By Ellen Miller-Goins
With views that include Touch-Me-Not, Baldy, Wheeler Peak (highest in the state), Eagle Nest Lake and the Moreno Valley, Angel Fire Resort features expansive, long trails. Especially when those views are combined with 2,077 vertical feet, you can ski for a while before you must get on a lift again.
Roy and G.F. LeBus laid the foundation for Angel Fire in 1955 and the resort opened for skiing in the winter of 1966. Many skiers were transported up the mountain that year with a Thiokol Spryte snowcat. The world-famous shovel races had their inception when workers rode grain scoops down the hill at day’s end. The first formal competition was in 1979.
Do you live to ride? Angel Fire Resort offers New Mexico’s only night skiing and snowboarding on weekends and holidays from 4-8 p.m. on the front side of the mountain. Tickets are $12 with a same-day ticket or $24 without. Terrain includes 50 acres of groomed trails, as well as the Night Rider terrain park.
If the kids still have energy to burn at the end of the standard daytime session, night skiing is a great way to let them do it. Is also a great way for grownups to get more slope time. The sun is still up at 4 p.m. when it opens, but remember, the darker it gets, the more the temperature drops. Night skiing is cold. Dress in layers and bring hand and toe warmers since extremities are usually the first to get cold. Wear goggles with a clear or yellow lens to get the best visibility. Also, because it can prove difficult to see people or objects, take it slow and always watch your surroundings. The best skiing is often during a snowstorm; the temperature tends to be warmer because of the clouds.
“Sunset private lessons” are available during night skiing with special discounted rates for skiers and snowboarders singly or in small groups up to four of similar ability. To book, call Mountain Reservations at (844) 218-4107.
Intermediate and advanced snow hounds can also take advantage of expanded hours at Angel Fire Resort with “First Tracks,” when you can load the lift at 8 a.m. Dress warmly and be at the base of the Chile Express by 7:45 a.m. “First Tracks” is not for beginner skiers looking to enjoy green runs. Cost is $20 for the public with the purchase of a lift ticket or season pass, free for resort members. Availability is limited, so sign up with Angel Fire Resort Guest Services at the office in the base area or by calling (575) 377-4357.
The resort also offers free mountain tours at 11 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Ski with experienced, local guides. Learn the history of how Angel Fire Resort was born, Wild West legends and much more. Meet the guides in the bright yellow jackets at the top of Chile Express chairlift. Just look for the sign. (You need intermediate ability to participate.)
Angel Fire Resort will open a new hike-to-access black diamond trail this winter, to be named C-4, in what was previously out-of-bounds territory north of the ski mountain. C-4 is a new 9-acre challenge with a 1,000-foot vertical drop for the expert skier and a must-hit on a bluebird sky powder day. From the top of the Southwest Flyer quad chairlift, skiers and snowboarders will need to hike for 15 minutes to reach this isolated trail, which will be opened when snow conditions allow. Additionally, skiers and snowboarders can enter the black diamond trails Nitro, Detonator and Baa-Da-Bing via the same hike-to-access trail as the C-4 run, which all descend into the Back Basin.
Thrill seekers can also check out four advanced glade areas (or treed trails) totaling 30 acres. Under the direction of terrain park designer Jon Eppler, Angel Fire Resort’s three parks – Liberation Park, Sweet Street and Night Rider – will be expanded with new or improved features and jumps. Eppler, who has created parks for major events, including The Winter X-Games and The Burton U.S. Open, completely redesigned Liberation Park in 2014 and has continued to develop and improve the parks each season. redesigned Liberation Park in 2014 and has continued to develop and improve the parks each season.
Other improvements include upgraded snowmaking capabilities and to the Chile Express chairlift. New signage has also been installed. Angel Fire now has two new TA-40 fan guns, a newly released TR8 demo fan gun and some new state-of-the-art stick guns. Additionally, the resort has installed 2,900 feet of new snowmaking lines on Jaspers, a popular blue run. Alongside Exhibition and Headin’ Home, this improved groomed run will offer skiers an alternate way down the mountain in the early season.
Furthermore, the resort’s famous Chile Express – a high-speed, detachable quad chairlift – is receiving an electrical upgrade. Built in the mid-1990s and known as one of the longest and fastest chairlifts in North America, the upgrade will allow the scenic chairlift ride to run smoother and with more efficiency.
