I lost track of days and all thoughts of work. But, I was able to get up to ski at Santa Fe this past Friday with my daughter Isabel, home from college, and our thoughts were often directed towards Virginia’s spirit, so enamored with the beauty of the world and in particular New Mexico’s vast and dynamic skies.
I recalled that she had ignited my passion for skiing at the Santa Fe Ski Basin, as it was then called, when I was six years old — in lace up leather boots, and on wood skis with wood edges. With three other children skiers and a younger toddler to care for, mother rarely got to ski herself. I think of her cheerful and endless energetic nature, and ability to do six things at once. Someone was always losing a mitten or a hat or a shoe, or the snow had soaked through our pants or jacket. It was chaos but she handled it all with so much grace and goodwill.
We would park where the triple chair now begins and the entire base facility consisted of the original two-story section of Totemoff’s. It served as day lodge, ticket sales office, and other functions. A single two-seater red chair lift (one still sits on the deck at Totemoff’s) ran up Thunderbird, with a few pomas for beginners right below the lodge. They didn’t rope off the stream then and we were always getting sucked down into that terrain trap where we’d flounder around in the deep drifts. At the end of the day there was the aroma of wet wool, sunburned faces, and a drift into darkness as my father motored us south along U.S. 285 south, back to our home in the North Valley of Albuquerque.
I remember too the annual trip to Taos Ski Valley, where we were guests in the McGuckin cabin. We’d squeeze in a dozen or so kids and six or more adults and proceed to have a massive blast. We’d sled in the late afternoons and ski in the day, with the mothers cooking massive meals. In the frosty mornings, mom would shepherd us down off the hillside to the ski area below, marshaling tickets, poles and skis, and coordinating schedules as dad and my older brother David went off to ski the upper slopes. About the time every kid was on the mountain, it was time for lunch and more needy children. Did I say she was almost a saint?
She said she never really enjoyed skiing anyway, never having that break-through moment, the thrill of speed, the cold air on your check, the swooshing sound of ski edges on snow. Though always dressed to ski—and looking great in her stretch Bogners—if she ever had to chance to ski, she preferred just collapsing in a chair to chat and maybe have a drink with another of the selfless mothers with ski kids on the slopes. She was a super mom, and when it came time to gather up my own two kids and introduce them to skiing, I often had to channel her patience and cheer to maintain. How did she manager five? You call that a vacation! But she was always game and I owe my love of skiing, and the adventures it has presented me in my life to her — and the fact dad paid for it all. Both are now gone. The wheel turns. Hopefully it will bring another storm and I’ll go visiting again with my mother Virginia in the white room.
Regional conditions good to excellent.
The last series of storms brought much-needed snow to all resorts in the region, and all are operating at full capacity — except Sandia Peak, which only has some beginner terrain open, and Pajarito Mountain, which has a 19-inch base. One more storm there should do the trick.
Wolf Creek got slammed with a 73-inch smear, and has a 40-inch settled snow base with all runs open.
Ski Santa Fe picked up 14 inches and has a 37-inch base. From opening day it has provided some excellent early-season skiing and boarding, with some surprising fluff in the woods. The top of the mountain is now open, but only two expert runs are available — Roadrunner and Fall Line. Taos picked up nine inches on Christmas Eve and has a few hike-to runs open off Highline, a handful of expert runs and most intermediate runs open.
Red River is cruising along with a 35-inch base; Durango has opened its “backside” and more than a dozen expert runs.
Angel Fire is opening runs on its backside as well, with 57 percent of all terrain skiable.
Monarch saw 60 inches fall and has a settled base of 29 inches. All runs are open, including the supreme hike-to stuff in the Mirkwood section, and both terrain parks.
Crested Butte has 531 acres open, including 80 percent of its advanced slopes, though none of its famed extreme terrain.
Telluride nudged up to 21 inches and got its Apex life running, but not its great Gold Hill quad or the Prospect Express nor old Plunge chair.
Daniel Gibson of Santa Fe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.