Beneath their dangling feet the open, grassy slope was dotted with white, yellow and orange wildflowers. Hanging on the back of the chair ahead of them was an adult's mountain bike, and on the chair following them was a shiny blue bike, several sizes smaller.
A narrow dirt trail cut across the slope, disappearing in the trees to the left and right, the trail he and his dad would soon be riding down. When a pair of cyclists on the trail emerged from the trees, kicking up clouds of dust with their tires as they negotiated a quick turn, the boy's eyes got even wider and his smile dropped open.
"Wow," he said.
You'd have thought someone just handed him a million dollars.
Summer Uphill Program
Providing chairlift service to sightseers, hikers and mountain bikers, Sandia Peak Ski Area brightens the faces of many Albuquerque residents and visitors with its summer uphill program. It opens so much more of the backyard mountain to people with less than Olympic standard lung- and leg-power.
While there is a core group of serious athletes who actually enjoy ascending the bike trails at Sandia Peak, there are even more average riders who appreciate being able to pay for a lift to the top so they can take a relatively easy cruise to the bottom.
The bicycle trails at Sandia Peak weave in and out of the pine and aspen forests. All are all hand cut, well maintained and clearly signed. They are rated for difficulty in the same manner as the ski trails are in winter: a green circle signifies the easiest, a blue square marks the more challenging and the hardest trails get a black diamond rating.
Only the uphill run of King of the Mountain trail gets the black diamond rating, while the two main downhill trails, Golden Eagle and the descending run of King of the Mountain are rated green and blue, respectively.
For those who get the urge to ride but don't have the equipment, bikes are available for rent at both the top and bottom of the lift; the price of the lift is included in the rental fee.
All rental bikes have suspension forks and are equipped with an air pump and water bottle. Helmets are required for all riders at the area and are provided with rental bikes. Forgotten necessities, sunscreen, tube patches and the like, are for sale at the gift shop. And there's no need to pack a picnic lunch unless you'd like to find a place to eat somewhere on the mountain. Food services are available, top and bottom.
Other ski areas in New Mexico and across the nation are opening their slopes to summer use, and some are running a chairlift to take mountain bikers, hikers and lookers to places they might not otherwise see. That ought to bring a smile to a lot more faces.
Where to Ride
Ski Rio (505-758-7707)
Open Tuesday-Sunday; 9am-3pm, 1 lift.
Red River (505-754-2382)
Open every day, 9am-4pm, 1 lift.
Notes: Guided tours available, lots of terrain.
Enchanted Forest (505-754-2374)
Open every day
No lifts; approximately 10 miles of trails
Notes: Terrain varies from easy to extreme; annual race in September.
No mountain biking; lifts open for hikers and sightseers
Note: Biking is available on national forest land outside wilderness boundaries nearby.
Angel Fire (505-377-6401)
Open Saturday and Sunday, 9am--3pm, 1 lift
Notes: The lift goes to mid-mountain and from there riders have miles of trails to choose; outstanding views of the Moreno Valley.
Open every day
No lifts; miles and miles of national forest trails
Santa Fe (505-982-4429) No mountain biking; summer chairlift rides for hikers and sightseers begin July 1.
Ski Apache (505-336-4356) No mountain biking; no access to area in summer.
Note: There are many forest trails in the area, and the road up to the area is popular with cyclists; it's the site of an annual race in October.
Snow Canyon (505-682-2566)
Open every day
No lift; several forest trails nearby
Notes: Two popular rides are the Osha Trail, 2.5 miles, a good tune-up, and the Rim Trail, 13 miles, goes to the Sun Spot Solar Obs