Monday’s storm brought just enough snow to the Sandia Mountains for cross-country skiers to strap up and head out on the trails.
Therese Baca-Radler took advantage of the new snow Tuesday morning. At around 9:30 a.m., with the temperature at 8 degrees Fahrenheit, Baca-Radler was putting on her cross-country skis at the Ellis Trailhead, just down the road from Sandia Peak.
“I grew up out here in the East Mountains and I started cross-country skiing when I was much younger with my father,” Baca-Radler said as she was putting on her skis. “And then I got back into it with my husband later. He taught me how to alpine ski, and I got pretty good at that. And then eventually I came back to cross-country skiing because I enjoy the solitude and the trees and the single-track trails that I can find doing it. I’m super grateful to have this area out here that provides so many varieties of sports that we can do. This is by far one of my favorites.”
At Ellis Trailhead, there are multiple trails skiers can take, with several looping around for a down or uphill session back to the parking area. Baca-Radler was heading up Switchback Trail, which she said takes skiers to the Sandia Crest House and Crest Trail.
“There’s a variety of different single-track trails out here that sort of loop all around and you can get up to the crest where the tram is. And so, it’s fun to loop up to the top and then take a photograph of Albuquerque, or you know anything after that,” Baca-Radler said.
She said when there’s enough snow it’s possible to ski from Placitas all the way to the south end of the mountain near Carnuel. “It’s one of the most beautiful trails that you’ll ever be on because you get the whole span of the Sandias, which is remarkable.”
The Sandia Nordic Ski Club maintains and grooms about four miles of trails near Ellis Trailhead. Those trails can be accessed from the parking area and will open when there is enough snow for them to be groomed. A map of the groomed trails can be found on the Sandia Nordic Ski Club’s website.
According to a Nov. 29 post on the Sandia Nordic Ski Club Facebook page, three 50-foot sections of snow fencing were installed along different portions of trails the club helps maintain. The post says one section was installed near the lower 10k meadow, another above the upper meadow and the third section at the far south end of Klaus Trail.
“This is our first season using snow fencing, so a bit of an experiment as to placement and effectiveness. Come spring we will remove the fencing along with any signage we install,” the post reads. “The ski trail was also scouted by some of the crew to look for any downed trees and aside for one, the trails are now ready for grooming.”
Trail grooming occurs after there is an 8-10-inch base. On Tuesday there were a couple inches of snow on the ground. Not enough to groom, but enough for Baca-Radler to hit the trails.
“I came out last week and there was really nothing. I was only able to do the road. And so, after this storm, I was really excited to drop the kids off at school so I could come up and get into the trees and do some of the single-track trails.”
When it comes to first-time skiers, Baca-Radler said to stay safe, bring a buddy and always let someone know where you are skiing. Before heading up Switchback Trail, Baca-Radler could be seen hydrating and putting on a pack on with some snacks inside. She said she carries a lot but is used to having a heavy pack from other outdoor adventures.
She said she is happy there is less traffic since the Sandia Peak Ski Area closed, but she still wants people to get out and explore.
“Come enjoy our mountain,” Baca-Radler said. “It’s a beautiful place to be. I want the whole world to see it, just not all at once.