Overview: Part 1
This column begins
our occasional raven's eye overview of the region's snow sport
resorts. This week we swoop in on Crested Butte and Monarch
in southern Colorado, and Red River in northern New Mexico.
is one of Colorado's wonderful former mining towns. Located
at the head of a huge valley, gnarly mountain ranges encircle
it on three sides, capped by the prominent snaggle tooth of
the Butte itself. The town fell asleep for 40 or 50 years after
a decline in mining activity, then was shaken awake by the rush
to the white gold of the 1980s, and a yearning by new residents
to live in a place of great beauty, quiet, and character. Today
its downtown streets are framed by lovingly restored Victorian-era
fanciful wooden homes, small shops, and surprisingly good restaurants.
The ski area, a 10-minute
or so free bus ride away, has gone through even a faster metamorphosis.
In a handful of years, it's morphed from a mostly locals-only
hill to a world_class ski resort, complete with excellent on-the-slope
hotels (including a Marriott and Club Med), high-speed quad
chairs, and a terrific range of skiing terrain.
Though there is an
abundance of beginner and intermediate slopes (including by
far and away the region's best long-range cruising runs with
nice rolls and great width), the Butte is most renowned for
its hair_raising steeps. Home to both the Saab U.S. Extreme
Freeskiing Championship and the Sector U.S. Extreme Boardfest,
Created Butte has double black diamond runs by the spades. One
entire section of the mountain, the Upper Limits, is nothing
but double diamonds. It also has extreme skiing clinics for
both men and women, and typically the snow to make it all go.
the other hand, is still a local's mountain. Though not far
as the raven flies from the Butte, it seems a world away. Perched
atop the Continental Divide, west of Salida, far from any major
city, it feels as if it's caught in a time warp. A laid back
atmosphere, powder that rests untracked a day after a dump,
a nice layout of small bowls, groomed slopes, glades, and some
tough bump runs offer up an outstanding all_around ski experience.
And for the adventurous,
there is the resort's guided backcountry snowcat tours, said
to be Colorado's steepest cat skiing or boarding. I spent one
happy, happy morning here three winters ago; it was the best
skiing of my life up until then__like heli_skiing with the chopper
prices. Did I mention the 350 inches of annual snow and the
awesome views? For accommodations, you can't beat the combo
room and lift ticket prices at the nearby Monarch Mt. Lodge.
is like your best friend's den__a place you plop down, kick
off yer boots, and settle in for some fun. It's unpretentious,
inexpensive for a resort town, and full of diversions.
If you want to ski or board, the mountain is a pretty darned
nice area. It is a little slim on expert terrain but has enough
steep pitches to entertain even advanced skiers for a few days,
and some terrific powder following a storm__most folks here
skedaddle from that ole powder stuff. If you're an intermediate
or beginner, you'll be in hog heaven, and if ya want to let
out a hoop 'n a holler, why let it rip--you'll have plenty of
company. If you don't own a ski suit or even waterproof pants,
just get yourself a can of Scotchguard, spray down a pair of
old jeans and hit the slopes, pardner.
If the idea of skiing
or boarding is like sticking needles in your eyes, you can take
a guided or free_for_all outing on snowmobiles. Red River is
one of New Mexico's centers for motorized snow sports, with
hundreds of miles of forest roads and huge snow_drapped meadows
just aching to be zoomed over. You can even get atop Greenie
Peak, over 12,000 feet in elevation, where you look down on
the ski area. Now that's unique. Or, if you have youngsters
with you, send them over to the Playhouse for roller skating,
miniature bowling, video games, and pin ball while you sleep
in and have breakfast in bed. The town is small enough to walk
around on foot, so the kids can maneuver around on their own,
and parents will appreciate the many family ski/stay packages.
At night, check out either of the two great honkey tonks for
boot shuffling__the Motherload or Bull O the Woods. Yeeeeeehaaaaaw!
Information & Seasonal Schedule
Fire: 800/633-7463 or www.angelfireresort.com,
open Dec. 14 through March 24; Crested Butte: 888/463-6714
open Dec. 15 through April 15; Durango Mt. Resort: 800/982-6103
open through April 7; Enchanted Forest (XC): 800/966-9381
open; Monarch: 800/228-7943 or www.skimonarch.com,
open; Pajarito Mountain:505/662-5725 or www.skipajarito.com,
opening as soon as possible; Red River: 505/754-2223
open fulltime Dec. 14 through March 24; Sandia Peak:
505/242-9133 or www.sandiapeak.com,
scheduled season Dec. 14 through March 17; Ski Rio: 505/758-7707
Ski Santa Fe: 505/982-4429 or www.skisantafe.com,
scheduled season Dec. 8 through April 7; Sipapu: 505/587-2240
scheduled season Dec. 13 through early April; Ski Apache:
505/336-4356 or www.skiapache.com,
open through March 31; Taos Ski Valley: 505/776-2291
scheduled season Dec. 14 through April 7; Telluride:
866/287-5016 or www.Tellurideskiresort.com,
open through April 7; Wolf Creek: 800/754-9653 or www.wolfcreekski.com
open through April 7.
Contact Ski N.M. at 505/984-0606 or www.skinewmexico.com
for reports on New Mexico ski areas and to order a free winter
trip guide; Colorado Ski Country at 303/825-SNOW or www.coloradoski.com
for Colorado reports; or individual areas: Angel Fire--800/633-7463
x 3; Crested Butte--888/TO POWDER; Durango Mt. Resort: 800/525-0892,
ext. 6; Enchanted Forest (XC)-800/966-9381; Monarch--800/228-7943;
Pajarito--888/662-7669; Red River--505/754-2220; Sandia Peak--505/857-8977;
Ski Santa Fe--505/983-9155; Sipapu--505/587-2240; Ski Apache--505/257-9001;
Taos Ski Valley--505/776-2916; Telluride--970/728-7425; Wolf
of Santa Fe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is the author of four books, most recently Pueblos of the Rio
Grande: A Visitors Guide (Rio Nuevo Publishers). His first day
on "sliders" was 40 years ago.
Other SNOW TRAX 2002
Snow Trax from Last Season