20% of Pajarito Mountain’s 300 acres was charred by the Las Conchas fire.
60 is the estimated number of volunteers who have helped clean Pajarito’s damage on a regular basis since June.
"We’re going to be cleaning up after that fire for some years."
-Butch Wood, longtime Pajarito skier
Northern New Mexico suffered many losses after the Las Conchas fire engulfed 150,000 acres this summer.
Casualties included canyons, watersheds and sacred pueblo ceremonial sites [news, July 6: “Under Fire”]. Pajarito Mountain, a popular ski destination above Los Alamos in the Jemez Mountains, also saw substantial damage. Since the fire, loyal volunteers have spent their weekdays after work cleaning up the mess to ensure Pajarito is ready for ski season.
Volunteers have dwindled with the waning daylight hours, but Wood estimates roughly 75 percent of the ski area is ready to go.
During the summer, the volunteers chose to focus on cleaning up the western portion of the mountain instead of the eastern side.
“We had to pick one or the other because there were only so many volunteers and so much to do,” Wood tells SFR.
Much of the mountain’s eastern portion is still in rough shape and will be closed for the year, Wood adds, as will a small portion of the mountain’s far western side. “It’s ugly there anyway,” he says.
The Townside lift will take a year to repair as well.
“There’s lots of hazards,” Wood says. “Lots of burnt trees and stubs sticking out. If you ski and fall on them, they’ll end up going in your ribs.”
Volunteer tasks included cutting down burnt trees and running the remains through a wood chipper. Others cut shrubs. Wood says some of the biggest contributions were from those who collected leftovers for firewood.
Every year, volunteers pitch in to remove overgrowth on Pajarito. Wood says he’s been doing it regularly for 20 years. He recalls helping out with his dad as long ago as the late 1950s.