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Old 07-18-2008, 08:38 PM
 
265 posts, read 521,511 times
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Default Winter in southern New Mexico

I have been considering a winter home in southern NM for some time. Just wanted to confirm my impression of what winter is like in that area.

Coming from NW Illinois, I have just experienced a winter of many minus 20 degree nights. In addition we had 65 inches of snow this past winter. Living in a rural area, we went for a month with snow packed two lane roads to get to town. Not a pleasant experience. Everyone ran out of salt for the roads. It was a dicey experience.

After reading many threads over the past year or so, I am getting the impression that southern NM has very mild winters. Even in the mountain areas like Ruidoso , Timberon, and Silver City. ALso areas outside Socorro.

Is it my imagination, or does the typical heavy snow may be 4-6 inches which melts quickly due to the sun and low humidity environment. I know that areas of Colorado experience snow in the feet depth which can cause one to be snowbound for several days. But I haven't read anything like that about southern NM.

Also the extended number of days below zero is just very hard to take when one is retired. So it would seem that southern NM would be fine for me in the winter. I wouldn't see conditions I have described in NW Illinois. Or am I wrong???

Based on what I know right now, I am targeting the Ruidoso, Silver City, Socorro, Alamogordo, and Capitan areas for possible location during the winter months. I would appreciate any comments on my thoughts and or suggestions. Thanks much to all. NM sounds like a very nice place.

I am hoping to make a trip to the area this coming January to see what winter is really like . But would like to be prepared. So comments would help. Should I bring my heavy winter coat that I wear in Illinois, or just my jacket.?

Jim
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Old 07-18-2008, 08:48 PM
 
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Hi Jim,
Bring you heavy coat, it can get cold but the sun comes out and its much better. Many times during the sunny part of the day I am outside in a sweatshirt, I would not even think of it back in IL.
Everything is about the same as what we discussed last year. And I know about that cold winter you had back in ILL. I was back for a month in Jan due to a family illness, and I could not get warm. -19 was not my idea of winter after 10 years in NM for the winter.
Plan a visit out, stay centrally and then go and visit the areas you are thinking about. I think you would like the areas you talked about. We would love to meet up with you here or there..I have to come back to IL in mid Aug, not looking forward to the humidity, its about 40% here tonight and its bad...
Jane
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Old 07-18-2008, 09:15 PM
 
Location: Trans-Pecos Texas
8,007 posts, read 11,117,745 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by james57 View Post
I have been considering a winter home in southern NM for some time. Just wanted to confirm my impression of what winter is like in that area.

Coming from NW Illinois, I have just experienced a winter of many minus 20 degree nights. In addition we had 65 inches of snow this past winter. Living in a rural area, we went for a month with snow packed two lane roads to get to town. Not a pleasant experience. Everyone ran out of salt for the roads. It was a dicey experience.

After reading many threads over the past year or so, I am getting the impression that southern NM has very mild winters. Even in the mountain areas like Ruidoso , Timberon, and Silver City. ALso areas outside Socorro.

Is it my imagination, or does the typical heavy snow may be 4-6 inches which melts quickly due to the sun and low humidity environment. I know that areas of Colorado experience snow in the feet depth which can cause one to be snowbound for several days. But I haven't read anything like that about southern NM.

Also the extended number of days below zero is just very hard to take when one is retired. So it would seem that southern NM would be fine for me in the winter. I wouldn't see conditions I have described in NW Illinois. Or am I wrong???

Based on what I know right now, I am targeting the Ruidoso, Silver City, Socorro, Alamogordo, and Capitan areas for possible location during the winter months. I would appreciate any comments on my thoughts and or suggestions. Thanks much to all. NM sounds like a very nice place.

I am hoping to make a trip to the area this coming January to see what winter is really like . But would like to be prepared. So comments would help. Should I bring my heavy winter coat that I wear in Illinois, or just my jacket.?

Jim
Capitan (6500 ft) and Ruidoso (7000) are both going to be cold at times in the winter, and will have snow at times at those elevations. Winters can be mild, but they also get cold!

I have been to both in winters past. The others besides Alamo, I have no clue.

Alamo had no winter last year.

No snow, occasional daytime highs up to 70, some nights in the 10s, overall a GREAT winter.

I just wanted a colder, more snowy one. I hope next winter is cooler than this last one was.

I'm looking at higher elevation places now, to get away from the summer heat. It has been really nice here lately, though, with rain and temps in the mid 80s.

Last edited by Cathy4017; 07-18-2008 at 09:29 PM..
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Old 07-18-2008, 10:39 PM
 
Location: Metro Milwaukee, WI
3,058 posts, read 7,767,653 times
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Default NO thick winter coat!

I am from Milwaukee, WI...a similar climate to where the OP resides in...slightly even more cold / snowy. Lived here much of my life, until Albuquerque 2003 - 07 (with many, many trips to Southern NM and far West Texas) and now tentatively have been back in Milwaukee since AUG 07.

