Angelfire Heaven

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On my road trip to Brevard, I stopped for two days at Angelfire, NM to ride the bike park. I loved it!

Angelfire is located about a half hour east of Taos, NM, and not very far from the Colorado border. It is a sleepy town with a big ski resort attached to it. This resort has become one of America’s premiere mountain bike parks. It has runs of all types and over 1500 vertical feet of drop from the top of the lift. 

Ever since my last road trip in 2018, I have been trying to get to Angelfire. This park was mentioned to me on several occasions by several different fellow bikers in a variety of riding stops from Durango, to Ft. Collins, to Sun Valley. They all said it is legendary and that it is a must-stop for anyone who loves biking and is traveling anywhere near the area.

The two-day drive from California was rough. I spent a night (and rode) in Kingman, Arizona on the first night. the 100º+ temps traveling through Mojave, and the 115º temps in Kingman were hard to endure, but worth it when I reached Taos and drove over the pass to Angelfire with the windows down. The cool mountain air was alien but welcome when compared to the rest of New Mexico’s arid climate. 

The Mountain

Angelfire is not a small resort, but it’s not very big either. It compares to Sugarbowl in the Sierras, but with more vertical drop. Angelfire is much bigger than Purgatory (Colorado), but much smaller than Whistler (British Columbia). My visit was towards the end of the season, when Angelfire was only open from Friday to Sunday. There were maybe 150-200 people on the trails when I was there, and that seemed just right. The lift lines were fairly short, the food lines were easy, and the runs were fairly empty. 

It looks so small from here!

Variety is one thing that makes Angelfire special. The 2000+ vertical feet of elevation from the bottom to the top of the one lift is substantial, and requires a couple of stops on the way down to regain composure and catch a breath. (The park base is at about 8600 feet, and the top is over 11,677).

They use this elevation, and the varying mountain terrain, to maximum advantage. Mellower green trails (but still a bit more advanced for true beginners) make easy riding from the top to the bottom possible. There are many blue trails that shoot off from the main green run, and a few blacks (and double blacks) as well. The northern side of the mountain is primarily dedicated to black runs and, I’m sorry to say, I spent no time there in my two days. (when I return, i will consider it). 

No issues with the line length.

The blue runs are where the southern half of the park shines. Some offer tight, rocky descents with narrow tree-filled and tight turns, and others offer feature-filled drops and FAST tabletop jump runs. A favorite of mine is Boulder Dash, which spans more than half the mountain and is filled with fast, flowy berms and fun jumping. 

I felt like I stepped up my riding game while visiting Angelfire, but not while taking on much risk. The runs are well designed and they have the potential to build a lot of confidence. All the features and jumps have run-outs that are appropriate to their difficulty and trail style. On my first few runs, I was fairly nervous, but I loosened up after I learned the trails and I was bombing down most of what I rode on day number two. 

The Town

The town of Angelfire is simple, but gets the job done. There are a few restaurants, a decent store, and a damned good brewery in town, but it all closes up pretty early. Don’t bother looking for nightlife in town – I found little or none. I spent the evening chatting with a few locals (at a distance) at the brewery until it closed, and that’s as far as my social interaction got.

The Lowe’s Market, located where N. Angel Fire Road meets Hwy 434, closes at 10pm. To be honest, I drove right past it thinking it was a gas station snack shop the first couple of times, but it is a well-stocked grocery store and has everything you will need to a day trip on the mountain as well as evenings in a rented cabin or (like me) a room at the lodge.

Overall, I think that Angelfire deserves its reputation as a top-level bike park. What it lacks in local amenities, it makes up for in the park. The runs are fun, challenging, and adventurous. I can’t wait to return.

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