Why Genius Skiing at Pajarito?
Did you know that when you visit Pajarito, you’re visiting a mountain filled with history, steep with Los Alamos’ love for snow and a heritage of passionate volunteers who worked tirelessly to create Pajarito Mountain. True geniuses built this mountain into the ski area.
During World War II, Los Alamos was a secret city home of the Manhattan Project, which ultimately developed the world’s first nuclear weapons. The US government chose Los Alamos at the time because of its remote location, referred to as “Site Y.” Today, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) tackles national security challenges through scientific excellence far beyond the initial nuclear mission.
In 1943, a group of Los Alamos scientists and soldiers came together to create a ski area. The group became the Los Alamos Ski Club. Many of them had immigrated to the U.S. from Europe and skiing was in their blood. Most had grown up climbing and skiing the Alps. Some of the early pioneers of Pajarito and nuclear science include Enrico Fermi (Nobel laureate, 1938) and his longtime associate Emilio Segrè (Nobel 1959); Cornell professor Hans Bethe (Nobel 1967); Niels Bohr (Nobel 1922); Harvard professor George Kistiakowsky and his explosives-lab partner Walter Kauzman; J. Robert Oppenheimer, Berkeley grads Ben and Beckie Diven; and several grad students from the Army’s Special Engineering Detachment.
In December 1944, Sawyers Hill opened for business. Members paid $7.50 a person for access to the single tow rope, and the chance to blow up trees and open up runs. Several years later, with waning snow on Sawyers Hill, the members of the original club recommended a move to Pajarito Mountain, which offered steeper runs, more terrain, and more snow. It was a massive undertaking. “Skiers of the hill, arise!” challenged a memo to club members. “You have nothing to lose but the doubtful pleasure of skiing on rocks, stumps, and beer cans.”
November 23, 1957, marked the opening day for Pajarito Mountain, with two tows that offered double the vertical drop of Sawyers Hill, a beginner’s slope and a narrow trail from the upper tow rope. With record snowfall, Pajarito Mountain experienced a banner first year. The Los Alamos Ski Club continued to develop the mountain, installing T-bars and eventually chairlifts, plus the building of the lodge, and continuous upkeep of the mountain.
Today, Pajarito is independently owned and operated, and we keep the passion of skiing alive in Los Alamos.
Learn more about Pajarito Mountain’s history.
Learn more about the Manhattan Project.