Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

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Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:40 pm

I've been waiting many moons to hit Pajarito (Little Bird)... just because. I mountain biked there in 1991, but had never managed to ski it.
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Base Area

Jason e-mailed me this morning that Pajarito's trail map looked exactly like Belleayre in the Catskills, which is true, but the twisty fall-line trails are steeper and have a much more consistent pitch. Together with a modest vert (1,200), it does have a definite East Coast feel in the way the trails were cut, as did several of the ski areas on this trip. However, the views from the top are pure New Mexico... amazing. Unfortunately, my scenic pix do it very little justice. When I get home, I'll try to photoshop some together to approximate the panorama.
Picture 154a.jpg
Looking North (TSV in the distance)

On the far skier's left, there's an incredible view of the Valles Caldera... if I understood correctly, a huge volcano that blew its top, creating a large crater.
Picture 159a.jpg
Overlooking the Valles Caldera

While Tuesday's storm dumped 20 inches on Santa Fe, Pajarito only got four -- that's the way it rolls... everything is very localized. Conditions were hard and fast on the groomers, but the ungroomed trails had a nice dusting to glide through. I got a great tour from General Manager Tom Long and Ski School Supervisor John Viney... more in an upcoming article.
Picture 136a.jpg
Tom Long on Boomer
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Reverse Angle
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Picture 155a.jpg
John Viney on "Aspen"

BTW, I was always under the impression that Mad River Glen was the only not-for-profit ski area that is run by its members, but the similarities between MRG and Pajarito are interesting:
LASC (Los Alamos Ski Club) is a not-for-profit organization with a membership of about 2000 - 3000, who elect a volunteer board of nine directors, serving three-year terms. By charter, memberships (voting season pass holders) are limited to persons who primarily live or work in the county. Non-voting season passes may be purchased by anyone. The area is open to day skiers, who have constituted about a third of the users since the early days at Pajarito.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby Harvey44 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:35 pm

Great trip reports the whole week James. Very entertaining and unique.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:32 pm

Always interesting to go back to where you once lived. I actually ran into a few people whom I hadn't seen/spoken to in 15 years, and heard reports from others who knew friends and colleagues of mine. Six degrees of separation and all that, but in NM it's more like two degrees.

I really miss certain things about New Mexico. I've said many times that moving out west again probably isn't in the cards, but being based in Santa Fe would be more than acceptable for me. Who knows...
:-k
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby Pajarito-Bred » Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:33 pm

James, thanks for the TR on the old hometown hill.
The history of the area is long and interesting, after getting started by Manhattan Project scientists in the 40's. Not too many other ski area have been as much a labor of love of its skiers/members as Pajarito Mtn.
In my teen years, a crew would cut a new run each year, and we'd have a big work party in the fall to stack slash and roll logs, which would be burned after the first snow.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:14 am

Pajarito-Bred wrote:The history of the area is long and interesting.

I'm sure you've seen it, but there's a great pictorial history of Pajarito in the lodge showing every phase of the ski area, from the very first trails to the present. I wish every mountain did something like that.

The next big step there appears to be snowmaking. I understand why they'd do something like that operations-wise, but I like the fact that it's 100% natural right now.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby EMSC » Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:19 pm

I'd never skied NM prior to hitting Taos last year. Until then I hadn't realized the proximity of so many of the NM resorts. My Wife & I talked about doing exactly what you just did, spending a week hitting all of them just to check them out. Not going to happen this year, but hopefully in another year or two. Did you use one hotel/motel/condo for the week? or did you move around a few times? Taos looks pretty central to many of them.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:15 pm

EMSC wrote: Did you use one hotel/motel/condo for the week? or did you move around a few times? Taos looks pretty central to many of them.

We stayed five nights in a hotel that was a five-minute walk from the Taos town plaza. The four "Enchanted Circle" ski areas -- TSV, Angel Fire, Red River, and Sipapu (which isn't geographically along the circle, but close enough) -- are all a 25- to 40-minute drive from the hotel…similar to staying in SLC and driving to the Cottonwoods or PC. For SF and Pajarito, we decamped to Santa Fe for the final two nights.

Lots of people asked us why we bothered going anywhere other than TSV, but this was planned as a trip for me and the wife to get away by ourselves for a week, ski a lot, see some interesting landscapes, eat great food, and stay in a cool place that doesn’t look like all the McSki resorts and villages out west.

