Ever since Sipapu started making snow (roughly 25 years ago), we have been making a snow castle. The reason for the castle is two-fold:
1. We make snow in February to "bank" it for March. When the snow is one big heap, it stays cold and preserved. That way, when the spring temperatures warm up, we have snow available to push out in the base area.
2. A less practical reason, but a lot more fun: we love a good reason to throw a party, dress up and celebrate. A snow castle is a great excuse for all of that!
We made the snow for the snow castle last month and, if you visited us anytime from mid-January until the first week of February, you've actually skied/snowboarded on snow castle snow. Historically, we typically make that big pile the week before February Fun Fest, Sipapu's annual President's Day Weekend festival, but thanks to some improved efficiencies in our snowmaking system, we were able to make it a few weeks ago.
The below photos show a visual timeline of how we make the castle. At any given time, we'll have 1-5 staff members working on the snow, and we estimate it takes about 125 hours to build it. No two years are ever alike in design, and we always create the castle with kids in mind: we want to make it as FUN as possible for them. The guys who work on the castle - groomers, ski patrollers, terrain park crews, you name it - get to use a lot of creativity in this process. Call them snow castle craftsmen!
This year's creation is about 5,000 square feet and about 2 stories tall. We've made a couple of tunnels - including our biggest one yet! - and at least 5 slides. There are also five levels to the castle and each level has a platform that includes areas for kids to play. There are also countless steps, so moms and dads can bank on some worn-out kids! We'll drop the ropes on the castle at 9 a.m. tomorrow!
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A blank canvas. We gathered this snow on Saturday night, Feb. 8.
The snow pile on Feb. 9. We allow the big pile to cure for 24 hours before we start carving.
On Monday, Feb. 10, we started carving. We always start at the top and work our way down.
Progress as of Feb. 11. We use chainsaws (Stihl 046 Bar 36 for all you connoisseurs out there) to carve.
Progress as of Feb. 12. We love creating spots for kids to discover and play.
Nearly complete. The castle as of Feb. 13 - we will spend today smoothing out the snow and getting it ready for tomorrow!
Depending on snow conditions, we typically leave the castle up until early March.
Temperatures have been fairly warm this week, although a warm spell is pretty common for our ski area this time of year. While we are always eager for snow, the bluebird days are the best times to come out, bring your kids and enjoy these warm temperatures.
We'll see you on the castle this weekend!
This morning, we opened Pedro's Park, our beginner terrain park, located on Bambi and just beyond Thumper. This park includes four features, a jump and a rainbow, and a jump with a box. Like with our big terrain park, Don Diego, we looked at last year's beginner park and adjusted last year's layout based on what we saw people using most. The most popular feature last season, by far, was the jump we created, so this year, instead of one jump, you get two. Pedro's Park is a little more advanced than last year, but it's still a solid beginner park - perfect to practice on before hitting Don Diego.
Speaking of, we've had a lot of really great feedback on the new Don Diego park, and I will tell you: it is one beautiful park. If you missed last weekend's King/Queen of the Hill Terrain Park compeition, you missed one of the best park comps we've ever had on our mountain. A very special thank you to NM(X) Sports and all of the workers at this event. Here's a short video featuring the Don Diego Park and even some of the skibike demos from the 2014 SkiBikeFun SkiBike Festival.
About a dozen of our instructors - including me and our general manager, Gary Forrest - have participated in the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) training over the last couple of days. During these 16 hours, the PSIA instructor (who hails from Aspen) is sharing his best practices with us on how we can be better instructors for our students. We recognize that many of our guests are on a budget and are skiing with us for a short period of time. We, as instructors, want to make sure that they are learning as much as they can so they can enjoy not only our hill this visit, but also terrain for future visits, wherever they ski or snowboard. Think of this as as instruction for instructors. It's an important piece of our resort, and one I am proud to be a part of.
Mountain manager John Paul (green jacket) and general manager Gary Forrest (brown jacket) participate in the PSIA clinic at Sipapu.
Yesterday, I skied the trees on No Caboose, and the snow was fantastic. While this wasn't powder skiing, I decided to go into the trees and think of them as moguls, and I had one of the best runs all winter. Because this run is so shaded by the trees, the snow has held up really well. This is one of those runs that doesn't get a lot of traffic, so if you're looking for a quiet, challenging run, give this one a try.
