Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort
welcoming visitors for winter fun – safely
By Cindy Brown
Expect lots of changes to the ski experience when you visit your favorite resort this winter. Everything about skiing is changing due to the COVID virus. The ski industry is evolving to meet the challenge so that skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes this winter safely.
At Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, the family-friendly ski area 20 miles southeast of Taos, the staff is working hard to be ready to welcome visitors when they arrive this winter and to make sure that everyone enjoys the fun experience of being on the mountain. Some changes will involve advanced technology and others may feel like a throwback to the early days of skiing.
Over the summer, the crew at Sipapu has been creating more space for outdoor dining. “We are moving the food trailer over to the meadow and will have 40 to 50 new picnic tables there to allow for social distancing,” says John Paul (J.P.) Bradley. “A new food app will allow people to purchase their food on-line. We have been able to experiment this summer with our visitors, but by winter, we need to be ready to seat 300 people for lunch.”
Keeping with Sipapu’s reputation as a fun, quirky, family-oriented mountain, Bradley says some of the changes may feel like stepping back in time, as skiers may choose to boot up in the parking lot and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the car for lunch.
“We are rethinking everything: food service, ski school, rental equipment, and line mazes,” says Bradley. “We’re making plans for how the season looks in a COVID-world when guests and employees arrive at Sipapu.” He adds that everything is being examined – down to which cleaning solutions work best for helmets and other equipment.
Start of the Season
An early September snow got the Sipapu staff highly motivated to get the area ready for the start of the ski season. The goal is to get open by Thanksgiving, although that depends on completing all the necessary changes and Mother Nature.
“We will open when all of our systems are in place and when snow conditions allow,” says Bradley. “We need the green light from the State of New Mexico on our COVID-safe practices and we will need snow or cold enough temperatures for snow-making.” Sipapu opened on Halloween in 2019 and although he is hopeful, it is unlikely that history will repeat itself this year.
Ski industry collaboration
The Sipapu staff learned from their summer operations and has been brainstorming potential changes at their resort with others in the ski industry. Webinars and Zoom meetings have allowed the area operators to share what they are thinking and also to learn from the ski resorts in the southern hemisphere that are already open.
“We are a small tight knit group,” observes Bradley. “We are collaborating through Ski New Mexico, as well as the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). There is a national plan for the more than 300 member ski areas in the US.” The new motto for NSAA is “Ski Well, Be Well.”
Doing it all
Bradley is a hands-on general manager. While waiting for an excavator to warm up, so he could climb aboard and fill in a trench, he paused to talk to the Taos News by phone. “At a small resort, you do it all: from pulling traction for a broken femur to finding a mustard package for a guest,” he says.
Bradley was born and raised in Monte Vista in southern Colorado and his home area was Wolf Creek. After getting a degree in ski area management at Colorado Mountain College, he came to New Mexico. He’s been at Sipapu for 19 years as mountain manager and now general manager.
Don’t be the reason
If there is one important message Bradley has for everyone planning their ski season – it is this: “Don’t be the reason we lose our season. Don’t come out to ski if you are feeling sick or if you are not willing to comply with our safety precautions. We have got to do it right,” he says.
Bradley reminds us that if we extend an olive branch to each other, we all get to enjoy a powder day. “It would be a cold and dark winter without skiing,” he says. “Let’s have a good winter; let’s do it right for each other.”
Get your pass now
Season passes are now available on the website at www.sipapu.ski. Look for updates to get the most up-to-date information.
Sipapu is the oldest ski area in Northern New Mexico. It was founded in 1952 by Lloyd and Olive Bolander and is still family-owned and operated. It has 205 skiable acres with 43 runs and four terrain parks:
-20% beginner terrain
Average snowfall – 190 inches.
Base elevation – 8,200 feet