The end of Albuquerque’s long stretch of late-summer weather can’t come too soon for those of us who enjoy winter sports that require snow—especially skiing. Most of New Mexico’s major ski areas are well north of the city, but Albuquerqueans are fortunate to have their very own ski resort, the Sandia Mountains that loom over the area with their 8–10,000-plus-foot peaks, average 110-inch annual snowfall, and its long eastern slope, giving the area a vertical drop of 1,700 feet.
The Sandia Peak Ski Area has announced its 2016–17 season, beginning on December 17 and ending in mid-March. It has five lifts and 35 trails, of which 35 percent are for beginners, 55 percent for intermediate skiers and 10 percent for experts. During the Christmas-New Year’s season (December 19–January 3), the resort will be open seven days a week; from then till March, it will operate Wednesdays through Saturdays. Lift tickets will cost $55 for a full day, $40 for a half. Rentals and instruction are available.
Perhaps you are among those who look forward to the other kind of skiing, the one that doesn’t require lifts—or lift tickets. Cross-country skiing, that is, skiing off-trail or in variable terrain, employs a different kind of ski, long and slender, with bindings that don’t fasten your heels to the skis, so as to permit climbing and turning. You can just find some snow and some pretty country, strap on your skis, and set off. The New Mexico Cross-Country Ski Club arranges day trips to the Sandias and the Jemez Mountains just to our north—the beautiful Valles Cordera is a favorite destination—and organizes longer trips to areas with groomed trails in other parts of the state. It also offers rentals and free lessons to beginners. For more information, contact them at nmccskiclub.org.