Ski area hoping for more snow soon

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By Mike Cote

Friday’s storm was a good starting-off point for Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, but it will need more snow, preferably a lot and all at once, before it can open.
Pajarito, which is just one of two downhill ski areas in the state which has yet to open this winter, picked up 6 inches from Friday’s snowstorm. While ski area manager Tom Long said that was a good start, that isn’t nearly enough to get its season going.
Nevertheless, Pajarito staff has high hopes for the current low pressure system that blew Friday’s storm in from the Pacific.
There was a winter weather advisory in effect for Saturday night, with projections of as much as 8 inches of snow above 9,000 feet in the area. Under ideal conditions, that would give Pajarito an accumulation total of about 14 inches.
“We’re all really excited to see this,” said Long. “When we get enough snow we can be ready to be running in two days. Everyone here’s excited.”
Long said the snow from Friday’s storm was relatively heavy and wet — the temperature on the mountain was about 25 degrees during the snowstorm — which he said is better than dry, powdery snow in terms of making a base.
With wetter snow, Pajarito might be able to open with a lesser base total, roughly 18 inches.
It is a critical time of the season for Pajarito and other ski areas as the schools’ winter break is quickly approaching. With New Mexico public schools, as well as a large portion of Los Alamos National Laboratory, getting a break for the holidays, that means big potential crowds from Christmas through New Year’s Day.
Los Alamos residents have been skiing at Pajarito Mountain since the late 1950s. Pajarito became a modern ski area in 1962 with the installation of its first ski lift.
However, recent seasons have proved to be thin times for the area. While Pajarito enjoyed relatively brisk business and good snowfall last season — there was still 40-plus inches in late January — it was only open for a handful of days in the winter of 2010-11 and other recent winters have been very hit-or-miss.
This weather system was good to the ski areas in New Mexico. Every downhill area in the state got at least two inches out of it, including Sandia Peak, the only other area that has yet to open, with Ski Santa Fe being the big winner. Ski Santa Fe, on the eve of its opening for the season, picked up well over a foot of snow.
The last system, which came through earlier last week, largely missed Pajarito. The mountain got only an inch out of that storm and much of that was gone by the time Friday’s storm hit.