Friday, January 6, 2012
Pajarito Mountain: New Mexico Nordic
Pajarito Nordic Area
~5.5M total ski, Groomed, Free
J and I were eager to try out some new (to us) New Mexico-area XC trails, nearer to Santa Fe. With decent snow (compared to Colorado, especially), we had some good choices, but decided to check out the trails near Pajarito Ski Area above Los Alamos.
This trail system has free access, and is maintained quite well by the Southwest Nordic Ski club. The trails start from the far corner of the Pajarito Ski Area parking lot (note: the ski road is steep and requires 4WD or chains in any sort of inclimate weather). The main loop is about 5k out with gradual climbs to a gorgeous meadow, with a few parallel trails and loops along the way.
There was just enough snow (thanks to some of the shade fences) in the early parts to make it into the shade and higher elevations, and the snow was fantastic in the meadow. Before we started, we had met Tarik from the SW Nordic club, who gave us much-appreciated trail updates and recommendations, so we pretty much stayed to the better snow on the rightmost trails towards the meadow.
We reached the meadow with full sun and temperatures in the 40s, so we hung out for a bit and had lunch. With just a bit further of bushwhacking, we were able to peer into the Valles Caldera preserve (which does have its own set of ski trails in the winter). Above the meadow, albeit south-facing, are glorious glades of tall aspen and pine, on gentle, nearly rock-free hills. Right after a storm, this would be a fun place to practice turns.
On our way back, we ran into another woman who was training for "some ski race in Wisconsin." Of course, I knew she was talking about the Birkie, which is somewhere on my lifelong list as well. We talked about the poor snow conditions in Wisconsin, as well as the poor conditions in Colorado, as she has a Copper Pass and called it the "worst conditions she's seen in 40 years." At that moment, at least, it seemed New Mexico was the place to be.