Taos is the latest major North American ski town to be threatened by wildfires following the evacuation of South Lake Tahoe in California last Fall. The nearby ski area of Angel Fire is also under threat and residents have been told to prepare for an immediate evacuation order for the past three days.
The Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire approaching Taos has burned a 45-mile long path consuming over 235,000 acres (95,000+ hectares) of up the Sangre de Cristo mountains towards the ski town, which is also one of North America’s oldest continually settled communities with a thousand years of recorded history. Nearly 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze which is said to be about 35% contained.
Much of Southwestern North America is in a multi-year drought and forest fire danger is no longer seasonal, but year round. In New Mexico where the ski areas are located the drought is believed to be the worst for 500 years.
Other North American ski areas including Sun Peaks in BC, Canada, have been threatened in the past year and Sierra at Tahoe was unable to open last season after fire damage from the same forest fire that threatened South Lake Tahoe. Two years ago bush fires threatened multiple Australian ski areas, destroying one, Selwyn Snowfields, which has been rebuilt and will re-open this winter.
Climate change has reduced snowpacks and dried out high-mountain forests and valleys, according to scientists, while a century of fire suppression coupled with bans on logging some areas for more than two decades are also factors in increased fire risk, then fire intensity once ignited.
- Since this report was written a third New Mexico ski area, Sipapu, has been evacuated.