Marc C said something about having no problem exchanging “quaint” for big terrain and deep snow, but NM turned out to be a good compromise. There ain’t no way my wife is going to hike Kachina Ridge, so RR, AF, Sipapu, SF, and Pajarito worked out perfectly. Even got her into the trees a bunch of times. Luckily, we arrived just as a high-pressure system was moving out and got fresh snow most of the days.

So that’s my story.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby lookn4powder » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:31 pm

EMSC wrote:I'd never skied NM prior to hitting Taos... My Wife & I talked about doing exactly what you just did, spending a week hitting all of them just to check them out. ... Did you use one hotel/motel/condo for the week? or did you move around a few times? Taos looks pretty central to many of them.


Pajarito is one of the hidden small treasures of skiing. Back in the late-80's/early-90's I and my wife would stay Los Alamos with friends and ski Pajarito, Taos, and Santa Fe Ski Bowl from there. Back then the lodge was a primitive shack, which gave it the same feeling as Mad River Glen. Today, with the newer lodge the comparison still holds--but less so (Only MRG has a single chair and quad urinal). Back then (and likely now) Pajarito was only half open on Wed. and Fri., fully open on weekends and holidays, and closed otherwise. This gave the powder hound special opportunities. For example, when it dumped powder on Monday, one could ski Pajarito on Wed. and likely find untracked lines well into the afternoon--and on Friday/Sat the early birds could track Monday's powder in the newly opened half. AND...If you had a friend driving up for lunch on Wed., you could ski a the closed area down to the road and get a ride to the lodge. After one 17" dump, my wife and I skied our first powder 8's on a such a virgin-pow hill on Wed, and they were the only marks on that slope until Sat. morning.

But in answer to your question: Since our friends moved, we've settled on a middle ground. Typically, we fly into Albuquerque and stay overnight near the airport. THe next morning we'll drive to Los Alamos and ski, then we base ourselves in Santa Fe (Los Alamos has a lousy motel base), from which we'll ski Santa Fe SB and Pajarito. We then move our base to Taos (town). The drive up to Taos from Santa Fe is manageable, but if skiing Taos two or more days, the commute lengthens the day too much for us, and we don't like long daily drives in NM because large storms can leave one isolated--even in these days of cell communications. (Compared to the '80's, NM now feels downright crowded.) We haven't tried the Taos to Angel Fire drive because we always have such a good time at Taos.

Cheers,
Jeff
When encountering a skier, turn. Same goes for a tree.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby Admin » Tue Jun 28, 2011 1:37 pm

Unfortunately Parajito -- and Los Alamos itself -- is really under the gun right now:
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2011/0 ... -ski-area/
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:04 pm

What a mess. As you drive up Pajarito's access road, you can see the burn from a fire that was right on the ski area's doorstep.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby q » Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:08 pm

Weird, it has just appeared on the 2 minute BBC news between 2 TV programmes as I was reading this.

I loved my time in New Mexico where I skied a few resorts and stayed in Alamagordo and Santa Fe. Will definately go back some day.
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:15 pm

Not to be a ghoul, and I sincerely hope this doesn't happen to Pajarito, but have there been any ski areas that came back after being destroyed by a fire?
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby Admin » Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:20 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:What a mess. As you drive up Pajarito's access road, you can see the burn from a fire that was right on the ski area's doorstep.


That was the 2000 Cerro Grande fire. Unfortunately, fuels in Pajarito Canyon itself didn't burn in that fire.

I've just finished up the noon press conference and unfortunately there's more bad news - this fire did indeed burn the ski area:
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2011/0 ... -ski-area/
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby rfarren » Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:23 pm

Admin wrote:
jamesdeluxe wrote:What a mess. As you drive up Pajarito's access road, you can see the burn from a fire that was right on the ski area's doorstep.


That was the 2000 Cerro Grande fire. Unfortunately, fuels in Pajarito Canyon itself didn't burn in that fire.

I've just finished up the noon press conference and unfortunately there's more bad news - this fire did indeed burn the ski area:
http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2011/0 ... -ski-area/

What a drag!
Rob
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Re: Pajarito, NM 02/13/09

Postby EMSC » Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:24 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:Not to be a ghoul, and I sincerely hope this doesn't happen to Pajarito, but have there been any ski areas that came back after being destroyed by a fire?


Has a ski area been 'destroyed' by fire? Everyone knows of the arson at Vail of course. And I recall just from memory a few ski areas using snow making water systems to douse fires right at the ski area boundary... A couple have had base lodges burn down (not necessarily forest fire caused)...

One would expect that most of the place is covered by insurance... At least for lifts, structures etc... But obviously not the trees that define and protect the runs from sun/wind, etc...
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