Ride the Tesuque Peak triple chair to the summit of Ski Santa Fe, and you embark on an adventure in ski-resort deception. You’ll spy runs crammed with hollering Texans, and a backcountry that looks more molehill than mountain, despite acres of fall-away terrain. So why do Santa Fe and Albuquerque skiers worship their snow shamans here instead of trekking north to the vaunted steeps of Taos? For Santa Fe’s true essence: tree skiing Nirvana just yards from the triple chair, where the runs between the runs are as clandestine and wild as a local Wicca convention.
Powder Day: Head skier’s left from the summit toward the bald steeps of North Burn, South Burn, and Cornice, where wind-loaded runs pour off the ridgeline before funneling into a conifer forest that thickens with every turn. Exit to troughed-out Fall Line, bumpy Parachute, or
cruisable Gay Way.
Three Days Later: The powder you loved on “The Burns” now chokes the opposite side of the triple. Harvest Roadrunner, then bear right and
follow the wind to First Traks. Continue to steeper, deeper Avalanche Bowl, Desperado,
or Double Eagle V.
Must Hit: Ride the ridge to Tequila Sunrise for worry-free surfing amid trees spaced two skiers-wide, then drop the narrow rollover and veer into dense pines. Bottom out on Lower Burro.
The Stash: Take Sunset, skier’s right of the Tesuque Peak chair. Wiggle through the fir, and tuck onto slender Luge, before dropping into boulder-strewn Avalanche Basin.
Backcountry Access: From the top, head southwest past several radio towers toward the warning signs for Tesuque Basin. Track the left-side fall line through crowded conifers and aspen. Follow the Aspen Vista doubletrack out, and hitch two miles back to the base.
Weather: If it looks like an El Nin~o year, log on to Orbitz and book your trip early. Otherwise, save your edges for fatter days in March.
Après: Back in town, stoke your fire at the Dragon Room Bar with green-chile stew. Or migrate three doors down to Rio Chama, a good-old-boy steakhouse near the capitol where legislators and judges commingle.
Fuel: Try a Christmas-style breakfast burrito (red and green chile) at Harry’s Roadhouse south of town, then torture yourself with a green chile cheeseburger for lunch at Totemoff’s Grill near Chair 3. For dinner, try Maria’s, downtown, where tequilas line the bar—and carne adovada
warms your belly.
Up all night: Kick up dust at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, a derelict- and family-friendly tavern where swaggering waitresses intimidate male customers and a pony-tailed guy with an eye patch plays guitar.
Digs: Winter is off-season in tourist-driven Santa Fe. Check out Inn at the Paseo ($79; 800-457-9045) or fine-art-friendly Hotel Santa Fe ($99–$119; 800-825-9876).