Overall, indeed, virtually no areas in Southern NM will ever come close to approaching the winter of the upper Midwest. If for no other reason, the persistent strong sunshine, longer days, etc. Also, the arid climate makes snow events less of a commonality, except for the very high mountain altitudes; even in those altitudes, sunshine is strong and constant.

Having said that, Southern New Mexico - like most all of New Mexico - like most all of Arizona, Colorado, California, Nevada, Utah, etc. - is largely climatically predicated on ALTITUDE. There are other factors such as physical proximity to other physical beings / areas that influence average annual temps, precipitation, etc., but altitude is the biggie.

For instance, Albuquerque, NM - at 5000 feet - far north of Ruidoso, NM - is a warmer climate than the southern Ruidoso. It is also a less snowy climate than Ruidoso. At 7000 feet, Ruidoso's winters are overall less harsh (cold and snowy in the conventional sense) than the upper Midwest, however, I probably wouldn't retire there from the upper Midwest if I was seeking a warm year round winter.

In terms of kind of conventional nice winter weather (for the Sun Belt sense), I would say that Alamogordo would be an excellent choice, followed fairly closely be Socorro and Silver City. Then...after quite a bit of distance...the rear would be Capitan and Ruidoso...as beautiful and nice as those areas are.

To me, Alamogordo (along with nearby Las Cruces and El Paso, TX) offers the perfect winter climate. Yes, you'll get some cold nights (a handful - literally a handful - of sub-25 degree weather) and a dusting of snow once in a while. But it is the average for daytimes to reach the high-50s through high-60s (with a strong sun that makes things feel much warmer). You'll get cool-to-cold overnight lows (typically 20s, 30s, and low-40s...remember, the temp in the desert drops about 20 or 25 degrees from the daytime high if not more), but they typically are very dry and quickly fold to the bright / intense sun of the daytime.

Silver City's winter weather is very similar to Albuquerque's. A hare warmer than ABQ's, as SC will average daytime highs of low/mid-50s to low-60s (unlike ABQ's mid-40s to low-60s)...a bit more snow than Alamo's but still nothing outside of a few events per year that melt rapidly. Summers are cooler in SC than Albuquerque, but winters are a hare warmer (and ABQ's winters are pretty darn mild in their own right). Again, a daytime high of 57 in SC (fairly common) will give way often to say, an overnight low of 29 (again, fairly common), but the "cold" is during the darkened night, and nothing compared to the extended prolonged winter you are used to.

Finally, Socorro is very similar to ABQ - a touch warmer - especially for daytime highs. Daytime highs in Socorro would be similar to Silver City's averages...nighttime lows a bit cooler - especially due to the proximity to the valley - Rio Grande. Yet again, while you might have some days with a daytime high of 49 with a strong sun and an overnight low of 21, while cold, it'll be done in a few hours and be a dry, generally snow-free cold.

Honestly, these three cities have some of the best year-round climates I think you could imagine for an area that still has all four seasons. Sure, unlike LA, you'll have to occasionally throw on the furnace at a high rate and will sometimes need to have a dust broom handy for snow fall. But it is all few and far between, and I would compare these regions' "winters" to those of say, Atlantas - without the humidity and slightly cooler overnight lows.

Ruidoso is a beautiful skiing resort town and Capitan is a very small mountain town. Nice towns / regions in their own rights, but if you ask me, if you are moving partially (or strongly) due to the desire for warmer winter weather, steer clear of cities/towns higher than 5000 feet in altitude.

As for the mountain towns even higher, again, quite beautiful, scenic, secluded, and wonderous in their own light. And still yes, probably a hare more mild than IL in the winter. However, *if I am looking for mild / warm winter weather* and am moving from the midwest largely for this, I am not moving to a mountain town.

I hope this helps. Good luck.
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Old 07-18-2008, 11:06 PM
 
Location: Albuquerque
734 posts, read 1,081,349 times
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James57...I think the others have given you some good info. I'm just going to add a few quick numbers here (since I'm a numbers junkie):

City Average January Max Temp Average January Min Temp Annual Snowfall
Ruidoso 49 18 40"
Capitan 48 21 30"
Fort Bayard 52 25 9"
Socorro 53 22 7"
Alamogordo 56 29 4"

I used Fort Bayard since they have excellent weather records dating back to the 1890s, while Silver City doesn't have much of a track record for weather data. Fort Bayard is pretty close...Silver City would be slightly cooler with a few more inches of snowfall.
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Old 07-19-2008, 09:47 AM
 
215 posts, read 524,119 times
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EnjoyEP nailed it. Look most closely below 5K feet. Ruidoso (7K feet) could surprise you with snow and ice at times, and you might regret moving there if your goal is to avoid winter. I live another 2K feet higher than Ruidoso, and sometimes winter here feels harsher than where I used to live in Alaska. Sure, it's dry and sunny, but it can also be crazy windy and the elevation seems to thin the blood and make people more sensitive to the cold.

