It’s been more than a year since I strapped on a pair of skis, so I’m feeling the familiar little knot of nerves in my stomach when we pull into the parking lot of Ski Santa Fe. When I ski, I tentatively say I need a refresher so I can stand up and move again, but then I can graduate to moving down trails marked as blue squares at a hesitant speed after a few practice green runs.
Walking into the rental shop at Ski Santa Fe, I’m immediately put at ease. The brightly lit room is well staffed, equipment hangs organized and cleaned in orderly rows and staff members smile, happy to help me figure out what gear best suits me on the mountain. The five people I’m traveling with have skill levels ranging from brand new beginners to experts who whip down black diamonds. I’m somewhere in the middle, hovering, I believe, between the green and blue runs. As a result, I’m given a guide of my own to get me back on my feet and on the hills that make most sense for me.
Mark, a veteran on the mountain who has been in Santa Fe for several years, is tasked with hanging out with me for the day. He oversees much of the ski instruction at Ski Santa Fe, so after making sure everything is squared away with the classes for the day, the two of us take off. We start with a few simple runs down Easy Street, and I quickly zip from top to bottom, skidding on my blade edges as I make turns from side to side on the trail.
We move up to the longer, wider Broadway trail, then head up to the highest point of the ski area to catch some of the longer intermediate runs. At 12,075 feet, the highest accessible area at Ski Santa Fe is literally breathtaking. The high elevation of the Santa Fe area is one of this region’s secrets. When people think about stellar ski conditions, the likes of Colorado and Wyoming come to mind, but rarely does New Mexico make it to the top of the list. Because Ski Santa Fe is at such a high elevation, people may feel a few pangs of altitude sickness, but they’re also usually treated to hundreds of inches of snow each season. And, because so few people know about New Mexico as a ski destination, as we make our way onto the blue runs, it becomes obvious to me that we can basically claim this mountain as our own.
Ski Santa Fe is a good-sized, full-service ski area with seven lifts and 77 trails. It’s just an hour or so from Santa Fe’s downtown area, so lodging and facilities are easily accessible. January and February are the ski area’s slowest times of the year, and, in the middle of the week, the mountain is practically a ghost town. I hate having to write that, because the truth is that Ski Santa Fe is a stellar ski area with incredibly reasonable lift ticket prices, modern facilities and a seasoned staff and more people really should take advantage of what it has to offer.
However, I also appreciate having the ability to walk right onto ski lifts and ski long, smooth swaths across the open runs without worrying about snowboarders whizzing past at dizzying speeds or navigating around hordes of skiers also making their way to the bottom of the mountain. Once we move away from the center of the mountain, some of the runs—for example, Sunrise, Alpine and the Lower Burro—are particularly void of people, and Mark and I have the wilderness to ourselves.
The motion and feel of skiing always comes back to me—the quick turns on the edges of the skis, the pressure exerted on my calves, the balance over my core—and by the end of the day, Mark and I have successfully made several runs down most of the blue runs. I end my first day at Ski Santa Fe free of falls with a smile on my face. The nervous knot has dissolved, and by the time we arrive at Totemoff’s Bar & Grill, located mid-mountain, for a post-ski drink, I’m ready to tackle runs as a solid intermediate skier. No more of this waffling on the fringes of beginner mode for me.
For more information on Ski Santa Fe, please visit the ski area’s website.
I was a guest of Ski New Mexico during my time at Ski Santa Fe, but all opinions stated here are my own.