Everything you need to know on fees and correct access/use of Valles Caldera (and Bandelier trails) for xc skiing and snowshoeing courtesy of VC Park Ranger Mike Frederick:
* The $20 fee is a vehicle pass that is good for seven days. For example, if they purchase the pass on Monday, it is valid through the following Sunday. The preserve is open every day, seven days a week, 9 AM to 5 PM, weather permitting. If the preserve gate is locked, visitors with passes (7-day, Senior, Annual, Access, etc) can still access the ski areas from Highway 4 by parking in one of the pullouts. Please be aware that often the state doesn't plow some of the pullouts so parking can be hazardous. Please ask them to park well off the road and not to block any access gates. This includes the entrance to the Banco Bonito Staging Area on the west side of the preserve.
* Visitors should have a pass of some type (see above) to ski anywhere within the preserve.
* Visitors accessing the preserve from any location (Pajarito, etc) should also have a pass.
* Visitors who ski or snowshoe into the preserve and want to use the groomed trails must check in at the visitor center. The fee is $10 per individual. If it's a party of one, they save $10 if they haven't driven in. Parties of two pay the same as if they'd driven in. Parties of three or more would benefit from driving in, of course, since they'd pay $20 instead of $10 apiece.
* Visitors skiing in from Pajarito to the VC would pay $10 per person unless they have a pass. Most of the ski club members I've met do have passes, mostly Senior or Annual. Vehicles that drive in to pick them up wouldn't have to pay. We don't charge a fee unless the visitor is recreating - skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, bike riding, fishing, etc. Visitors who drive to the VC to look around and take photos aren't charged.
* Unfortunately, we don't have a printed map or one on the website that is up to date on groomed trails. The conditions change very frequently based on weather and use. Our groomer aims to have up to 30 miles of trails groomed but often it's no more than five to seven. Last week, for example, he had to freshen up a number of trails since high winds and drifting snow had obscure much of what he'd done the previous day. The situation is very fluid and we don't know from one day to the next as to what the conditions will be. It's best to call the VC for up-to-date information (505-670-1612).
* Groomed trails are mostly for skate skiing. When he can, the groomer adds classic track. That is usually the 1.5 mile La Jara Trail (the hill behind the VC) and the 1.8 mile History Grove Trail.
Contrary to popular belief, Bandelier's trailheads and access points are NOT free. Visitors who use the trails and access the monument anywhere from Highway 4 are supposed to have a pass or pay the seven-day fee. While not scrupulously monitored, law enforcement rangers have been known to issue warnings or tickets to vehicles parked at Bandelier trail heads that aren't displaying passes.
I hope I've answered all of your questions. Thanks for your assistance with getting the information out about the Valles Caldera. I know there's a lot of confusion now with the transition and what the do's