Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Pajarito Water Dream Team

Yesterday, we had an impressive group on the mountain – it was like Pajarito’s Water Dream Team:

Our hydrology expert – who earned his doctorate in hydrology – has worked extensively not only with Pajarito but also with Sipapu as well. He completed the augmentation plan for Pajarito several years ago and is responsible for the success of the weir at the bottom of the Mother Lift.

Our pond engineer designed Pajarito’s 10-million gallon holding pond and was extremely involved in the previous pond building process.

Former Los Alamos Ski Club president George Lawrence is a renowned local expert when it comes to water at Pajarito Mountain. He not only knows the ski area’s history, but he was instrumental in the design of the original pond.

waterdreamteamJohn Paul Bradley is Sipapu’s mountain manager and an incredible wealth of expertise when it comes to snowmaking and its infrastructure. In our experience at Sipapu, JP has truly mastered the art of snowmaking, and he’s already applying his knowledge at Pajarito.

Our general manager, Tom Long, provides vast insight on the existing infrastructure and mountain conditions. He also has significant knowledge and experience with securing permits, which will be incredibly helpful throughout this process.

Mike Green, Pajarito’s Mountain Operations Manager, was also on hand to offer his knowledge about the mountain and Pajarito’s snowmaking system.

Our meeting was extremely productive and we used that time to ensure we understood our priorities and our goals. I’m pleased to report that everyone at yesterday’s meeting is on board with our objectives. We also spent a significant amount of time verifying previously-identified locations to collect and store water, and we strategized several options on how to successfully collect more water.

Now that we’ve all met, we’re going to put some pen to paper and work up some options to make these ideas a reality at Pajarito. We will continue to keep you updated here.

“We’re Moving Water to the Pond.”

Yesterday, I received a great email from Tom Long. It simply said: We’re moving water to the pond. The County’s water tank at Pajarito – which holds 250,000 gallons of water – filled this week. Pajarito’s weir (or water collection site) collects water, which is then transferred to the water tank. Tom and his team pulled the top five feet from the full tank and moved it to the ski area’s 10-million gallon holding pond.

The County’s 250,000 gallon holding tank. Yesterday we learned this tank is full, and we migrated the top 8 feet feet of water to our pond.
Yesterday we learned this tank is full, and we migrated the top 5 feet feet of water to our pond.

This is a standard procedure at Pajarito, but it was exciting, nevertheless, to learn that water – even a small amount – was being migrated to the pond. As we’ve said all along, skiing is our #1 priority, which makes water our #1 priority.

Pajarito's holding pond as of yesterday evening.
Pajarito’s holding pond as of yesterday evening.


Water to the Mountain

Pajarito's collection pond.
Pajarito’s collection pond.

We’ve scheduled a meeting with the hydrologist and pond engineer for this Wednesday, and George Lawrence, former president of the Ski Club, will be on hand to lend us his renowned expertise of Pajarito’s water history, challenges and opportunities.

Our objective for this first meeting is to identify potential pond locations for additional water storage, and I anticipate we will also determine additional weir (or water collection point) locations.

I’m also pleased to report that we are making progress in soliciting bids for our test well. Not many contractors have the capability to drill a 3,000-foot deep well, so Tom Long is scouring New Mexico and Texas for the right contractor.

Day 1: Progress

First and foremost, allow me to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for your approval during last night’s vote. Throughout every step of this process, and last night especially, we have been impressed by the Los Alamos Ski Club’s passion for Pajarito, the Board’s dedication to see it succeed and the community’s unwavering support. We are thankful for your confidence and proud to take the first steps with you today.

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 2.10.04 PMDuring last night’s meeting, I presented this slide and outlined exactly how we would begin our work, starting Day One. Here is what we initiated today:

We engaged the hydrologist that conducted the original evaluation of Pajarito’s weir system, and we discussed not only the work he performed four years ago but also how he could expand that research to develop three ponds for an additional 30 million gallons of water and additional water collection points. We are pleased to work with an expert who is so familiar with the ski area and its needs.

Today we also engaged the engineer who designed Pajarito’s 10 million-gallon holding pond and discussed how we could build additional ponds across the property. We will meet with her to do a site visit later this month.

We found the right person at Los Alamos County to help us with the permitting process as we prepare to drill the test well. We also began identifying potential contractors for this job, and we will evaluate and select a team to get this critical task done.

As part of our plan to install additional snowmaking, we met with Tom Long to discuss our best options for bringing water to the base terminal of the Mother Chair as well as snowmaking pipeline along the Townsight Lift.

I am happy to report that Los Alamos County connected with Santa Fe National Forest to discuss installing temporary pipeline to Los Alamos Canyon Reservoir. Likewise, the County has also started talking with the New Mexico Department of Energy to secure permits for these lines, which will provide access to a potable water source.

Above all else today, I was reminded of the fantastic team of people who are dedicated to this project. Tom Long and his staff are eager and ready to work hard, and the County proves over and over again what we already knew: they are an invaluable resource of expertise, connections and community knowledge. Every contributor – be it at Pajarito, Los Alamos County or the Ski Club – brings unique skills that compliment each other and truly strengthen our partnership. I’m excited this group can work together for the benefit of the ski area, Los Alamos and our state.

We will continue to keep you updated on our progress here, and please feel free to use this forum to post your comments and ask us questions. We welcome your feedback as we work together to secure skiing and snowboarding at Pajarito Mountain Ski Area!

Los Alamos Ski Club Approves Transferring Pajarito

The Los Alamos Ski Club announced today that a 2/3 majority of voting members approved to transfer Pajarito Mountain Ski Area to Los Alamos County and the management group that operates Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort. County and Sipapu officials pledged to make skiing – and especially securing water for snowmaking purposes – their first priority.

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

“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.”

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 on November 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.

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

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 would 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

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