Reviewed by Jake Davis
Dec 04, 2008
1,294 acres of fall-away chutes, spacious glades, and pillowy moguls, with extra rewards if you’re willing to hike Kachina Peak
The Stash: Take Sunset, skier’s right of the Tesuque Peak chair. Wiggle through the fir, and tuck onto slender Luge, before dropping into boulder-strewn Avalanche Basin.
Seven things you need to know to ski Red River.
1. You'll ski Angel Fire because you want an affordable family destination or a place where all of your friends, experts and beginners, can find terrain and a resort experience. CEO Pat Brunstad (the fact that it even has a CEO separates it from the other areas in New Mexico) came to Angel Fire in September 2008 and has been hard at work changing the resort from a disorganized, sprawling area into a first rate family destination ever since. On hill, you'll find a wide array of mellow glades, long groomers, and a fantastic ski school. Off hill you'll find hotels, condos, and a variety of other winter sports. But don't think you can't be challenged here, Angel Fire has a selection of steeps that see little traffic.
2. Bring your own groceries. Angel Fire isn't a town. Its smattering of shops, hotels, and condos are spread throughout the resort property and it lacks a robust grocery store. Most accommodations at Angel Fire include well appointed kitchens, so on your drive in stop by Cids' Food Market in Taos to stock up.
3. Don't forget the night skiing. And shovel racing. Angel Fire is the only resort in New Mexico that offers night skiing starting at 4 p.m. But the signature event at Angel Fire is the annual shovel race every February. A word of caution: They are dedicated shovel riders. This isn't the sort of event where you ride your shovel dressed like Snuffleupagus while pounding a beer; instead, expect spandex speed suites and helmets.
4. How to ski a powder day: If it hasn't been windy the night before, start the day on Silver Chute and Maxwell's Grant. Both runs are accessed by sidestepping up a small rise on your left after exiting the Chile Express Chair. Wind and sun take their toll on the snowpack here, so hit them early. After two runs, the patrol should have dropped the rope on Domingo, the wide open run directly below the Chile Express. Stay out of the middle of the run as it's rocky and a few chunks of concrete remain from an older lift system. On the backside, stick to Charisma and Hari Kari, two of the steepest lines on the mountain that get passed over for Hell's Bells and Angel's Plunge. On the off chance you start running out of powder, duck down the trees to skiers left of Hari Kari. They look tight, but you'll find lines all the way to the bottom.
5. Where to ski three days later: Head toward Angel's Plunge. Instead of dropping into the run, keep traversing further into the trees. If the snow is deep enough, this area, with its backcountry feel and cliff lines, can keep you going all day. Another option is to take the 10-minute hike out to Nitro, Detonator, and Ba-Da Bing. Beware, Nitro and Detonator both have long, flat run outs. Instead of taking the runs to the bottom, cut skier’s left after the first steep pitch and head back to Arriba, a blue cruiser that goes straight to the lift.
6. Where to stay: Angel Fire Resort is as much real estate development as it is ski hill, with privately owned homes making up the majority of lodging options. Most are available for rent and you can easily find a comfortable home or cabin for a week's stay. With some places sleeping up to 20 people, you and all your friends can stay in a small mansion for about $30 a night [discoverangelfire.com]. Save Cash: Head to Eagles Nest, about 11 miles away where you can hang out in one of New Mexico’s last frontier towns. Try the Laguna Vista Cabins [lagunavistalodge.com]. Or stay next to the lifts at the Lodge at Angel Fire where a room for two adults with lift tickets and breakfast is only $178 per night. Splurge: The irony about Angel Fire's resort-style vibe is that, short of actually buying a house, nothing is that expensive. In fact, even as a family, it will be easy to find an affordable condo or small house for $200 per night.
7. Where to eat. Dinning options in Angel Fire are limited, which is why it's best to rent a house or condo with a kitchen and do your own cooking. On a night out, head to the Lodge at Angel Fire's En Fuego wine bar for nightly live music, then have a prime rib at the Caliente Grill. For a more low key evening, try the Roasted Clove's Burger Night every Monday or swing in for a cooking class during the week. If you need an excuse to break out your white dinner coat with tails, wait until this May when Angel Fire opens its new $15 million country club.