Ski fans anxious for start of season

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Day after day after day of postcard-blue skies makes many an eastern New Mexico resident cheery. But, these days, some citizens are growing more anxious by the minute.
That would be the local fans of skiing.

Though the nearest slopes are at least three hours away, Clovis powder adherents know that clear skies in the eastern part of the state often translate into no snow prospects elsewhere in the state. And that’s just what has happened so far this fall.

“Let me put it this way — I haven’t winterized my boat just yet. I may have to go back out to the lake,” said Clovis’ Bryan Guthals, still weighing other recreational opportunities as the traditional start of the ski season approaches.

Most ski resorts in New Mexico are targeting the first couple of weeks in December to officially open their runs. As they wait for the white stuff to fall, man-made snow machines are being put into action.

“Snow or no snow, we can cover 70 percent of the mountain,” said Deborah Lake, marketing manager at Sipapu.

A ski area 18 miles southeast of Taos, Sipapu touts itself as one of the earliest openers in the state and plans on having runs open beginning today.

Sipapu will be open this weekend and next, relying on man-made snow, while waiting for its official opening date of Dec. 8 to be running every day.

But does man-made snow mean ski operators aren’t keeping a hopeful eye on weather reports?

“It’s supposed to snow on Saturday,” Lake said.

“It’s not starting out very thrilling. But it’s been this bad before and turned out real good,” said Guthals, who usually leaves Clovis every other weekend to ski. “I’m hoping it turns around.”

Guthals’ favorite spot, Taos ski valley, traditionally opens on Thanksgiving Day. It did again this year, “thanks to the heroic efforts” of snow machines, according to its information message recording. Most ski resorts are fond of listing how deep the snow is, but Taos hasn’t begun bragging yet this winter.

“They’re very conscientious of monitoring their snow depth. With this kind of weather it’s man-made — it’s not that great to get out on,” Guthals said.

“Man-made up at Taos, it’s far up enough north to where it’s not bad snow. But it’s still not the real thing, it’s more of a slush. It’s been so warm and, the worst thing, it’s been so windy. That’s about as bad as being warm. The wind really does a number on the snow. It either packs it so hard it’s ice, or it’s literally like a blast furnace, like now, and just melts it.”

Another Clovis resident, Rick Cornelison, said his favorite spot to ski, Pajarito near Los Alamos, doesn’t produce man-made snow.

“I go (skiing) all the time,” said Cornelison, who says he’s learning to cope with the current situation — sort of.

“Usually, around midnight, I quit crying,” he said.

Ski resorts

Here are some of New Mexico’s popular ski resorts with telephone numbers:

• Angel Fire
Main: 377-6401
Snowfall: 1-800-633-7463

• Pajarito Mountain, Los Alamos
Main: 662-5725
Snowfall: 662-7669

• Red River
Main: 754-2223
Snowfall: 754-2220

• Sandia Peak, Albuquerque
Main: 242-9052
Snowfall: 857-8977

• Sipapu Ski, Vadito
Main: 1-800-587-2240
Snowfall: 1-800-587-2240

• Ski Apache, Ruidoso
Snowfall: 257-9001

• Ski Santa Fe
Main: 982-4429
Snowfall: 983-9155

• Taos Ski Valley
Main: 776-2291
Snowfall: 776-2291