An extremely "young" village for
and the northeastern part of the state, Angel Fire was only a concept until the 1960's, when
land owners began to envision a "resort" area, complete with fishing,
hunting, skiing and more. Before that time, it was comprised of rolling
hills, high mountains, lush valleys, streams and just a few owners
over the years.
Long before white settlers came to the area; however, the Moreno Valley
was called home to the nomadic
tribes, who gathered here in the summer and fall. According to legend, the
the glow against Agua Fria Peak the "fire of the gods."
When traveling Franciscan friars came
through the area, they transposed the name into "the place of the fire
of angels." The mid-1800s would see the arrival of
Maxwell, the largest land grant owner in U.S. history, and
Christopher "Kit” Carson, who would soon coin the phrase "Angel Fire,” in 1845.
1864 Lucien B. Maxwell acquired
the full rights to the 1.7 million acre property, known as the Maxwell Land Grant,
that at that time was only pasture and hunting ground for the Indians. In 1867, however, everything changed when gold was discovered on Baldy
Mountain, overlooking the Moreno Valley and within a year, 7000 fortune
hunters flooded the area. Though the land was privately owned by
Maxwell, there was no stopping the prospectors who soon
established the present-day ghost town of
More familiarly called E-Town by the locals, this mining camp was
typical of other rowdy mining camps and became one of the principal
towns involved in in the decades long Colfax County War, between
land owners and squatters.
Charles and Frank Springer, owners of the CS Ranch, completed
Nest Dam, taming the Cimarron River and conserving water for
Surrounded by rolling pasture and
stunning mountains, the fishermen began to arrive when the lake was
stocked with trout. Along with the fishermen, entrepreneurs also
arrived, building businesses and transforming the quiet farming
community into a small tourist mecca, providing entertainment to the
visiting cowboys, fishermen and other tourists.
At first the small
settlement was called Therma but later it changed its name to Eagle
Nest with the arrival of most mail addressed as such.
In 1954, Roy and George
LeBus of Wichita Falls,
bought the 9,000 acre Monte Verde Ranch and in 1956 purchased another
14,000 acres, comprising the Cieneguilla Ranch, from the
Maxwell Land Grant Company.
Ten years after the initial purchase, they decided to develop the
property into a resort community. They called the new development "Angel
the phrase that Kit Carson had long ago coined after the old
lore. In 1966 construction began in earnest and after about 18
months the early ski trails were cut, a nine hole golf course was
complete and Monte Verde Lake was ready for visitors. Word of
the resort spread quickly and soon visitors from New Mexico,
Kansas began to come to Angel
Fire. As the resort continued to grow, the demand for new capital for
expansion was required and the Lebus family took on additional
investors in 1969, beginning to back out of active ownership.
In no time at all, new accommodations were
needed to house these many visitors and the first condominiums were
completed in 1971. In 1972 the resort was sold to the Baca Grande Angel Fire Corporation. However, the Lebus
family retained more than 1000 acres of their original land. The
Baca Grande Corporation began to install utilities to lot sites, built new
roads, and cleared the ski trails of numerous rocks and trees. By
1973, Angel Fire was visited by more than 20,000
skiers. In the same year the Country Club and Starfire Lodge were added.
Over the next
several decades the resort was sold numerous times, struggling through the
recession of the 1980s, becoming involved in endless legal battles, and
finally winding up in bankruptcy.
In 1996, most areas of
dispute were finally settled and the resort was purchased by a limited
partnership group, providing a brighter future for
Angel Fire. Today, Angel Fire
provides winter visitors with downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snow
boarding, sledding, snowshoeing through alpine meadows, snowmobiling, ice
fishing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and more.
For summer mountain enthusiasts, the resort
offers fishing and small boat rentals at Monte Verde Lake, hiking, biking,
golf, tennis, horse-back riding and the beautiful mountain views along
with the cool mountain air.
Angel Fire is located in the majestic Moreno Valley in Colfax County,
23 miles east of Taos via US Hwy 64 and 152 miles northeast of
Albuquerque. The Moreno Valley is a 15 mile long, 3 mile wide, high alpine
valley with an 8,382' base elevation. Surrounding mountains range from
11,086' Agua Fria Peak on the
south end of the valley to 12,441' Baldy Peak at the north end of the
valley. Wheeler Peak at 13,161', the highest mountain in the state, forms
the northwest boundary of the valley.
of America, updated March, 2017.
Editor's Note: I spent
much time in this area when I was growing up -- Grandma Foster had a cabin near
Eagle Nest. At the age of five, I watched the ski resort being built, at
the age of seven, I learned to ski there. Wonderful memories. p.s. The
family still owns the cabin. -- Kathy Weiser-Alexander.