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Southwest ski guide for El Niño

Over 20,000 reasons to grab your gear and go for the slopes

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has spoken, and the outlook for winter 2015-16 has powder written all over it. Many forecasters believe this winter could bring the strongest El Niño in 50 years.

To get you psyched, we picked some out the best places to ride in the southwest, so get those boards waxed and grab your snorkel. This winter is going to be good.

Purgatory Resort

This mountain north of Durango is ranked among the best of the southwest for experience and setting. Ample sunshine and big storms keep locals happy, and visitors are amazed at the variety of terrain. A new mile-long high speed quad on the infamous backside of the mountain will zip skiers up to new gladed runs.

Base Elevation: 8,793 feet

Summit Elevation: 10,822 feet

Vertical Drop: 2,029 feet

Skiable acres: 1,360 Acres

Lifts: 10 Lifts capable of moving 15,050 skiers per hour

Average snowfall: 260 inches

Terrain: 20% Beginner; 45% Intermediate; 35% Advanced/Expert

Parks: Five terrain parks- and numerous features throughout the mountain

Wolf Creek

Known for the most snow in the state, this family owned ski area outside Pagosa Springs is legendary for one thing: powder. Wolf Creek sits smack dab in the middle of a swath of the Rockies that gets all the snow. With a base elevation at 10,300 feet, it’s also easy to find powder long after the storms clear.

Base Elevation: 10,300 feet

Summit Elevation: 11,904 feet

Vertical Drop: 1,604 feet

Skiable acres: 1,600

Lifts: Five, Capacity: 11,000/hr

Average snowfall: 430 inches

Terrain: 20% Beginner; 35% Intermediate; 25% Advanced; 20% Expert

Telluride Ski Resort

There’s a reason Telluride is voted the No. 1 ski resort in the country. With 2,000-plus skiable acres and 41 percent expert terrain, you can hike to some of the best inbound skiing in the world and eat a chef prepared cuisine for lunch at this giant posh Colorado resort. Two gondolas and seven high speed quads are just half of its 18 chairlifts.

Base Elevation: 8,725 feet

Maximum: 13,150 feet

Vertical Drop: 4,425 feet

Lift-Served Vertical Drop: 3,845 feet

Skiable acres: 2,000-plus

Lifts: 18,

Capacity: 22,386+ skiers per hour

Average snowfall: 309 inches

Terrain: 23% Beginner; 36% Intermediate; 41% Advanced/Expert

Parks: Three terrain parks

Silverton Mountain

North America’s only expert-only lift served extreme skiing, just to get on the chair you need avalanche gear, available to rent with a day pass. With an average of less than 80 skiers on the mountain, a team of patrollers on the ground and in the air manages avalanche mitigation. Peak season is guided skiing only.

Base elevation: 10,400 feet

Summit of elevation: 13,487 feet

Summit of chair: 12,300 feet

Lift Served Vertical Drop: 1,900 feet

Hike-To & Helicopter Accessible Vertical Drop: 3,087 feet

Skiable acres: 1,819. Plus 22,000-plus acres of heli and hike-to terrain

Average snowfall: 400 inches

Lifts: One

Terrain: 100% Expert

Arizona Snowbowl

This mountain just outside Flagstaff, Arizona, is the western slope of Mount Humphreys, the tallest point in the state. With a good vertical drop, this mountain can dish out some amazing skiing, and the Upper Bowl has surprising and challenging terrain.

Base elevation: 9200 feet

Peak elevation: 11,500 feet

Vertical drop: 2,300 feet

Skiable acres: 777

Lifts: Seven

Terrain: 37% beginner 42% intermediate 21% advanced

Parks: Three terrain parks

Taos Ski Valley

An iconic and unique skiing experience, this mountain blends world-class terrain and southwestern culture. A new game changing Kachina Peak lift accesses previous hike-to terrain at 12,480 feet with a five minute chair ride. Always hammered by storms, at Taos you can log some serious vertical while knee deep in pow.

Base elevation: 9,200 feet

Summit elevation: 12,481 feet

Vertical drop: 3,281 feet

Skiable acres: 1,294 acres

Average snowfall: 305 inches

Lifts: 15

Lift capacity: 15,000 skiers per hour

Terrain: 24% beginner; 25% intermediate; 51% expert

Parks: Two terrain parks

Angle Fire

Stunning Rocky Mountains views abound at this southwestern gem. With 560 acres of rolling terrain, fantastic glade skiing and a nice vertical drop, Angle Fire provides worthy skiing close to Albuquerque, and some of New Mexico’s best skiing and snowboarding and nice gladed terrain.

Base Elevation 8,600 feet

Summit Elevation 10,677 feet

Vertical Drop 2,077 feet

Average snowfall: 210 inches

Lifts: Five

Terrain: 18% Beginner; 46% Intermediate; 36% Advanced

Parks: Two terrain parks

Ski Santa Fe

Part of what makes Ski Santa Fe so fantastic is how good it skis just 16 miles from all the culture, shopping, dinning and nightlife you could want in New Mexico’s capital city. With a base area at 10,300 and rising, it gets enough of Mother Nature’s winter loving, plus there is snowmaking on over half the mountain.

Base elevation: 10,350 feet

Summit elevation: 12,075 feet

Vertical drop: 1,725 feet

Skiable acres: 660 feet

Average snowfall: 225 inches

Terrain: 20% beginner; 40% intermediate; 40% expert

Parks: One terrain park

bmathis@bcimedia.com

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