Speaking of powder skiing, here's an interesting fact: our driest January on record was in 2011 when we received 2" of snow for that entire month. Want to guess our 2nd-best (in terms of total snowfall) month *ever*? February 2011. That month, we picked up 56" of snow. It's looking like snow is expected beginning this Friday, January 31, and we could get back-to-back storms next week. We're hoping to beat 2011 this February.
In the meantime, just a quick reminder to please stay in control on the hill. We all love to let 'er rip on these fast groomers, but please watch your speed, especially in our slow zones.
At 1:00 this afternoon, we dropped the ropes on Don Diego: our Don Diego terrain park is now open.
Our largest park on the mountain has 14 features, including six jumps and eight rails/boxes. Up to seven features are placed in a row and could be linked on a single pass through the park. Our features include:
- 18-foot gap with a 10-foot torpedo
- 12-foot long box
- 16-foot gap with a 14-foot flat rail
- 35-foot gap with a 22-foot flat rail
- 20-foot long A-frame box
- 10-foot gap with an 8-foot flat rail
- 10-foot gap with a barrel tap
- 10 foot gap with a 6-foot mini-rainbow rail
We're very proud of this park - we were intentional about bringing back the most popular features from previous seasons while improving those that were underutilized in the past. We're excited to unveil it right before this weekend's King/Queen of the Mountain Terrain Park Comp - happening this Saturday! Cost is $30 and includes lift ticket, entry fee and lunch.
Part of the Don Diego Terrain Park. For more photos of features, please click here.
I also want to personally thank everyone who has sent us - and especially the Bolander family - their sympathies as we mourn Lloyd's loss. The family is planning a special day to celebrate his life, and we hope everyone can join us for that. We will announce that very soon.
This morning, Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort's founder, Lloyd Bolander passed away. Words cannot express the impact this man had on our community, on the tens of thousands of kids he taught to ski, on his staff, on his family - on all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. More information - including how the family will commemorate his life - will be forthcoming. In the meantime, here is the resort announcement:
Lloyd Bolander, founder of New Mexico’s Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, has died, 62 years after he opened northern New Mexico’s oldest ski area.
Bolander passed away on Monday, January 20, at his home in Vadito, just miles from the resort he founded. He was 86 years old.
“Lloyd was one of the last true pioneers of New Mexico. He and Olive had a vision for their family and community that they successfully brought to fruition through their vibrant spirits and sheer determination. That vision is carried on by his children and those of us that are blessed to be a part of his family,” said Sipapu managing partner James Coleman. “He never stopped learning and striving to be his best. He directly impacted the lives of tens of thousands and will be dearly missed.”
A New Mexico native, Bolander grew up in Penasco, and began skiing at age three, shooting the gaps between pine trees on U.S. Hill near Taos on skis purchased from Montgomery Ward.
In 1950, Lloyd and his new bride, Olive, bought 13 acres of riverfront property in the Sangre de Cristo mountains with a simple but meaningful desire to create a sustainable life doing something they loved in the valley they called home. Two years later, Lloyd opened his ski area with a 100-foot-long portable rope tow and charged 50 cents per lift ticket. He christened his slope “Sipapu,” a Tewa word for “land of paradise.”
Over the years, Lloyd – with the support of Olive, his daughter, Sue, and his son, Bruce – added and replaced lifts, put in new trails, hand-built all of the resort’s slopeside lodging, and opened a rental shop, restaurant, and store.
Lloyd was most passionate about teaching others – especially children – how to ski. He founded the Sipapu School Program, which offers deep discounts to local schools who brought their classes to learn to ski (Sue, Sipapu’s Ski School Director, now champions this initiative).
In 1984, Lloyd and Olive retired from their daily duties at Sipapu, although he frequented the resort regularly, usually helping his daughter teach ski school lessons. Lloyd and Olive were inducted into the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame in 2004. Last May the Professional Ski Instructors Association recognized Lloyd for 55 years of PSIA service.
Lloyd is survived by his wife of 64 years, Olive, and his daughter, Sue (Bolander) Leslie and her husband, Bill Leslie, of Vadito; and his son, Bruce, and his wife, Winonah, of Vadito. He is also survived by four grandsons, seven great-grandchildren and countless employees, resort guests, friends and neighbors whom he counted as family.
Lloyd – along with Olive, Sue and Bruce – began Sipapu over 60 years ago, but he did more than create a ski area. He defined what it meant to pursue a passion, to be unafraid to take risks, to build a dream, to provide for a family, to support a community, to explore, to adventure, and to walk a life modestly, humbly while loving deeply.
The Bolander family will announce how they will commemorate and celebrate Lloyd’s life at a later date.