Snow Trax #5

by Daniel Gibson

This Column is Posted Weekly or Bi-Weekly. In Addition to Northern New Mexico, the Column Covers the Southern Rockies (New Mexico and Southern Colorado)

Regional Areas Rank High in Reader Poll


The 2001-2002 rankings of North America ski resorts compiled by Ski Magazine based on reader input found regional areas faring quite well-as usual.

In overall quality, Telluride came in at position 19, while Crested Butte ranked 26, Taos 27 and Durango Mt. Resort 30. The top five were Deer Valley, UT; Vail; Whistler/Blackcomb, BC; Aspen Mt.; and Sun Valley, ID. In the "snow quality" category, Wolf Creek was ranked number 3 (bested by Alta, UT; and Grand Targhee; WY), while Taos nailed down the 10-spot in "terrain" (Whistler/Blackcomb led, followed by Jackson Hole, WY; Alta; Mammoth Mt., CA; and Snowbird, UT). Taos also ranked high, number 5, in "challenge" (led by Jackson Hole; Snowbird; Mad River Glen, VT; and Alta). Wolf Creek scored well in "value" with a number 9 ranking, while Telluride took the number 4 slot in "scenery" (led by Wildcat, NH-go figure; Lake Louise, ALB; and Heavenly, CA) and the 10-spot in "dream vacations" (led by Whistler, Vail, Jackson Hole and Aspen Mt.).

Categories the regional resorts missed out on were "off-hill activities," "on-mountain food" and "grooming." That's quite a remarkable report card, especially considering the relatively small market the southern Rocky Mountains region represents in the overall ski/boarding scene in North America.

Here are some of the specific remarks readers made about the regional resorts. Telluride: "no liftlines;" "beautiful scenery;" "hard to get to;" "lots of this place scares the hell out of me." Taos: "a mountain that skis bigger than its vertical, especially if you hike;" "skiing off the Ridge is bliss;" "when it doesn't snow, it gets small;" "snobby old skiers think they're too good to allow boarders." Crested Butte: "Awesome steeps, bowls and chutes, and great, fun town;" "no crowds, very friendly;" "tough to get to;" "a little rusty around the edges." Durango Mt. Resort: "beautiful scenery, great weather, no crowds;" "nightlife at the resort is terrible;" "too many catwalks make for a lot of poling."

Here's a look forward at special events at regional resorts. Santa Fe will host the annual Gladfelter Memorial Bump Run for boarders and skiers on March 30. Sandia Peak is the site of the annual Southwest Snowboarding Competition in March (call 505/242-9133 for details). Angel Fire holds a boardercross and skiercross competition on Feb. 23, a halfpipe open competition for skiers and snowboarders on March 2, a Big Air Competition for skiers and snowboarders on March 3, and an alpine giant slalom race on March 9. Ski Apache is host to the annual Texas State Ski Championship March 3-4. The event is open only to Texas residents (ID required) and will feature divisions for men and women, boarders and skiers, in various age categories (ages 12-over 45). Grand prize for the fastest man and woman is a season ski pass, but prizes will be awarded in all categories. Entry costs $60 (which includes 2-day lift pass, T-shirt and race fee) in advance or $80 on race day. Taos checks in with a Ski Masters Week beginning Feb. 24 for skiers 50 years and up; a telemark ski week for free heelers beginning Feb. 24; a women's ski week March 3-8; and the Ernie Blake Weekend Celebration March 23-24. The latter is held annually in honor of the late, great resort founder, with a beer festival, torchlight parade and fireworks, live music and a mountain treasure hunt.

Colorado areas come up big with many special events. Durango Mt. Resort hosts Mardi Gras Week Feb. 25-March 1; the Dave Spencer Ski Classic (for adaptive sport participants) March 1-3; the Goliath Gelunde Jump March 1-3 (jumping on ordinary skis); the Subaru Master the Mountain event March 2-3 and the Pontiac Vibe SnowJam March 10-11. Telluride will hold an "in-drag" benefit race for Aids on Feb. 23; a women's ski week March 4-8; and its infamous "Surf the Rockies" bash March 30-April 7, including the bikini slalom, a dance on Main Street, the Slush Cup and an Easter egg hunt. Crested Butte is the site of the U.S. Telemark National Championships Feb. 27-March 3, with slalom, giant slalom and race categories open to citizens and licensed racers (details at The Kim Reichhelm's Women's Ski Adventure runs March 7-12; and the 8th annual Magna Bloc U.S. Extreme Boarderfest March 19-24.

Daniel Gibson of Santa Fe ( is the author of four books, most recently Pueblos of the Rio Grande: A Visitors Guide (Rio Nuevo Publishers). He has been skiing in New Mexico for 40 years, and publishes a biweekly snow sports column at

Snowbases slowly continue to improve throughout the southern Rockies region, but conditions are far from stellar. The best regional conditions are found in New Mexico at Taos and Ski Apache, and in Colorado at Wolf Creek, though most intermediate runs at almost all areas are in at least good shape; it's on advanced and expert slopes that things get sketchy.

Contact Ski N.M. at 505/984-0606 or for reports on New Mexico ski areas and to order a free winter trip guide; Colorado Ski Country at 303/825-SNOW or 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 Creek--800/754-9653.


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