The air is thin and dry at 11,500 feet on a mid-February morning. The clouds have parted, the sun is shining, and 6 inches of fresh powder blanket the double-black runs off Taos Ski Valley’s Highline Ridge near Taos, New Mexico.
“There are no friends on a powder day,” the old saying goes. Still, a hard-charging local is patiently waiting for me to follow him down Tresckow, a tree run stashed with snow. But first I turn 360 degrees to soak in the 100-mile view. The arid Rio Grande Valley spans the west while 13,167-foot Wheeler Peak, the tallest in New Mexico, rises to the southeast. Before I drop in, I silently thank the snow gods that I live in a state that is an unsung mecca of skiing.
That doesn’t mean all of New Mexico’s eight alpine areas require boot packing to double–black-diamond runs. From Ski Apache, the southernmost ski area in the United States, owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe, to Red River, a family-owned mountain rising out of a historic mining town, there is a style of schussing here to match every skier and snowboarder profile.
New Mexico goes way beyond having just mountains with snow. It also has the heady combination of sunshine, Southwestern eats, and a melting-pot American Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo culture. Where else in the country will you find a green chile cheeseburger served at the base of almost every mountain and have après ski access to hot springs where Natives have been soaking for centuries?
Here’s a sampling of the ski ambience that only New Mexico offers: hearty, organic Southwest breakfasts; vistas that include sand dunes and cacti; and après-ski Silver Coin margaritas.