Taos, N.M., seen from down low (left) and up high (right)
julien mcroberts

Don’t let the hot, arid plains fool you — New Mexico is one of the country’s premier downhill destinations.

Think of New Mexico, and sun-seared desert punctuated with cacti might come to mind before snowy alpine slopes. But from November to April, the Land of Enchantment is a Rocky Mountain playground with cold smoke powder and turquoise skies for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. New Mexico’s mountains and climate combine to create eight ski areas that range from beginner bunny slopes to white-knuckle double blacks.

“One thing about New Mexico skiing is that a lot of areas here are still family-owned,” says Adriana Blake, administrative manager at Taos Ski Valley and granddaughter of property founder (and New Mexico ski legend) Ernie Blake. “It’s world-class skiing without trying to be Disneyland, and you have all the other attractions that already bring people to New Mexico.”

George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico, says New Mexico skiing and snowboarding are well-kept secrets from most of the country, though word is getting out. The state saw a 19 percent increase in lift tickets last year. All of New Mexico’s areas have terrain parks where fearless boarders and skiers can take big jumps and ride rails, as well as snowmaking capabilities to assist Mother Nature.

“Oftentimes, when the conditions aren’t great in other parts of the country, we have great skiing,” Brooks says. “We get Gulf Coast storms that hit our dry climate and elevation, and we get dumped on with huge fluffy powder followed by bluebird days.”

What New Mexico lacks in glitzy après-ski nightlife it more than makes up for with its chile-based cuisine, photogenic landscapes, cozy casitas, museums, art, shopping and cultural destinations such as Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The towns of Angel Fire, Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Ruidoso are all tourist destinations in their own right.

“I think skiing here is more authentic — more like it used to be,” Brooks says. “It’s easy to get to all the areas, and you can ski several on the same trip without breaking your budget.”

The next time you plan a ski trip, be it an adults-only gathering or a family-fun vacation for everyone, consider one of these eight downhill areas in New Mexico.

Visit www.skinewmexico.com for more information, deals and current conditions.  Visit www.newmexico.org for general visitor information.