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New Mexico

Altitude Is Everything

Published online: Nov 14, 2007 Feature
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A common phrase today is "Attitude is everything."

Well, in New Mexico, it should go something like, "Altitude is everything."

Especially when it comes to snowmobiling.

Altitude makes the difference when it comes to sledding the white stuff in the desert Southwest. New Mexico has plenty of desert but the Land of Enchantment also has plenty of mountains, too. It's just you don't hear too much about the southern Rocky Mountains, which are mostly in New Mexico.

New Mexico has six peaks rising higher than 13,000 feet and 38 peaks reaching past 12,000 feet, most all of which are a part of the Continental Divide, which enters the United States in southern New Mexico and snakes its way through the state until exiting near Chama in the north.

With those kinds of elevations, it's not unusual for the state's mountainous regions to collect between 4-8 feet of snow, depending on which mountain range it's falling.

While most of the mountains are in northern New Mexico, not all of the mountains are up north. Take Cloudcroft for example. This southern New Mexico town is on about the same latitude as Phoenix and Dallas. Phoenix gets virtually no snow and Dallas gets about three inches a winter while Cloudcroft sees about 84 inches of snow each winter. That's what mountains will do for you.        

There are a half-dozen riding areas in the state, stretching from near the bottom portion of New Mexico near Cloudcroft north to the New Mexico/Colorado border. Although most snowmobiling in New Mexico takes place up north, you can head south to the Lincoln National Forest and ride in one of the southernmost areas of the United States where you can snowmobile. Riding here is less than 100 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

The major riding areas in this state of Enchantment are (from north to south): Chama; Red River; Angel Fire; Mt. Taylor; San Pedro Mountains, Jemez Mountains; and Cloudcroft.

Compared to other western states, there aren't many miles of groomed trials in New Mexico but there is plenty of backcountry riding. Any grooming that takes place is usually done by local businesses and/or clubs, like what you'd find at Red River. Despite the lack of groomed paths, there are plenty of snowmobile rental agencies willing to take sledders deep into New Mexico's backcountry.

In some places up north the season begins in November and stretches to early April.

An excellent source of information on snowmobiling in northern New Mexico can be found at www.fs.fed.us/r3/carson website. Once there, go to the "recreational activities" section and click on the snowmobile info. You'll find out what areas are available for riding, as well as detailed information on those areas, such as the number of miles of each trail. Another good source of information is the Santa Fe National Forest website www.fs.fed.us/r3/sfe.

Because the area is primarily a backcountry experience, it's best to find someone who knows the area. That will make your riding experience that much more enchanting.

 

Guide

New Mexico Department of Tourism www.newmexico.org

Road Conditions 800-432-4269

Groomed Trails 100

Highest Point Wheeler Peak (13,161 ft)

Greatest Average Annual Snowfall Bateman Ranch 147.0 in.

Record Winter Snowfall Anchor Mine 483 in.

Coldest Recorded Temperature Gavilan minus-50 degrees F

 

Chama

Elevation 7,860-13,000

Snowfall 175-220 inches

Groomed Trails none

Full-Service Town Chama

Nearest Airport Santa Fe (100 miles)

Information Chama Valley Chamber of Commerce 800-477-0149

 

Red River

Elevation 8,700-12,000

Snowfall 145-200 inches

Groomed Trails 100 miles

Full-Service Town Red River

Nearest Airport Santa Fe (103 miles)

Information Red River Chamber of Commerce 800-348-6444

 

Angel Fire

Elevation 8,500-12,000

Snowfall 150-250 inches

Groomed Trails none

Full-Service Town Angel Fire

Nearest Airport Santa Fe (90 miles)

Information Angel Fire Chamber of Commerce 800-446-8117

 

Jemez Mountains

Elevation 8,000-10,000

Snowfall 100-125 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Los Alamos

Nearest Airport Santa Fe (33.8 miles)

Information Santa Fe National Forest 505-438-7840

 

San Pedro Mountains

Elevation 7,000-9,000

Snowfall 100-150 inches

Groomed Trails none

Full-Service Town Espanola

Nearest Airport Santa Fe (25 miles)

Information Santa Fe National Forest 505-438-7840

 

Mount Taylor

Elevation 8,000-11,000

Snowfall 100-150 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Grants

Nearest Airport Albuquerque (76 miles)

Information Grants/Cibola County Chamber of Commerce 800-748-2142

 

Cloudcroft

Elevation 9,000-11,000

Snowfall 100-150 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Cloudcroft

Nearest Airport Alamogordo (20 miles)

Information Cloudcroft Chamber of Commerce 866-UPHIGH7