Friday, December 14, 2012

Ruidoso, NM: Highway 532 - Ski Run Road

View from Windy Point on Ski Run Road. Outside Ruidoso, New Mexico

Highway 532 aka Ski Run Road veers off of Highway 48 and takes you to Ski Apache, the Mescalero Apache-owned ski resort.  

The 12 miles between Highway 48 and Ski Apache starts off  ... "nice ... and easy...." but then it finishes .... "nice .... and ....rough."

Tight turns followed by steep inclines. Barriers in place in some locations, but often there's nothing to prevent you from soaring out into space. Only a few spots to pull over in case of sliding vehicles coming at you in icy conditions. Or for you to turn around in cowardly retreat. Grand views going up that are tempting for the driver to look over at, but probably not a good idea til s/he can look at them on the return journey.

It's not the scariest mountain road I've driven, but it kept me on my toes. Here's a blow-by-blow of Ski Run Road from 2003 by Lyn Kidder at Southern New Mexico.

If you've got a fear of heights, this drive could be a little stressful. 

View behind Windy Point on Ski Run Road. Outside Ruidoso, New Mexico

My mother, who is visiting from Missouri, and I climbed up the mountain to Ski Apache, only to find it closed. You'd think there'd be signage to that effect down at the bottom of the 12-mile climb, wouldn't you? No, apparently they don't like signs in this neck of the woods, because: 
  1. There is no sign that says the Windy Point scenic view is even up here;
  2. There are no signs that inform one of the various elevations when you're up top; 
  3. There's no sign at the bottom of the gravel road offshoot to another scenic view that tells you it is closed - until you've almost climbed the summit; and
  4. No sign that tells you when Ski Apache will likely open. 
There is, however, a sign that tells you, just as you're getting excited about going up to Ski Apache, not to climb the road between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. as per city ordinance. No reason given. I did learn, from a previous, abortive journey up this way, from a USFS person, that the reason for the ordinance is that it's often icy on this road, and during this 3-6 time, so much traffic is coming downhill, it's dangerous to also have traffic going uphill.

Another reason for the afternoon closure (and the ski resort and scenic view closures) is the forest fire that occurred last year. It was a bad one, called the Little Bear Fire. Lots of recovery work is ongoing.

You can see evidence of the fire in the photo below:

View from Windy Point on Ski Run Road. Outside Ruidoso, New Mexico

 There were stands of aspen lining sections of the road, beautiful even without their foliage.

Highway 532, Ski Run Road. Outside Ruidoso, New Mexico

We climbed and circled the mountain up to a certain point (I'm guessing 11,000 feet), but we then descended and turned into the area where the ski resort structure is. So it's a bit confusing to me which mountain we climbed.

Although I've looked, I'm still unclear if Ski Apache is actually on Sierra Blanca (White Mountain) or if Ski Run Road is on Sierra Blanca (which rises some 12,000 feet), and the ski resort buildings are in a notch between Sierra Blanca and a mountain where the ski slopes are. The latter option is what appeared to be the case.

When I look at this Google map, however, it appears it's not alongside Sierra Blanca at all, but between Lookout and Buck Mountains. This doesn't jibe with website narratives. So, still confused.

View Larger Map

Was it worth the drive up Ski Run Road, only to find Ski Apache closed, so we had nothing to do but turn around and descend? Yes, it was!

(Well, there was a quick trot to the cover of what looked like a scenic trail for a wilderpee before beginning said descent.)


wendy said...

you know what was really good? reading about your climb while tina turner sang to me. sweet.
and i'm one of your readers who has a thing about heights, sadly. i think i could hike the mountain and love it but driving it would do me in. (have you been able to visit the monks outside of abiqui yet? one of my favorite spots in the world but if i were asked to drive in again, i think i'd pass--

Mzuri said...

Thanks - glad you enjoyed it! I haven't been to see the monks yet, but after checking out your link, I must! But I'll wait til late spring when I don't have to worry about driving on snow/ice, which is what *I* have a thing about.