New Mexico Ski Resorts Embracing Off-Season Activities

By Teya Vitu, Santa Fe New Mexican

Kerrie Pattison | Taos Ski Valley

December 26, 2019 – Summer is coming for ski resorts that only recently have fully embraced the warm half of the year.

For Taos Ski Valley, 2020 will be the first year New Mexico’s largest ski resort regards itself as a full-fledged year-round venue.

Instead of becoming a ghost town in summer, as was the case as recently as five years ago, Taos Ski Valley has evolved into a robust summer playground with conferences, weddings, events and new outdoor recreation venues.

Summer now makes up about 5 to 7 percent of its annual revenue and could climb to 15, 20, even 25 percent in the coming years, Taos Ski Valley CEO David Norden said.

Ski resorts around the country, particularly in Colorado, have added a full complement of summer activities in the past five to 10 years. Mountain biking trails have become a staple and more than 25 ski resorts have installed mountain roller coasters, something Sandia Peak near Albuquerque has been considering for a number of years.

The ski industry has recognized for a couple decades that skier numbers have been flat, prompting a look at the other eight months of the year. Angel Fire Resort has become a mountain biking mecca and Red River Ski and Summer Area, as the name indicates, has robust summer offerings with an aerial park, mountain tubing, a zip line and mountaintop disc golf.

“Red River has been very aggressive with summer,” said George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico, the trade association that promotes skiing in the state. “Their summertime has three times the visitation than winter. The ski area is able to capitalize on that.”

The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Act of 2011 has opened numerous ski resorts for business in summer during the 2010s. This congressional legislation allows resorts with ski area permits on U.S. Forest Service lands to add “appropriate additional seasonal or year-round activities and facilities on National Forest System land.”

Concurrent with this, Taos Ski Valley embarked on its five-year, $300 million “renaissance” that expanded the ski terrain, added the resort’s first high-speed quad chair lift, created a children’s ski area, renovated restaurants and built an 80-room facility called The Blake hotel. The Blake was recently named the nation’s best ski hotel in USA Today‘s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Each of the past four years, Taos Ski Valley has doubled the number of weddings and conferences with the new and freshened facilities, Norden said.