Destination Ski

Four ski areas and forays into wilderness make Taos a skier’s paradise

By Jay Foley

While some people may not recognize New Mexico as a skiing or winter destination, those that have discovered it typically fall in love with it — and many have been enjoying the area for generations. Steeped in culture, history and diversity, there are four ski areas less than an hour from Taos, and each is unique. 

If you’re a skier looking for the steep and narrow, Taos Ski Valley is one of the best in the country for extreme terrain. Sipapu offers a friendly, all-inclusive old-school ski vibe. Located in a historic Western town, Red River is a well-run ski area with a fun layout and great intermediate runs that attracts return visitors from around the Southwest. Angel Fire resort has some of the nicest long cruisers anywhere. It is remote, yet easy to get to, and offers many options. 


Northern New Mexico also has plenty of backcountry skiing, snowshoe paths and ski-area alternative adventure. The international outfit Mountain Skills has local expert guides available to take you into the mountains on a backcountry ski tour, a relaxing 1-to-3-hour snowshoe trip, or a warm winter climb in the Rio Grande Gorge.

Red River Ski Area

For 40 years, Red River has opened each year on the day before Thanksgiving, and this year will be no different. Each year, this ski area strives to improve its snowmaking capabilities, and according to mountain manager Walt Foley, this year will feature more gun towers, portable guns and upgrades to the on mountain snowmaking. 

The adjacent town of Red River is family-friendly with a fun nightlife. The town was founded in 1895 — it maintains the look and feel of an old Western style mining and mountain town. The Red River Ski Area base is in the heart of town and has easy access to lifts and a welcome lack of crowds. 

The ski area has been in existence for over 60 years and has continued to grow and improve. The intermediate ski runs are super fun, and the lifts and terrain are diverse: 64 trails, 7 lifts and more than 200 skiable acres, combined with an average of 214 inches of snowfall and more than 300 days of sunshine a year make Red River a fun place to ski.

Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort

Founded in 1952, Sipapu maintains its old-school charm, comfort and accessibility. Sipapu’s Nov. 17 opening will, as in years past, make it the earliest ski area opening in the state.

The base area is easy to negotiate, quaint, and a nice place to spend the day before or after skiing. Check out the Riverside Café and the Paradise Riverside Bar: they offer great food options and a beautiful outdoor setting. The small base area makes Sipapu one of the most charming ski areas in the country.

With some of the best ski and lodging deals in the state, Sipapu has continued its commitment to keeping ski prices affordable for everyone to enjoy the sport. Check out its website and calendar to find all sorts of weekly and monthly lodging, ski freebies and discounts.

Taos Ski Valley


Taos skiing is legendary among expert skiers and has plenty to offer beginners and intermediates as well. TSV has just replaced two chairlifts: Lift 4 was replaced with a high-speed detachable quad, and the Pioneers Lift was replaced with a fixed-grip triple chair. Both new lifts will help visitors move more efficiently on the mountain. 

In addition, Taos Ski Valley is introducing three new trails — Ponzi Scheme and Cache Stash, both single black diamonds, and Dadou’s, a double black diamond.

TSV’s Ski Week courses provide a full week of instruction to locals and visitors. This is a great way to improve your skiing as well as gain personal connections and friendships. The Ski Week is a long-standing and respected program created by Jean Meyer.

The Martini Tree Bar, which has been closed for several seasons, is set to make its return this year. The bar was named after a tradition of Taos Ski Valley’s founder, Ernie Blake, who would stash glass porrons filled with gin martinis in the trees throughout the mountain for visitors to find. Visitors will be able to unwind and enjoy a vibrant atmosphere, tasty bites and a wide array of beverages. The Martini Tree will operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings.

Angel Fire Resort

With wide-open views, Angel Fire Resort offers a totally different feeling than any other New Mexico mountain resort. It is set in an open valley near Eagle Nest Lake on the east side of Wheeler Peak, an incredible place for stargazing and panoramic vistas.

This is the only place in New Mexico where you will find night skiing! Angel Fire is a true four-season resort with some of the best downhill mountain biking trails in the country. The small town of Angel Fire offers plenty of lodging opportunities and is a good place to get away from it all.

Angel Fire Resort has some of the best cruiser runs in the state. With 80 trails, 30 acres of glades and a vertical drop of 2,077 feet, there is plenty of skiing to enjoy. Also check out its 12 kilometers of Nordic ski terrain.

Mountain Skills Guides 

Looking for an exciting alternative to the resorts, but still want to get out and enjoy nature? Taos County has plenty of options to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature during the winter months. Take a guided, joyful romp on snowshoes, or snowshoe up a steep trail for a vigorous workout. Hire a professional guide for a tour into the backcountry and learn how to use avalanche beacons, probes and shovels, or search for fresh powder stashes hidden deep in the mountains on a guided tour.

Mountain Skills has been operating in Taos for more than 25 years, and its guides are seasoned local professionals that can guide you into the hidden corners and stunning landscapes surrounding Taos. 

The varied terrain, elevation and sun aspects in this region create microclimates throughout the winter months, offering all sorts of outdoor options, even warm winter rock climbing. The friendly, professional guides at Mountain Skills will be available to outfit you with the equipment and knowledge you will need to attain any outdoor goals this winter.

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