VADITO, N.M. - Ski season in New Mexico is about to get underway.
The lifts at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort in northern New Mexico will begin turning next Saturday, marking the earliest opening in the resort's more than 60-year history.
George Brooks, the executive director of Ski New Mexico, said he's excited about the upcoming season given the reports of early snow and cool temperatures. He said Red River Ski Area is expected to open Nov. 27, followed by Taos Ski Valley, Ski Santa Fe and Ski Apache on Nov. 28.
In early October, a potent storm brought wind, rain and high-elevation snow to New Mexico. Cold temperatures followed a few days later, with more snow for the mountains in the northern and central parts of the state.
So far, Sipapu has picked up nearly 2 feet of snow since the beginning of October, and mountain manager John Paul Bradley said crews are still working around the clock to get the mountain ready for the Saturday opening.
"After a dozen years of being the first ski area to open, our guests have come to expect taking their first turns at our mountain, and we're proud of that," Bradley said. "We're committed to giving those guests the best conditions possible."
Crews are also completing the installation of the resort's newest lift, which will replace one that was built in 1961. Resort officials said they expect to announce the opening date for the lift soon.
While the prospects for New Mexico's ski season are still somewhat unclear, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say predictions through January strongly favour a warmer than normal period.
As for precipitation, they say the odds are tilted toward a drier than normal season through January.
For the last three years, New Mexico has been struggling with extreme drought conditions. Part of that is due to the way winter storms have been tracking across the West based on La Nina and El Nino weather patterns. So far this year, forecasters say the signals for the patterns are close to neutral.