ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A steady stream of December storms has given New Mexico ski resorts some of the best early conditions in the country, and tourism officials are scurrying to make sure that translates into a banner season.
"What we are trying to do is get the word out about how great the snow is," said George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico, which represents the state's eight downhill and two cross-country ski areas.
Brooks said the association was working with the state Tourism Department to tout the excellent conditions, which had given most New Mexico ski resorts 40-plus-inch bases going into the Christmas holiday.
The state's ski resorts can generally count on being full for Christmas regardless of how much snow is on the ground.
But Brooks said publicity about the storms, as well as the fact that New Mexico resorts are starting the season with better bases than the usually more reliable early season mountains in Colorado and Utah, should translate into bookings that carry over into January and February.
"We really needed this," said Dave Dekema, marketing director for Angel Fire Resort, noting that last year "La Nina kept all the storms north of us and what we were getting was a lot of wind. All those resorts had a fantastic opening."
Forecasts were for more of the same this year, but so far "we are 100 percent different than where we were sitting a year ago."
Two years ago was one of the best seasons for the industry since 2000-2001, Brooks said. But then the numbers "receded quite a bit. Last year was not a good year."
Adding to this year's boon, he said, is that many of the storms have carried over to the Texas Panhandle, reminding the key Texas market the snow is falling in New Mexico.
Dekema said the phones started ringing after the state got hit with its first big storm Dec. 4 and 5.
"We had a huge spike after that," he said. "And then once again after we opened and people saw what percentage was open early, and then, with this storm, our phones have been ringing off the hook."
Angel Fire got a foot in one day early last week with the blizzard that hit much of northeastern New Mexico.
Taos Ski Valley has had more than 100 inches of snow this season, and Sandia Peak Ski Area at the edge of Albuquerque is off to a good start so early in the season with a 63-inch base.
Heading into the holiday weekend, another storm socked much of New Mexico and a few ski areas were again able to reap the benefits. Sandia was the big winner with 17 inches in a 24-hour period. Southern New Mexico's Ski Apache had 16 new inches and Parajito Mountain Ski Area near Los Alamos followed with 14.
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