via ferratas have begun to spring up in the U.S. mountain country to make the sport more accessible to more people.

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Ikon Pass Bolsters Its Resort Portfolio With Taos Ski Valley

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Taos Ski Valley is the latest ski and snowboard resort to join up with the Ikon Pass for the 2018-2019 season.

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Gift For The New Year: Night Skiing At Angel Fire

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Group lesson at night at Angel Fire. (Angel Fire Resort)

Unseasonably mild evening temps have prompted Angel Fire Resort to extend skiing and riding under the lights for the rest of the season.

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Taos, Southern Rockies Resorts Continue Makeovers

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Taos kids' teaching area gets makeover. (Taos Ski Valley/Facebook)

A reconfigured beginner slope and lifts highlight the latest round of upgrades at Taos Ski Valley, as other resorts along the southernmost tier of the Rockies also add lifts, trails and services.

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Southwest Collective To Spend $15M At Four Resorts

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Mountain biking is king at Purgatory. (Purgatory/Facebook)

As Durango businessman James Coleman bought five southwest Rockies resorts, he promised to put significant money into improvements at these mountains in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

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Hesperus Ski Area Closed For Repairs

Hesperus Ski Area Closed For Repairs

Hesperus Ski Area – the town hill for Durango-area skiers and riders – has closed down to address long-overdue repairs to the only chairlift and other infrastructure.


Mountain officials say they expect to reopen the second week in March, but are unsure how long repairs will take. The mountain closed on March 7 last season.

That mean’s southwest Colorado skiers and snowboarders won’t be able to sneak out of work for few turns at noon or carve under the lights after work - or tube. Ski Hesperus operates half-days on Mondays through Fridays, and full days on Saturdays and Sundays, with popular night skiing until 9 p.m. except on Sundays.
A major portion of the maintenance is the main double chairlift, installed in the 1960s, including the condition of a number of the assemblies that connect the chair to the cable. A report following an unannounced inspection by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board on Feb. 20-21 revealed issues with signage, record-keeping, lift maintenance and employee training.

Hesperus’ Greg Ralph said that new “clips’ have been ordered and should be installed in the next weeks. Repairs have been made to the emergency braking system, and updating of signs and training of workers is underway, Ralph said.

Durango businessman James Coleman bought Hesperus in 2016, adding it to his regional portfolio that includes Purgatory, Arizona Snowbowl, Sipapu and Pajarito. Hesperus opened in the 1960s and was run by Jim Pitcher as a “one-man show” for three decades – with hand-painted signs and a Quonset hut base lodge.

Long a local’s favorite, Hesperus sits 11 miles west of downtown Durango with 60 skiable acres, 700 vertical feet and 26 trails.

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Taos Ski Valley Recognized For Ethics

Taos Ski Valley Recognized For Ethics

Hike the bowls at 'green' Taos (Taos Ski Valley/Facebook)

Environmentally conscious skiers and snowboarders who want to “walk the talk” can do so by taking to the slopes at Taos Ski Valley.


The New Mexico resort just became the first winter resort in the world – and the fifth company in its home state – to qualify as a “B Corp” for adhering to rigorous standards of “social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency,” according to the nonprofit B Lab that issues the designations worldwide.

New Blake Hotel geothermally heated.


“The people who live and work at Taos Ski Valley have long known about our commitment to the community and our investments in the ongoing health of our mountain ecosystem,” said CEO Dave Norden. “Visitors that choose Taos Ski Valley for their next vacation will be doing so with the knowledge that they’re supporting the ethics and commitment of a Certified B Corporation.”
Less snowmaking at Taos. (Taos Ski Valley/Facebook)

Among Taos Ski Valley’s efforts that led to the certification were:
· Discontinuing sale of disposable plastic bottles, replacing with reusable containers.
· Moving freshly fallen snow to highly trafficked and shadier locations – and placement of snow fences to hold snow -- to save on snowmaking costs.
· Serving locally sourced food at the resort’s five restaurants.
· Retrofitting facilities with low-flow fixtures, waterless urinals, and dual-flush toilets to reduce water consumption.
· Heating the new Blake Hotel through a geothermal system.
· Paying a minimum of $10 an hour for all employees.
Taos' 'green' efforts

Other B Corp certified companies related to the ski and snowboard industry include apparel maker Patagonia, craft beer brewer New Belgium Brewing and Vermont’s Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. More than 1,600 companies in 42 countries have received the honor.
While resort owner and conservation advocate Louis Bacon’s money have paid for much of these efforts, the Blake family that owned the mountain since its inception had begun reducing the resort’s carbon footprint in the years prior to the sale in 2013.


