With this weekend’s opening of a disc golf course, Ski Santa Fe has pulled a top spot nationally—snagging the title for what seems to be the highest course in the county.
“No one has said officially, but I guess I can, because I think we are,” says Scott Hussion, director of marketing at Ski Santa Fe.
The 18-hole disc golf course, designed by Elite Brothers Disc Golf and opened last week, begins at the top of the Santa Fe Super Chief Quad Chair, then works its way uphill toward Gayway, an intermediate run that starts near the top of the Tesuque Peak Triple Chair, and a hole there sits at 11,564 feet in elevation. That’s hundreds of feet above the previous record, Aspen Mountain in Colorado, where the ski area tops out at 11,212.
The course then curves through ski runs and wends its way through the trees, passing Totemoff’s on its way into what’s colloquially referred to as “the bottleneck” at the base area—where players can partake in the rest of Ski Santa Fe’s entertainment lineup for the fall-color season.
“This course is actually unique in the fact that you have to ride the lift up and play all the way down,” Marcos Castillo, with Elite Brothers, a professional disc golfer who aided with the course design. “It might be the only one of its kind.”
“We wanted to use some different features of the mountain, give it some character … to play different parts of the mountain, get in the trees and have difficult shots there,” Hussion says.
For those unfamiliar, disc golf means throwing a disc (not to be confused with a Frisbee, despite striking similarities), toward a series of “buckets,” or chain cup-like structures a couple feet tall on a pole hundreds of feet away. Like ski runs, the course offers “black” advanced tees, and “blue” intermediate tees.
“It’s a pretty intense course,” Castillo says. “It plays pretty difficult from the longer tees. The shorter tees will definitely be better for newer players—it won’t beat them up too bad.”
In that way, Ski Santa Fe answers a need for more advanced courses in the state.
“It’s probably not a course you want to play your very first time playing disc golf. You may not like it very much after that,” Castillo says. “If it’s your very first time ever throwing a disc, it may be a little frustrating.”
“It’s a good kind of challenging,” Hussion says. The course had been in the works for three years, and was preceded by a couple of pilot-project events on single weekends. So far, he says, it’s been a hit.
There’s hope that the course’s caaliber and challenge will give it appeal for hosting tournaments (such as one on Sept. 11 that expects to see at least 80 players) and see it become something of a destination course for disc golfers—though locals, of course, come first.
Ski Santa Fe joins Angel Fire, Red River and Sipapu in hosting disc golf courses to make use of their terrain outside the winter months. It’s been a natural fit, Castillo says.
"The terrain itself is already really perfect for the game because we like trees and elevation and part of the difficulty of the game is navigating through different types of obstacles."
“The terrain itself is already really perfect for the game because we like trees and elevation and part of the difficulty of the game is navigating through different types of obstacles like that,” Castillo says. “And it’s environmentally friendly. There’s hardly any impact if at all on the mountain, so of course they like that as well.”
The ski area is expected to run the quad lift on weekends until Oct. 10. When snow flies, the course will be pulled until next fall. Disc golfers interested to play outside of the “leaf peeper” hours the lifts are running can make the half-hour hike to the first tee.
“It’s going to be a real limited-season course up there because it’s such a high environment,” Castillo says. “But it’s such an amazing place we’ll take whatever we can get.”
Ski lift tickets are $10 and include a map and score card. Map and score card alone are $2, or hike and play free.
Disclosure: Miller is a full-time SFR staff writer who works seasonally, part-time as an instructor at the ski basin.