“This year, we’re adding brand-new way-finder signs on the mountain,” explained Andy Whitacre, director of mountain operations, Angel Fire Resort. “While it offers our mountain an updated look, it will also help our guests navigate the newer named trails.”
What else does Angel Fire Resort offer? How about a five-lane tubing hill, a family snow play hill for sledding outside the country club, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ski and snowboard lessons for every age and ability level, including adaptive lessons. Instructors trained in adaptive techniques can teach a variety of students. A 72-hour advance reservation is strongly recommended and a minimum of 24 hours is required. Call (844) 218-4107.
After all of that adventure, food and drink come to mind. Angel Fire has that covered, too, from pizza to fine dining, such as Angel Fire Resort’s Elements. For the fourth year in a row, Elements, located in the country club, was recognized by Wine Spectator for its world-class wine selection.
Angel Fire Resort offers convenient free parking in three large nearby parking lots (green, blue and black) with free shuttles during the winter season to and from the base area of the ski mountain. Shuttles also stop at designated condominium stops. There is a $1 per ride fee (cash only) for each pickup and drop-off at these stops or, for greater convenience, purchase a 12-trip punch card for $10 at The Lodge’s front desk or from the shuttle driver.
Free shuttles are also offered from The Lodge to the country club during the winter season with a daily shuttle to the Angel Fire Country Club Nordic Center.
Besides skiing, you can find ample sports and entertainment opportunities in Angel Fire, including snowmobile tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides, après dining and dancing or shopping. Angel Fire has many locations very close by to enjoy a nice gentle slope of a hill for sledding or for your toboggan during the winter months. Additionally, Olympic Park offers a family snowman-building outing, good old-fashioned snowball fights and more.
Angel Fire features unique shops and ski shops where you’ll find ski clothing, gear and accessories, souvenirs, T-shirts and sweats, women’s ready-to-wear apparel, fine arts and crafts, bath luxuries, liquor, snacks, espresso, food – you name it.
Opening day, Dec. 8, 2017
Christmas Eve, Torchlight Parade/skiing with Santa, Dec. 24
New Year’s Eve, Torchlight Parade, Dec. 31
Big Ol’ Texas Weekend, Jan. 26-28. A fun-filled weekend celebrating Angel Fire Resort’s country roots with live music, Texas Hold’em tournament, “The Big Texan Steak Challenge” and “Brew Ski.”
World Championship Shovel Races, Feb. 2-3. The 39th World Championships are open to anyone with a basic snow shovel and some nerve. Competitors sit on the scoop of a standard aluminum snow shovel, handle pointed downhill, then lift their hands and feet. Gravity does the rest. Top speeds regularly exceed 60 miles per hour. The high-speed race draws racers and spectators from all over the world.
Military Winterfest, Feb. 22-26. Active duty, retired, National Guard, reserve, veterans, Gold Star and their families are invited to visit Angel Fire for six days of indoor and outdoor and adaptive winter activities, with a special appearance by former U.S. Army Gold Knight and double amputee Dana Bowman as he parachutes into the resort. There’s also an honorary military flyby. Visit veteranswellnessandhealing.org for more details.
Mardi Gras celebration, Feb. 9-13. Celebrate Mardi Gras in Angel Fire with live music, parades, daily special activities and a masquerade ball.
Spring break celebration, March 12-23
Closing day, March 25
For more details about Angel Fire winter rates, lift ticket pricing, trails and reservations, visit angelfireresort.com or call (800) 633-7463.
Season: Dec. 8, 2017-March 25, 2018
Base elevation: 8,600 feet
Peak elevation: 10,677 feet
Vertical drop: 2,077 feet
Average annual snowfall: 210 inches
Terrain parks: Three
Trails (81 total): 21 percent beginner, 56 percent intermediate, 23 percent advanced, 560-plus acres
Nordic Center: 12 kilometers of terrain for classic and skate skiing and snowshoeing; five trails – one beginner, two intermediate, two advanced
Lifts: Two high-speed quads, three doubles, two surface
Snowmaking capabilities: 52 percent of mountain, 90 pecent of beginner terrain
Lift hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Night skiing hours: 4 p.m.-8 p.m. (weather permitting, this is available on weekends and holiday peak periods).