Don't be fooled by the Santa Fe's warm, sunny weather, and desert landscape. In winter, a 20-minute drive from town into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains will land you in a snowy alpine environment at 10,350 feet. It turns out that the art and culture capital of the American West is also a great place to ski. The best part? No one seems to know.

We hit the slopes on a weekday with Benny Abruzzo, the President and General Manager of Ski Santa Fe. A New Mexico native, Abruzzo has been both a skier and an artist since his earliest childhood memory. The resort shows it. The parking lot is situated a short walk from the recently remodeled base area lodge, which looks more like an art museum with floor-to-ceiling windows. The space flows gracefully from the food court to the ski shop to the restrooms to the ski rental, ending just steps from the lift.

Each run is as carefully molded as the lodge – maximizing shred potential as well as aesthetic appeal. Ambruzzo left no terrain unexplored – from death-defying chutes, to well-spaced trees, to languid groomers. The defining run of the resort belongs to Parachute, a wide open black that shoots from the 12,053-foot apex down to mid-mountain, serving up 180-degree views of the Rio Grande Valley.

Locals will downplay the mountain as a nice family resort. That's because they hope you'll head to Taos, and stay away from their private ski paradise. Ski Santa Fe has never had a lift line. 

[Lift ticket prices are $69 a day, $54 for teens (13-20), and $49 for kids. Winter is value season in Santa Fe, with many hotels offering the best rates of the year.]