New Owners Pledge to Invest Millions to Enhance Pajarito Mountain Ski Area

Ski Club members approve 233-17 the motion to authorize the Board to transfer substantially all of the Club assets to Los Alamos County and the Sipapu Group who would then own, manage and operate Pajarito Mountain Ski Area. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
 
Incoming Ski Club President Susan Brockway, center, told the membership, ‘The County/Sipapu Partnership will care for our history as well as our community.’ Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
 
Los Alamos County Administrator Harry Burgess, left, chats with Sipapu Ski Resort Managing Partner James Coleman prior to the start of Thursday’s meeting. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
 
Staff Report

During its Spring Meeting Thursday evening, the Los Alamos Ski Club (LASC) approved 233 to 17 the following motion: “That the Membership of the Los Alamos Ski Club authorize the Board to transfer substantially all of the Club assets to Los Alamos County and the Sipapu Group who would then own, manage, and operate Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, understanding that this transfer and ownership will be subject to various deed restrictions and contract performance clauses and that the officers and Board are authorized and directed to negotiate, carry out and so all things reasonably necessary to consummate the authorized transactions.”

Incoming LASC President Susan Brockway stated to the membership gathered at Trinity on the Hill for Thursday’s meeting that the Los Alamos Ski Club Board of Directors, past and present, have been vetting options for sustainability of Pajarito Mountain for years.

“We recognize that this is a historic and brave step for the Ski Club and it’s members. However, your Board has diligently pursued their options for the past several months and have brought to you what we unanimously agree is the best possible option for moving forward and ensuring winter and summer recreation and above all skiing for you, the members and the community,” Brockway said. “We have taken steps to safeguard this treasured green space for your enjoyment and use. The County/Sipapu Partnership will care for our history as well as our community, will invest the needed funding and resources to ensure its success for the future, and will enhance both ski and hike trails, terrain parks, our equipment and facilities and therefore provide for a better skiing experience for all.

“The County/Sipapu Partnership will care for our children, volunteers, staff and members, will keep skiing affordable and enhance our festivals and events for all to enjoy. Please consider voting for this motion and enabling us, the Board of Directors, to work on your behalf for a bright future for Pajarito Mountain.”

Following two recent informational meetings, much discussion Thursday and a failed amendment proposed to tranfer Pajarito Mountain Ski Area solely to Los Alamos County, a 2/3 majority of voting members approved the transfer to Los Alamos County and the management group that operates Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort (SIPAPU Group). County and Sipapu officials pledged to make skiing – and especially securing water for snowmaking purposes – their first priority.

Pajarito Mountain Ski Area Genral Manager Tom Long told the Los Alamos Daily Post following approvel of the motion to transfer Ski Area assets and debt, ‘I feel great … this is great for skiing … this is great for the community.’ Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Outgoing Los Alamos Ski Club President Philip Rae answers questions as County Administrator Harry Burgess listens. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Outgoing Los Alamos Ski Club President Philip Rae said that the unique partnership between Los Alamos County and Sipapu will ensure the future of skiing and year-round recreational activities at Pajarito.

“The business plan summary from Sipapu and the County presents an attractive future for Pajarito Mountain,” Rae said.

Located 70 miles east of Pajarito, Sipapu is the state’s fastest growing ski area and northern New Mexico’s oldest resort. Sipapu co-managing partner and founding family member Bruce Bolander said Sipapu is dedicated to honoring Pajarito’s legacy while investing to secure the future of skiing and snowboarding at Pajarito for years to come.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with our neighboring mountain,” Bolander said. “Pajarito Mountain offers some of the best terrain in the state along with a rich heritage built by the Los Alamos Ski Club and the Los Alamos community. We’re dedicated to preserving that history while utilizing our 62 years of experience to create quality, affordable skiing and snowboarding for everyone.”

Sipapu’s co-managing partner, James Coleman, says his first priority is to ensure the future of skiing at Pajrito, and he will begin working with the Los Alamos Ski Club and the County immediately to improve Pajarito’s snowmaking infrastructure to ensure a full operating season – one that includes daily operations (historically Pajarito’s lifts turn Fridays through Sundays when there is sufficient snowfall). Coleman anticipates Pajarito will open around Thanksgiving this year, with daily operations beginning just before Christmas and lasting through the end of March, and weekend operations next April as conditions permit.