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The Blake Hotel Rises Into Taos Midst

The Blake Hotel Rises Into Taos Midst

Taos Ski Valley's first resort hotel. (The Blake/Facebook)

The first resort-owned hotel at Taos Ski Valley opens for business in February, replete with contemporary luxury and a strong sense of its history.

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Insider’s Guide To Taos Ski Valley

Insider’s Guide To Taos Ski Valley

So many lines through the trees at Taos Ski Valley. (Taos Ski Valley/Facebook)

The name is old school. So are the fixed-grip lifts, the 60-year old ski school, the “cattle car” parking lot shuttles, the local lifties. Even with a brand-new hotel going up in its midst – and snowboarders now on the hill -- Taos Ski Valley retains much of what founder Ernie Blake envisioned.


Travel. Drive from town takes 30 minutes. Free buses run from hotels in town to ski area. Airport shuttles come up from Albuquerque and Santa Fe; Taos airport serves general aviation.

Plenty of hiking up the ridge in Alpine wonderland at Taos.

Deals. Rack rate is $98, with the usual age and multi-day discounts. Mountain Collective works here, and $40 Taos Card drops daily to $79. Some hotels package in tickets, and Taos one of few with a morning half-day ticket. “The mountain forces you into ski school,” said Ernie Blake, and his instructors always aim to get you comfortable on the mountain as soon as you can. Ski Weeks attract many.

Al's Run Taos

Trails. Local bumper sticker says, “TAOS – A four-letter word for steep.” First, an expanded beginner area around the base serves newbies well, and plenty of greens and blues serve up groomers on both sides. But steeps and extremes are the main dishes here: Alpine chutes, expansive bowls, narrow gullies, plus lots and lots of trees. Must-ski trails include leg-burning Al’s Run, Longhorn and Spencer’s. The trail map only suggests routes down a mountain full of secret lines and stashes. Kachina Lift at 12,400-summit gives easy access to 150-acre Kachina Bowl and popular Hunziker Bowl. Hikers still have West Basin and Highline to themselves, each with a short but steep hump off Lift 2.

Bavarian Taos

Eat and Drink. Front and back base areas dish out hearty skiers’ fare, with more nearby in the village. Front-side Whistlestop Café serves to refuel at midday. Can’t-miss Bavarian Restaurant goes full-on German with wiener schnitzel and goulash during the day, and classic fondues and European for après-ski cuisine. And, of course, 18-ounce steins of Bavarian beer. Hit Taos proper for famed red and green chile dishes that are more flavor than heat.

Stay. The Bavarian has a few rooms, and a bevy of condos cluster around the base. Classic nights can be had at the St. Bernard Hotel, known for fondue and fireplaces. The Blake Hotel is set to open Feb. 1. With 65 rooms, 15 suites and valet parking, it’s upped the overnight ante while fitting into the Alpine style. Down in town, the choice of where to stay is considerable.

Taos views

Insider Tip: Powder days bring hordes of locals up, so the key to your own freshies is to get to the lift before opening and map out routes ahead of time. Or, cozy up to a ski bum but get ready to rock the steeps and trees.



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Angel Fire Celebrates 50 Years With $5.50 Day Ticket

Angel Fire Celebrates 50 Years With $5.50 Day Ticket

It's been light Rocky Mountain powder ever since Angel Fire opened in 1966. (Angel Fire/Facebook)

The 2016-17 season is Angel Fire Resort's golden anniversary in the winter and summer recreation business, and the New Mexico resort has planned a four-day celebration Jan. 19-22 – including rollback ticket prices.


“Paying tribute to the resort’s legendary pedigree and family-friendly mountain … the four-day celebration will cater to those who grew up coming to Angel Fire Resort, who have worked for the resort, as well as, current members and guests who want to join the party,” Angel Fire’s Krysty Rochetti told SnoCountry.com.

