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New Mexico Ski Areas Threatened By Largest Wildfire in State History

Sipapu Ski Resort is heroically fighting off the flames after a mandatory evacuation order, and the Taos Valley might be next.

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As if one wildfire wasn’t bad enough, the massive fire raging in the American Southwest is the product of the now-merged Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires, and they’re bearing down on Sipapu Ski Resort and Angel Fire Resort, and threatening the town of Taos.

The wildfire has ravaged over 300,000 acres, and is now the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history, fueled by warm, windy, and incredibly dry conditions that will continue through Friday. Over 600 structures, including 366 homes, have been lost. Earlier this week, Taos County issued an evacuation order for Sipapu and the surrounding towns, and the resort brought out its snow guns to saturate the ground and important structures to protect them from the flames. They’ve also removed the chairs from the chairlift cables to minimize potential losses, relocated the resort’s snowcat fleet, and are wrapping buildings in foil to save the structures from destruction.

Fires are somewhat common in this hot and dry region, and the resorts have run fire mitigation procedures in recent years, but nothing of this magnitude.

“We’ve gone through the process of moving stuff into the parking lot and having to have generators to keep power going,” Sipapu General Manager John Paul Bradley told local news station KQRE. But, “the number of firefighters and activity here, at the resort right now, I haven’t seen that before.”

Sipapu Fire
Sipapu removed all the chairs from the cables to head off any additional damage. Photo: Courtesy of Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort

Bradley says he expects the fire to arrive imminently, at which time they’ll find out if their prep has paid off. They’re hoping to fare better than Sierra-at-Tahoe, which sustained tens of thousands of dollars in damage from last summer’s Caldor Fire, and is using this summer to initiate restoration efforts in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service. Sierra-at-Tahoe, which remained closed last ski season, hopes to reopen fully this coming winter.

“I think our best chance is that it backs down [the slopes] slowly,” Bradley told KQRE earlier this week. But, “If it [comes] in from down low and work[s] its way up the hill fast, it could be bad.”

As of Thursday morning, the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak fire has grown to 301,971 acres, with more hot and windy conditions forecasted until a much-needed cooldown on Saturday.