Don't simply go by numbers. They are deceiving. Go by how the air feels wherever you are. A given temp at 9K feet does not feel the same as the same temp at sea level.

Here at 9K feet, I have experienced the most butt-kicking weather of anywhere I've ever lived -- from 115 F in SoCal to minus 35 in AK. If you are looking for mild, cakewalk weather, NM is not the place. Every region packs its big surprises. I happen to love it, but if you're timid about weather extremes, NM in general may not be your best spot.

If snow and cold are your only concerns, just stay low and be willing to take some summer heat. Also, the weather can be quite different here from one year to the next, so don't base your assessments on just one or two years. You might move here and luck out with a mild winter. Then, the next year, surprise!
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Old 07-19-2008, 11:02 AM
 
Location: Trans-Pecos Texas
8,007 posts, read 11,117,745 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jecc View Post
EnjoyEP nailed it. Look most closely below 5K feet. Ruidoso (7K feet) could surprise you with snow and ice at times, and you might regret moving there if your goal is to avoid winter. I live another 2K feet higher than Ruidoso, and sometimes winter here feels harsher than where I used to live in Alaska. Sure, it's dry and sunny, but it can also be crazy windy and the elevation seems to thin the blood and make people more sensitive to the cold.

Don't simply go by numbers. They are deceiving. Go by how the air feels wherever you are. A given temp at 9K feet does not feel the same as the same temp at sea level.

Here at 9K feet, I have experienced the most butt-kicking weather of anywhere I've ever lived -- from 115 F in SoCal to minus 35 in AK. If you are looking for mild, cakewalk weather, NM is not the place. Every region packs its big surprises. I happen to love it, but if you're timid about weather extremes, NM in general may not be your best spot.

If snow and cold are your only concerns, just stay low and be willing to take some summer heat. Also, the weather can be quite different here from one year to the next, so don't base your assessments on just one or two years. You might move here and luck out with a mild winter. Then, the next year, surprise!
That is exactly what I am hoping for this coming winter, LOL!!

When I was tracking temperatures before I moved here, it was not as hot as it was this past June. May was nice....July started out very hot, but as the monsoon season kicked in, temps have moderated quite a bit due to rain in the afternoon/night.

You are really right about temperatures here being different than the Midwest. I can tolerate far lower (to below zero) temps in NM/CO than I can in IL/IN. It's just not the same.

Having said that, I'm looking at Cloudcroft, High Rolls, Laborcita Canyon and vicinity.

It's hard not to love 68 degrees with a cool, dry breeze blowing in July...
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Old 07-19-2008, 08:50 PM
 
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James,
When presented with a similar situation (coming from colder, darker Northern Michigan) I chose the allegedly warmer part of New Mexico in the Mesilla Valley. I'm happy with the choice and the temps. Little or no snow, some rather cold nights (mid-20s) and the glorious New Mexico sunshine. Spring shows herself in mid-Feb and is getting in full swing a month later. Higher altitudes bring colder winter temps and more snow, so if that's an issue beware the areas much above 5k feet or so.
I thought that if I wanted to see much snow, I'd just stay in Michigan.
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Old 07-20-2008, 08:33 AM
 
Location: Trans-Pecos Texas
8,007 posts, read 11,117,745 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tecpatl View Post
James,
When presented with a similar situation (coming from colder, darker Northern Michigan) I chose the allegedly warmer part of New Mexico in the Mesilla Valley. I'm happy with the choice and the temps. Little or no snow, some rather cold nights (mid-20s) and the glorious New Mexico sunshine. Spring shows herself in mid-Feb and is getting in full swing a month later. Higher altitudes bring colder winter temps and more snow, so if that's an issue beware the areas much above 5k feet or so.
I thought that if I wanted to see much snow, I'd just stay in Michigan.
Have you ever been in snow in NM? I haven't been to Michigan, but I would guess that it is much like other Midwestern snow I've seen....heavy and very wet. Correct me if I'm wrong on that.

The snow in NM is usually light, dry and powdery until it's packed down...at least what I have seen....Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, Capitan, Santa Fe, ABQ, Farmington, Las Vegas, Vadito, Mora, Chama, etc.

The cold is also very different. In IN/IL, I put on layer after layer (including long johns, inner thin sweaters and outer heavy coats)...and it was a lot harder to get warm than in much lighter layers in NM/CO. To me, it's just not the same.

Others may perceive it very differently.
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Old 07-20-2008, 08:55 AM
 
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Cathy, I've found just the opposite. The wet cold of AK near sea level was nothing. I wore a T-shirt and no coat down to zero F all the time. Here in NM, I'm reaching for long sleeves at 40 or 50 degrees. Either the elevation is thinning my blood or I'm getting wimpier with age.

As for the type of snow here, it varies a lot. I've seen just as much dry, fluffy snow as wet, heavy snow. Sometimes it's so heavy I can barely lift a shovelful. Again, there are no predictable patterns or accurate generalizations regarding NM weather. This place is the real Wild West, and the weather fits right in.
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