ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Spirits were high at New Mexico's ski resorts after a weekend storm brought more than two feet of snow to some spots, and crews were taking advantage of freezing temperatures as they cranked up their snow-making machines.
Following a string of lackluster years and negative perceptions spurred by a persistent drought, ski resorts in the Southwest are looking to make a comeback.
"With over two and a half feet of pre-season snowfall to date, we're anticipating some of the best opening conditions in years," said Ed Cohen, chief marketing officer at Angel Fire Resort in northern New Mexico.
At the resort's summit, more than 29 inches of snow fell as the first widespread storm of the season moved across the state last weekend. A wave of cold air from the north combined with moisture over the higher elevations to make for wet, heavy snow.
At least a foot of snow fell in Taos during a 10-hour period, and several inches fell near Red River Ski Area.
Parts of northern Arizona received a dusting, while 6 inches fell over the weekend at Sunrise Park Resort. There was no snowfall at Snowbowl near Flagstaff, but resort officials said the cold temperatures provided a green light necessary to start making snow Monday.
Officials in both states say ski resorts are on track to meet opening dates, including Taos Ski Valley, which will debut its new chairlift to Kachina Peak on Thanksgiving Day.
Reaching a summit of 12,450 feet, the chairlift will be one of the highest in North America and will provide lift service to another 50 percent of Taos' advanced and expert terrain.
George Brooks, director of the industry group Ski New Mexico, said he's hopeful that resort upgrades and forecasts that call for more consistent moisture through the winter will help the state hit the million-skier mark this season. The number of annual skier visits hasn't topped that figure in at least a decade, something Brooks blamed partly on perceptions created by the drought.
"If we get the snow, I think the people will come," he said.
New Mexico had about 740,000 skier visits last year, a slight increase over the year before but still about 5 percent below the five-year average.
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