Winter Sports in Northern New Mexico
Those unfamiliar with New Mexico might be surprised by the snowy landscape during winter months. From snow-capped mountains and powder-filled arroyos, the Land of Enchantment is truly a winter wonderland. And what better way to explore than on your own two feet—that’s the approach Los Alamos resident Whitney Spivey takes, and she encourages others to do the same. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe,” she says. “And if you can snowshoe, you can access some of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the state.
Meet Whitney Spivey
Spivey, a two-time member of the U.S. National Snowshoe Racing Team, began snowshoeing when she moved to New Mexico more than 10 years ago. And although she loves competing, running in snowshoes has taken her across the state, the country, and even the world—she says that nothing compares to a leisurely snowshoe outing with her identical twin daughters in the mountains near their Los Alamos home. When she’s not exploring the outdoors, Spivey works as a communications specialist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She’s also the author of award-winning Goodnight Los Alamos and A Los Alamos Alphabet, two children’s books that celebrate all her adopted hometown has to offer.
Head north from Los Alamos for a couple hours and you will find the charming town of Chama. Visit Corkins Lodge or the Chama River Bend Lodge for access to the snowmobiling and cross-country skiing trails nearby, as well as ice fishing on the Rio Chamita. If you aren’t familiar with the area, there are local guides that can show you around the beautiful Chama wilderness.
More Winter Fun!
On the east flank of the Jemez Mountains, the small town of Los Alamos comprises long mesas and deep canyons. In the winter, some locals snowshoe and cross-country ski on the municipal golf course, but many head into the mountains—both the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument have a variety of well-marked snow sports trails. When it comes to other winter activities, Pajarito Mountain Ski Area offers a quaint, and steep, alpine skiing experience, and the Los Alamos County Ice Rink, nestled among the ponderosa pines at the bottom of Los Alamos Canyon, is the state’s only full-size outdoor rink. To see photos of what ice skating was like in Los Alamos during the early 1900s, stop by the Los Alamos Historical Society.
Jemez Mountain Range
The Jemez Mountain Range sprawls across a large part of northwestern New Mexico. It includes the Jemez Pueblo, whose Walatowa Visitor Center is a great learning opportunity for the history and culture of the Jemez people. In addition, there are multiple national parks, recreational areas, and hot springs. Take a hike into the mountains or cruise the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway for a look at natural wonders, Native American culture, and vintage Americana. Check out the insider guide to Sandoval County for more ideas on how to explore.
Ski Santa Fe
Take in the beautiful views from the top of Ski Santa Fe, the highest base altitude ski area in New Mexico. Perfect for families, Ski Santa Fe is conveniently located 30 minutes from downtown Santa Fe. The scenic route up to the mountain is home to trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as a spa, food, and lodging destination in Ten-Thousand Waves for those who don’t care for the downhill thrills. While there is no lodging at the base of the ski lift, downtown Santa Fe is home to some of the best hotel experiences in New Mexico.
Pajarito Ski Area lies just outside of Los Alamos, about two hours from Albuquerque and only forty-five minutes from Santa Fe. Ditch the lift lines you are used to at big resort mountains and ski the varied terrain to your heart’s content. With five chairlifts and a ski school, there is something for skiers and boarders of all skill levels.
Fenton Lake State Park
Nestled in the Jemez Mountains, Fenton Lake State Park offers a year-round getaway. The park draws all sorts of explorers from campers to hikers and anglers. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout in the warmer months and is native to German brown trout. Those not afraid of the cold can experience the 2.3-mile cross country ski trail along the main road or head to the lake for some ice fishing!
Santa Clara Pueblo & Puye Cliffs
Settled south of Española, Santa Clara Pueblo boasts a large variety of geographic features. These features include the ancestral Puye Cliff dwellings, where Ancestral Puebloans once settled as early as 900 A.D. Come learn more about the culture at the dances and ceremonies that are open to the general public. One can support the pueblo by buying pottery, buying photo and video permits, or visiting the casino or golf course operated by the Pueblo leadership.