Press trips are not vacations, but they are interesting and fun
“Can I carry your bags?” people often ask when I’m heading for a writers’ meeting or a press trip. If they only knew what these jam-packed itineraries are like, they wouldn’t be so quick to offer. They are not the stuff that vacations are made of. The schedules are jam-packed to provide writers with as much information as possible in as short a time as feasible.
I have just spent five days in New Mexico with a small group (just three of us, which is small) of journalists visiting the four biggest ski areas of northern New Mexico. We stayed in five different lodgings (two hotels in Santa Fe at the beginning and end of the trip, a condo at Taos Ski Valley, a motel in Red River and a hotel at Angel Fire), and we skied four areas. I previously visit been to each of these resorts between two and seven times, so for me, it was catching up on developments since my last visit, and I find this invaluable .
After two big-snow seasons, New Mexico’s 2010-11 snowfall is subpar, but only the steepest terrain was affected. Black-diamond runs are closed. Everything else is open with a combination of natural and and machine-made snow and well groomed. Every ski area has continued to expand and impove their snowmaking and snow farming operations, and the skiing was good, even if all runs were not open. Northern New Mexico ski areas have also enlarged, improved and added to their terrain parks, a boon to families with snowboarders and twin-tippers.
Here are some of the changes since I last skied in New Mexico:
Taos Ski Valley. The terrrain park is bigger and more refined than in its early years, and there’s now a small training park on the frontside too. Taos has gotten approval for two new chairlifts, one each on the front and backsides and might put them in starting in 2012.
Red River. One of my favorite things about this congenial, family-friendly ski area is that the lifts take off directly from the edge of town. Since I last visited, the Platinum Chair has replaced the venerable Red Chair as the main lift. The area has cut a backside lift line for a totally new chair to be in the next couple of years.
Angel Fire. The Chile Express high-speed quad had already replaced two slow triples, in series, from the resort center to the top of the front mountain and access to the back. This trip reminded me of how fast and skier-friendly that lift is. Since then, the resort has invested $16.5 million to build the Angel Fire Country Club. In summer, this is golf central. In winter, it offers a spa and pool and the resort’s firs ttruly fine-dining facility.
Ski Santa Fe. The Millennium Chair, a triple installed for the 2005-06 ski season, ascends to 12,075 feet and provides direct access to a point on the ridge that embraces the ski runs that previously required a long traverse. The view is phenomonal, stretching from Sandia Peak to the south all the way to the San Juan Mountains to the northwest.