For dedicated skiers at world-famous Taos Ski Valley, winter is always just around the corner. When temperatures dip below freezing at the valley, the snowmaking guns will fire up.
Taos Ski Valley is not alone in its efforts to keep powder on the minds of New Mexicans year-around. Ski Apache near Ruidoso is always touting its “white-capped mountains jutting skyward” to any visitor willing to listen; Ski Santa Fe beckons vacationers to “experience the excitement of world-class skiing minutes from historic Ski Santa Fe;” while little Sipapu Ski and Summer Report, located between Taos and Amarillo, calls its secluded setting “the ideal destination for those who appreciate the pleasure of getting back to the basics.”
Most offer special Christmas and New Years’ celebrations including torchlight parades, wine festivals, live music and family time.
Although great skiing and snowboarding are just a part of a New Mexico winter adventure vacation - albeit a big part - they are by no means all the state has to offer when the days turn short.
Take Cimarron, for example. Hardly a skier’s paradise – although it rests near the eastern edge of the Enchanted Circle and a ski pole’s throw from Red River, Enchanted Forest and Angel Fire– this tiny, historic western town schedules a Holiday Walk every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Cimarron not only offers warm hospitality and a welcoming atmosphere, it has a tale to tell every visitor any time of year. Once a lively stop along the mountain route of the Santa Fe Trail, the Cimarron walking tour features 14 historic sites, including the infamous St. James Hotel. Mixed in are a variety of art, jewelry, candles, leather and western goods and historical clothing, Native American arts and crafts, weavings, photographs, woodwork and pottery, found throughout Cimarron’s several shops and museums.
The ES Barker Wildlife Area and the Valle Vidal Unit of the Kit Carson National Forest, both within easy access of town, sport both snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. In fact, cross-country skiing opportunities, from the long-established Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Area near Red River to newly explored trails, exist in the state’s high country, from north to south.
Time may stand still in Chama (historically speaking), but the sounds of modern snowmobiles also fill the air, transforming what was once a railroad boomtown turned bust into a snowmobiler’s paradise,” say the folks at the Chama Chamber of Commerce, “which is not to say there isn’t also plenty of opportunity for cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing and wildlife viewing.” Chama also offers a number of special events during the winter.
As a rule, backcountry cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing routes typically follow Forest Service roads and hiking trails that can lead to a paradise of powdery inclines. Snow skating and snow biking are also making strong headway into the downhill market, while flatlanders are discovering an increasing number of ice-skating and recreational hockey opportunities throughout the state.
Scattered across the mountainous regions are a handful of maintained ponds and lakes where ice skaters can practice their hockey skills or hone their figure eights. In Albuquerque, the Outpost Ice Arena offers year-round skating in addition to others, such as the Genoveva Chavez Community Center in Santa Fe. Taos has a seasonal indoor ice arena, and Los Alamos’s ever-popular skating pond pre-dates the Atomic age.