Ski club OKs county, Sipapu transfer plan

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By The Staff



The Los Alamos Ski Club announced Thursday that a 2/3 majority of voting members approved to transfer Pajarito Mountain Ski Area to Los Alamos County and the management group that operates Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort. County and Sipapu officials pledged to make skiing – and especially securing water for snowmaking purposes — their first priority.

The  partnership between Los Alamos County and Sipapu will ensure the future of skiing and year-round recreational activities at Pajarito, said outgoing Los Alamos Ski Club President Philip Rae. 

The vote was 223-17 for the plan, which took place Thursday night

“The business plan summary from Sipapu and the County presents an attractive future for Pajarito Mountain,” Rae said. 

Located 70 miles east of Pajarito, Sipapu is the state’s fastest growing ski area and northern New Mexico’s oldest resort. Sipapu co-managing partner and founding family member Bruce Bolander said Sipapu is dedicated to honoring Pajarito’s legacy while investing to secure the future of skiing and snowboarding at Pajarito for years to come.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with our neighboring mountain,” Bolander said. “Pajarito Mountain offers some of the best terrain in the state along with a rich heritage built by the Los Alamos Ski Club and the Los Alamos community. We’re dedicated to preserving that history while utilizing our 62 years of experience to create quality, affordable skiing and snowboarding for everyone.”

Sipapu’s co-managing partner, James Coleman, says his first priority is to ensure the future of skiing at Pajrito, and he will begin working with the Los Alamos Ski Club and the county immediately to improve Pajarito’s snowmaking infrastructure to ensure a full operating season — one that includes daily operations (historically Pajarito’s lifts turn Fridays through Sundays when there is sufficient snowfall). Coleman anticipates Pajarito will open around Thanksgiving this year, with daily operations beginning just before Christmas and lasting through the end of March, and weekend operations next April as conditions permit.

“We understand how important Pajarito is, not only to the Los Alamos Ski Club and this community but also to our state, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with Los Alamos County to protect skiing and snowboarding both for the 2014-2015 season and in the future.”

Known for offering the state’s longest ski and snowboard season, Sipapu has been the first ski area to open in New Mexico for more than a decade, and the last ski area to close for 11 of the last 12 seasons. Last winter, Sipapu opened on Nov. 16 and closed April 13 —one of the ski area’s longest ski seasons on record — after picking up just more than 85 inches of snow for the season, one of the worst snow years in its 62-year history. 

Pajarito season passholders will enjoy unlimited skiing and snowboarding at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, as will Sipapu passholders at Pajarito. Coleman said that Pajarito season passes will go on sale early this summer, and adult prices for unlimited skiing at both Pajarito and Sipapu will be $299. This pass will include free lift tickets at 27 partner ski areas in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and throughout the country. Adult season passes for unlimited skiing at Pajarito only will be $199. 

In addition to investing in water and snowmaking, Sipapu plans to enhance both the winter and summer on-mountain experience through trail, lift, terrain park, tree skiing, and mountain biking trail expansions and improvements.

Sipapu and County officials say they will communicate these changes on an ongoing basis via a blog on the Pajarito website at pajaritoblog.com.

County Administrator Harry Burgess said that the next step will be for the County Council to formally consider the transfer offer.  No date has been set yet for that council discussion.

“We are glad to see that the process is moving forward, and although it will take some time to work through this, we plan to begin immediately. The next step will be to develop agreements with respect to the transfer of assets amongst each party, and I anticipate that council will not consider the issue until such specifics are ready for their review,” Burgess said, adding that the final decision would be up to the council.