John and Judy Miller, and Gary and Fran Starbuck bought Powder Puff Mountain from Lester Lewis in 1970. A tiny beginner’s ski area, Powder Puff had 700-vertical feet, three rope tows and few runs and no trails to speak of — other than “Expert” which was so short you could go straight down without having to break into a turn before hitting flat terrain. Lift tickets were $6 for adults, $4.50 for kids. Lessons were $5. They used the 100-centimeter skis and Cliff Taylor’s Graduated Length Method (GLM).
When the Millers and Starbucks bought Powder Puff, it had snowmaking (compressed-air and water). In fact, it was one of the first western ski areas to take that step. One year Powder Puff opened October 29 tying for first in the nation with Loveland in Colorado.
A brochure sported a picture of a snow gun blowing snow and the caption, “We make snow!” They knew it was a successful approach the day it snowed and a customer came in to complain.
In 1979, Powder Puff was sold to Red River Ski Area. It closed a few years later. Its rope tows and chairlifts are gone, its snowmaking compressor sold for scrap, its buildings dismantled, its slopes dotted with houses.
Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area
During the Powder Puff years, John bought a fleet of used wooden cross country skis from another rental shop in town and began teaching cross country skiing in Red River’s backcountry, so when the area sold in 1979, it seemed natural to make that a full-time business.
He recalled the year “I’d spend hours foot packing tracks and a snowmobile would wipe them out so one evening I set a beautiful set of tracks across a beaver pond.… As we used to say in the Navy, ‘Sighted sub, sunk same.’”
During his days as a backcountry guide, John spent a week at Scandinavian Lodge in Steamboat Springs, Colo., learning from the great Sven Wiik, a longtime racer and coach of the U.S. Ski Team.
In spring 1985, a Cross Country Ski Areas Association convention at Royal Gorge in Truckee, Calif., inspired John to build a groomed ski area on a plateau atop Bobcat Pass. “With back country trips, people would finish the tour and say, ‘Well that was fun but it’s too much work.’ We weren’t getting people to fall in love with the sport — and it’s a great sport!”
Enchanted Forest opened with about 10-kilometers of trails in winter 1985-86. In the beginning, John groomed the trails and taught lessons but the area has grown enough that his role is now “official grooming inspector”.
Judy also taught lessons and took women out for “Ladies Ski Tours” and, later, “Ladies Snowshoe Tours”.
Today, Enchanted Forest is considered New Mexico’s premier destination for Nordic skiing with customers from all over the world. The area, now owned and operated by Ellen Miller-Goins and Geoff Goins (of Raton, New Mexico), has hosted the University of New Mexico (since de-funded by the university) Nordic Teams’ NCAA Regional Race several times , along with a number of events like “Just Desserts” Eat & Ski and the Christmas night Luminaria Tour.
Today, the area features 33 kilometers of ski trails, 15 kilometers of snowshoe trails and 5k of “dog friendly” trails.
— by Ellen Miller-Goins