For natural beauty, the “Land of Enchantment” may be the most underrated state in the country. As you’ll see from our list of the best New Mexico ski towns below, this is a place with stunning scenery and endless outdoor activities to enjoy.
Given its location in the Southwest, it would be easy to write off the state as a desert landscape that can safely be ignored by skiers. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. There are some excellent skiing opportunities in this state, and we’ll explore some of the best below. The Southern Rocky Mountains run into the northern part of the state, ending nearby Albuquerque.
Here is a collection of the top ski towns to live in and visit in New Mexico, in no particular order:
Los Alamos, NM
In many ways, what you find in Los Alamos is what you’ll find in most of the rest of New Mexico. There are wide-open spaces to be enjoyed, incredible views, recreational opportunities, and much more. As a ski town, Los Alamos offers easy access to Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, but skiing is just one of many reasons to explore this part of the state.
The city of Los Alamos offers many different museums, art and nature centers, as well as other cultural landmarks to experience. There are also parks to visit, tasty restaurants to try, and much more. For a city that only had a population of 12,978 as of the 2020 census, it delivers an incredible volume of things to do and see.
Getting back to the skiing, Pajarito Mountain Ski Area is only a 15-minute drive from the heart of town. This isn’t the biggest ski area in New Mexico, and it certainly pales in size to the resorts that you will find to the north in Colorado. With that said, there are still 44 trails to try out, and with six different lifts available, the lines are rarely long.
There are more than 1,000 vertical feet to provide some thrills, while a range of difficulty levels means everyone in your party will have a great day on the slopes.
The culture of New Mexico runs deep in Taos. This is a popular tourist destination for reasons far beyond skiing, including visits to the stunning Taos Pueblo and the impressive Gorge Bridge. Even if you didn’t bring your skis along for the trip, spending time in Taos would still be worth the effort to get to this part of northern New Mexico.
In addition to having plenty of things to do, you won’t have to worry about being hungry while in Taos. Many delicious local establishments are here to serve you, and most are located right on the main street through town – Paseo del Pueblo Sur. Mexican and southwestern cuisine is certainly popular here, but there are plenty of other types of food to enjoy, as well.
As was the case with Los Alamos, Taos also offers more than you might expect given the modest population of just 6,474 at the 2020 census. When you’re ready to dig your skis or board into the snow, the following options are nearby –
- Taos Ski Valley — This is the big destination in the area, and it just may be where you wind up spending most of your time. Some of the headlining statistics from Taos Ski Valley include a stunning summit elevation of almost 12,500 feet, more than 3,000 feet of vertical drop, 110 trails (with more than half in the expert category), and 300 inches of average annual snowfall.
- Red River Ski and Summer Area — A compact ski area with just over 200 skiable acres, there are other winter attractions here including tubing and a terrain park.
- Angel Fire Resort — For a ski area that has plenty of trails to explore for those in the beginner or intermediate categories, Angel Fire offers a great experience. More than 2,000 vertical feet await here, with a summit elevation above 10,600’ and five chairs to use to access the various parts of the property.
Santa Fe, NM
The capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe is yet another destination in this state that is loaded with history and rich culture. From the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and beyond, Santa Fe continues the theme of New Mexico being a place with nearly endless things to do.
If you were to opt for Santa Fe as your New Mexico ski town of choice, you would find yourself in a larger city with more services and amenities than the first two options on our list.
As of the 2020 census, this city was home to 87,505 people, making it the fourth-biggest city in the state. It’s also only an hour’s drive to the state’s largest city, Albuquerque, so you will have everything you could possibly need within a short drive of your lodging or your home.
Ski Santa Fe will be your preferred destination to hit the slopes if you visit or live in the Santa Fe area. This mountain has seven lifts that service a total of 88 trails.
The lower section of the mountain provides visitors with plenty of easy and moderate runs, with a few difficult runs included in the mix. When you ride to the upper mountain section, the distribution changes and the difficult runs become the norm.
The first thing that will jump out at you when considering making a trip to Cloudcroft is the elevation – the village itself sits at 8,675’ above sea level. Just 750 people called Cloudcroft home as of the 2020 census, so the mountain town vibe that some people love is sure to be alive and well here.
Despite the very sparse population, the village does offer a selection of dining and lodging options, meaning you won’t have to go far for basic services.
Ski Cloudcroft is just three miles from town, so you’ll be able to head to the slopes whenever the mood strikes. Here, you will find a small but enjoyable mountain, with 25 trails served by a double chairlift. Although small, there are some difficult runs included in the layout, so you aren’t likely to be bored.
Located a short distance north of Cloudcroft, Ruidoso is another high alpine town – although it comes in a couple of thousand feet lower than Cloudcroft, with an elevation of 6,920’. This is a larger town with a population of 7,679 as of the 2020 census, meaning there is a much bigger selection of dining, lodging, and shopping options.
There is plenty of outdoor recreation to be enjoyed around Ruidoso throughout the year, even after the slopes have shed their snow.
The primary skiing attraction in this part of New Mexico is Ski Apache. Here, you can enjoy 55 runs, and you will be above 11,000’ elevation when you reach the top of the hill. You’ll get to spend more time skiing and less time waiting thanks to 11 lifts. There are plenty of long runs you can piece together with various trails on this mountain, and the total vertical drop comes in at 1,900’.
If you’d like to enjoy skiing at nearby Ski Cloudcroft and Ski Apache, but would like the advantages of a bigger city, consider Alamogordo. It was home to 31,358 people as of the 2020 census and offers relatively convenient access to both ski areas.
Perhaps the most famous feature of the Alamogordo area is the White Sands National Park, which is a breathtaking sight and just a short drive from the city itself. And, continuing the theme of culture and history, Alamogordo has its share as well, including features like the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
New Mexico shares its northern border with Colorado, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that it offers outstanding skiing and snowboarding. Take some time to do a bit more research into the highlighted towns, and you just may decide to pay one of them a visit. Or even make a move to call New Mexico home for an upcoming winter. Safe travels and enjoy the slopes!