Snowboarding at Angel Fire Resort Ski Area

Angel Fire is a modern, purpose-built resort about a half-hour—22 miles—east of Taos. The accommodations are all very close to the slopes and the mountain has been created for families and mellow skiing with touches of challenge.

This resort is especially good for beginners and intermediates. You have to go out of your way to get into trouble. It's about as good as it gets for families and those who want to take it easy. The resort has added some expert terrain, but it's tucked away where no one will accidentally get into trouble. Beginners will want to take Headin' Home from the top of the high-speed Chile Express quad. Stay on the trail or drop down Bodacious and wend your way back to the base area. Beginners can also experience the back bowl by winding down Highway, then dropping off Hallelujah or La Bajada to end up at the base of the Southwest Flyer, another high-speed quad. Intermediates will have fun on Fat City, Fire Escape, Mother Lode and Arriba in the back bowl. We recommend staying in the back bowl. On the front side you can cruise down some good intermediate trails such as I-25, Prospector and Jasper's, but all end in a long runout to the base area. Advanced/Expert levels will find meager offerings but they can be fun. A cluster of black runs under Lift 6 provides a challenge. To the far skier's right of the back bowl, a series of advanced runs were recently added to Detonator and Nitro. New for 2005/06, the resort cut about 9 acres of glades on the front side between I-25 and Prospector.

Angel Fire has snapped up the opportunity to become New Mexico's premier snowboarding destination, thanks to Taos' steadfast refusal to allow snowboarding. The Chile Express high-speed quad whisks boarders to the top of the 10,677-foot mountain. Sound systems pump out great tunes underneath the lifts. Angel Fire has a young feel to it, unlike the conservative, staid atmosphere of some larger resorts.

Beginner boarders will appreciate both Dreamcatcher and Lift #2, servicing Exhibition and Valley. You get what is, in effect, a superb bunny hill with two distinct levels of difficulty. In addition there's beginner terrain at the top of the mountain, on either side of the NASTAR race area, that's served by a short lift. The Summit Haus, a yurt-style restaurant with a full-service bar at the peak, adds a nice extra touch. Intermediate and advanced riders will prefer the back side of the mountain, serviced by a high-speed quad. Hell's Bells is a favorite run amongst advanced boarders. Intermediates will enjoy Fire Escape and Hully Gully, shifting to front-side runs like I-25 and Prospector on days when the sun is hidden and snow is powering down. Unfortunately, front-side runs all end in a long runout to the base area. Expert snowboarders are not forgotten—hiking-accessed trails in the Back Basin including Nitro, Detonator and Baa-da-bing offer some of the steepest terrain on the mountain.

Parks and pipes: The resort has two terrain parks. Liberation Park, for experienced park riders, is at the top of the mountain and is reached by its own chair, Lift #3. It has tabletops, spines, funboxes, rails and jumps. Lowrider Park, on the lower section of Headin' Home, is the learning park, with short rails, funboxes, small jumps and rollers. It's also the place to perfect your park technique. Angel Fire has the only halfpipe in New Mexico. You'll find it in Liberation Park.

Angel Fire has an excellent ski school that focuses on beginner and intermediate skiers as well as children. Their snowboarding instruction is consistently highly rated too. The resort recently expanded its children's ski and snowboard school with a 6,000-square-foot building designed specifically for kids. Angel Fire Resort Day Care (800-633-7463), housed in a new state-of-the-art facility near the kids' ski school, is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Full-and half-day programs provide activities for children ages 6 weeks through 10 years. Costs range from $40 to $85 for day care and children's lesson programs.

Adventure Park, at the base, has a day tubing hill. At the summit, you'll find 22 km. of cross-country and snowshoe trails with beautiful views of New Mexico's highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Lessons and rentals are available.

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