Tickets sold for Saturday, Jan. 21, and an additional 550 tickets sold for Sunday, Jan. 22, will be just $5.50 each. Half of those tickets are available online now as part of a lodging package. The remaining 275 lift tickets for each of those days will be available at the ticket window – good for that day only. Events include throwback ski suit contest, music, food -- and lots of reminiscing.

Angel Fire celebratory poster

“I would say that if people wanted to secure the $5.50 lift ticket they’d be best served to buy it as part of a lodging package online,” said Rochetti, “because waiting until the day of could be tricky. We are expecting a full resort that weekend.”

More than a half-decade ago, ranchers Roy and George LeBus looked out over their 25,000-acre ranch in the northern New Mexico mountains and saw the future: Angel Fire Resort.

By 1966, they had cut trails, installed a couple of lifts and birthed a base area. The first skiers hit the slopes in early 1967, and the word spread to nearby Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas that there was skiing within in a day’s drive.

The first condos went up in 1971 and, shortly thereafter, work began in earnest to create a year-round resort by cutting more trails, clearing housing lots and installing infrastructure. A golf course appeared across the road from the ski mountain that remains today.

 The first ski school convenes at Angel Fire in 1966



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Fire Destroys Sipapu Guest Lodge

Fire Destroys Sipapu Guest Lodge

Fire at Sipapu guest lodge rages into the dark on Dec. 16. (Leah Todd/The Taos News)

A mid-day fire broke out in an eight-room guest lodge at Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort on Dec. 16, sending two guests to the hospital and tightening holiday lodging options at the northern New Mexico resort.


Operations at the 200-acre mountain have not been affected by the fire, and it didn’t deter pre-Christmas skiers and riders from hitting the Sipapu slopes, as parking lots have been full most of the week.

However, the blaze took out a significant portion of available lodging space at the base of the mountain in a tight valley southeast of Taos – right as the holiday crowds began to roll in. The resort owns about 50 rooms in various buildings, including the lodge.

“While the fire impacted less than 20 percent of Sipapu’s total lodging options, Sipapu's reservations staff is reaching out to those guests whose reservations are affected to re-book their lodging at Sipapu or area hotels,” Sipapu’s Kim Oyler told SnoCountry.com.

No cause of the fire at what is known as The Apartments has been determined at this time, and the condition of the two persons taken to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos has not been released.

Normally the first mountain to open in New Mexico, Sipapu had to delay its opening because of the warm late fall weather that kept most Rocky mountain resorts closed later that usual.

Once it opened, however, a couple of storms settled down on this well-known “snow pocket” in the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains. On Dec. 20, Sipapu reported a 24-inch base with 14 trails open and four lifts running.

Purchased two years ago by the owners of Purgatory Mountain in Durango, the family-centric resort has plenty of deals for all manner of skiers and riders -- a free night with an adult ticket (on selected dates), free RV hookups with a day ticket, a deep discount for a carload of five or more, and free skiing or riding for 40-year-olds.



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Flagstaff To Albuquerque: Explore A Trio Of I-40 Resorts

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.

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Checking In On El Niño As Western Season Winds Down

Grand Targhee powThe Pacific Ocean warming phenomenon known as El Niño came roaring into the West this winter with great promise of above-average snowfall for all. For some resorts, that was true -- but not for all.

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Arizona Snowbowl’s First High-Speed Lift Highlights Four-Mountain Upgrades

PurgatoryThe four Southwest resorts under single ownership will continue to get upgrades this summer – with the first high-speed chair at Arizona Snowbowl headlining the projects.

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Take A Day Off The Slopes And Explore

Wheeler Opera House AspenVacationers often take a day off from skiing or snowboarding during their vacation to check out what’s happening off the slopes.

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The Biggest SnoCountry News Of 2015: Weather...Or Not


Soda Springs powderThe biggest rolling news story of 2015 across North America’s SnoCountry is, of course, the weather, including the return of that strong and totally unruly little boy — El Nino. Love him or hate him, and that depends on where you ski and ride, you are feeling the impact of this recurring atmospheric condition.

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Parents Trade Off Child Care Duties With Angel Fire’s Special Pass

Angel Fire kid skierSkiing has always been a sport the whole family can enjoy together, but the logistics of juggling slope time with the kids can be problematic – unless the family is at Angel Fire Resort.

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