Photo by Raychel Sanner on Unsplash
I worked at a local ski resort in Northern New Mexico this winter, and I have a lot of thoughts about it. I won’t say which one, although if you are a skier in the Albuquerque area you’ve at least heard of it.
2020 and 2021 were a rough time for literally all industries. The ski resorts in New Mexico got hit particularly hard this season though. The combination of COVID 19 and a truly pathetic year for snow made this year meager for even the most popular resorts.
Sandia Peak Ski Area in Albuquerque was open for a whole 14 days this year. The only time I attempted to ride the Tram, it was shut down due to high winds. I’m not sure how the area made enough money to even pay its employees, let alone pay for the snowmaking equipment it would have needed to get the green runs up and going.
Other areas, like the resort I worked at, were full of employees who had a bunch of nothing to do. I can only imagine that they were truly hemorrhaging money. How could they not be? Let me tell you a story:
My partner was a shuttle driver at the resort I also worked for. He spent most of his days doing donuts in the parking lot, with zero riders on his shuttle, basically just wasting gas. He’d come to me at the end of the day saying that he had spent all of his “working” hours skiing because there was nothing else for him to do.
How that place made money, I don’t know.
There wasn’t much for it, though. For most of the season, the capacity at all New Mexico ski areas was severely limited. At full staff, there just weren’t enough customers skiing to keep everyone busy. I spent many days reading a book, helping customers when they came in, being slightly unsure that I was even going to get a paycheck at the end of the week.
The New Mexico government had a plan put in place that allowed ski resorts to open at 25% capacity. I’m not complaining here - we were lucky enough to even get a ski season, and I know that most resorts across the country had to face similar restrictions.
However, with an incredibly limited amount of snowfall in northern New Mexico for most of the winter, 25% capacity was almost nothing because for months it was a struggle for most places to make enough snow to open anything other than the most basic green runs.
Combine the less-than-stellar skiing with the fact that many “usual” guests from out of state simply couldn’t come due to the mandatory New Mexico quarantine - and the numbers just couldn’t possibly have been there to turn a profit.
Now, you’ll notice a lot of this was just speculation. I did work at a ski resort all winter, so I do know firsthand what those behind the scene issues were really like. However, I wasn’t privy to knowledge like profits or loss margins, so take that with a grain of salt.
The takeaway here is that if we want our ski areas in northern New Mexico - Taos, Ski Santa Fe, Angel Fire, even Sandia Peak - to survive into the future we’re going to need to rally around and support them. If you don’t want to support a big company, consider the impact these areas have on the local economy. How many people does Ski Santa Fe - a relatively small resort area - employ? What would it do to the area to lose that source of income?
We all learned during COVID how important it is to truly shop local, support the small businesses, and rally around our communities. The ski industry was no exception and won’t be an exception in the future, either. The next year will determine in these areas sink or swim - after all, how many businesses can survive 3 years in a row of poor performance? Not many.
So if you love them, folks, keep them around. We’ll all thank you for it.