“We understand how important Pajarito is, not only to the Los Alamos Ski Club and this community but also to our state, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with Los Alamos County to protect skiing and snowboarding both for the 2014-2015 season and in the future,” he said.

Known for offering the state’s longest ski and snowboard season, Sipapu has been the first ski area to open in New Mexico for more than a decade, and the last ski area to close for 11 of the last 12 seasons. Last winter, Sipapu opened Nov. 16 and closed April 13 – one of the ski area’s longest ski seasons on record – after picking up just over 85 inches of snow for the season, one of the worst snow years in its 62-year history.

Pajarito season passholders will enjoy unlimited skiing and snowboarding at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, as will Sipapu passholders at Pajarito. Coleman said that Pajarito season passes will go on sale early this summer, and adult prices for unlimited skiing at both Pajarito and Sipapu will be $299. This pass will include free lift tickets at 27 partner ski areas in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and throughout the country. Adult season passes for unlimited skiing at Pajarito only will be $199.

The infrastructure has not been upgraded in nearly 15 years and the Sipapu Group pledges to invest some $5 million to bring the Ski Area up to standards. In addition to investing in water and snowmaking, Sipapu plans to enhance both the winter and summer on-mountain experience through trail, lift, terrain park, tree skiing, and mountain biking trail expansions and improvements.

Sipapu and County officials say they will communicate these changes on an ongoing basis via a blog on the Pajarito website at pajaritoblog.com.

County Administrator Harry Burgess said that the next step will be for the County Council to formally consider the transfer offer. No date has been set yet for that Council discussion.

“We are glad to see that the process is moving forward, and although it will take some time to work through this, we plan to begin immediately. The next step will be to develop agreements with respect to the transfer of assets amongst each party, and I anticipate that Council will not consider the issue until such specifics are ready for their review,” Burgess said, adding that the final decision will be up to the Council.

Skiing in the Pajarito area dates at least to the 1930s, and a ski club was first organized in 1943. Today, the area has six lifts — a quad, a triple, three doubles and one rope tow — 40 trails on 751 acres and a peak elevation of 10,440 feet.

About Pajarito

Pajarito Mountain is where performance skiers come for miles of mogul runs and a laid back atmosphere. Located at the eastern edge of the Jemez Mountains in Northern New Mexico, 5 miles west of Los Alamos and just 90 minutes from Albuquerque and 45 minutes from Santa Fe. Pajarito hosts spectacular views of the Rio Grande Valley and the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Privately owned by the Los Alamos Ski Club and developed in the late 1950s, Pajarito now enjoys 40 named trails and has some of the best bump skiing in the state with a fully operational ski school, Café, and ski rental facility as well as a large volunteer ski patrol. Pajarito Mountain is home to an extensive mountain biking trail system with lift served access and hosts several New Mexico Brewers Festivals throughout the summer. For more information, visit www.skipajarito.com.

About Los Alamos County

Los Alamos is located on the Pajarito Plateau, in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. Home of Los Alamos National Laboratory, it is a small community (pop. 18,000) that possesses a world-wide reputation for scientific and technological development. Cultural and recreational opportunities abound, with plenty of hiking and biking trails, skiing, and easy access to national attractions such as the nearby Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument. Los Alamos is surrounded by National Forest, National Park, Pueblo, and other Federal lands. The County Council is the governing body with seven members.

About Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort

Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort is New Mexico’s fastest growing ski resort. Located just 20 miles southeast of Taos and two hours north of Albuquerque, Sipapu offers family-friendly, family fun to all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Family-owned and operated since 1952, Sipapu is home to New Mexico’s longest ski season and the best deals in the Rockies. The resort is surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Carson National Forest, and features over 40 trails, five lifts and two terrain parks. On-site amenities include slope-side lodging, a full-service ski shop, ski school and gourmet home cooking at the Riverside Café and Sipapu’s newest restaurant, Paradise Bar & Grill. For more information, visit www.SipapuNM.com.

LOS ALAMOS

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