Santa Fe has always been known as a “high desert” destination, but in the winter, we like to let our “mountain town” show a bit. Santa Fe sits at 7,000 feet elevation in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains which, paired with our blue bird skies, makes The City Different a must-visit winter destination!
Here are a few of the under the radar outdoor adventures that you have to experience while visiting Santa Fe.
November always brings an opportunity to take a deep breath and appreciate the wonders of the season. Here in Santa Fe, we are grateful for the beauty of the mountains and the many diverse experiences that are available. From celebrating sustainability to the kick off of the holiday season, Santa Fe is filled with fun. So join me in discovering a few of Santa Fe’s best November events.
There’s no hiding from the fact that Old Man Winter has the northern hemisphere firmly in his frosty grip. Santa Fe’s 320-plus days of sunshine help mitigate winter’s icy hold and even the season’s short days still seem long – especially now that I’ve read all the books I got for Christmas. There’s only one cure: get up and go! Care to leave the cabin and come along?
Mountain Medicine is a Cure-all
Ninety five percent of Ski Santa Fe’s 77 trails are open, groomed and ready to tackle on skis or boards. Schussing down the hillside beneath a cloudless blue sky or catching some air on a mogul makes you feel totally alive. An easy 16-mile drive leads to the 10,350-foot base and 660 pristine acres. Unless you’re wedded to your gear, forget schlepping and rent what you need (or forgot) at the Ski Shop. After that, it’s up to you!
The runs (20 percent easy, 40 percent intermediate and 40 percent expert) and colorfully named trails (Burro Alley, Desperado, Muerte) are unmistakably New Mexico. The winter event schedule mixes weekend races with Beats on the Basin monthly afternoon concerts. And that cute guy serving Irish coffee at Totemoff’s Bar midway up the mountain? Call that an added bonus!
If slow immersion into snow-white alpine surroundings is your thing, choose snowshoes. Outspire Hiking & Snowshoeing’s tours are an irresistible temptation to bundle up and venture out into the forest. If you’re a novice like me, Outspire’s great guides really help you get the rhythm right. The plop of snow dropping from a Ponderosa pine, the screech of a hawk circling overhead, a gust of wind dropping the last dead leaves from an aspen grove – Santa Fe’s unique winter beauties quietly await your audience.
Santa Fe Loves Stars on Ice
Those 320-plus days of sunshine I mentioned mean no outdoor ice skating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t skate to your heart’s content. The Genoveva Chavez Center, home to basketball and racquetball courts, an indoor running track, full-on fitness facilities, lap pool and warm-water therapy pool, also boasts Santa Fe’s open-daily ice rink. And with a climate-controlled environment, instead of layering up into immobility, you can glide with comfort and ease.
The variety of available activities makes the Chavez Center a family-friendly destination. Skates are an easy rental, and there’s ample seating for spectators to take a picture of your precise pirouetting or watch a battle on hockey skates.
Warm Up Your New Mexico Visit the Meso-American Way
A cup of hot cocoa is the classic winter companion. But Santa Fe’s hot chocolate has City Different style. If you’ve never tasted the nectar that ancient Meso-Americans created from cacao, you’re in for a surprise. Kakawa Chocolate House takes tastebuds on a chocolate adventure you won’t soon forget.
Kakawa’s chocolate elixirs are a revelation that changed the way I think about the cup of comfort Mom served after the mittens came off. Deep, rich, not overly sweet or bitter, these beverages deserve to be sipped and savored slowly. Spiked with native herbs or flowers (and of course, there’s a chile iteration), these concoctions are lovingly hand-crafted into an alternative universe of chocolate flavor. The Pre-Columbian era receives its due, as do 16th and 17th century Europe. American versions run the gamut from Jeffersonian to contemporary, along with original recipes like Modern Mexican and Chai. No wonder the New York Times called Kakawa a 36-Hours must! And with artisanal 80 percent dark chocolate creations made in-house, I guarantee you’ll be back!
You’ve Earned a Cuddle-Up by the Fireplace
Once you’ve gotten your ya-ya’s out, cabin fever is history. That’s when it’s time to toast your toes and challenge your nose over a wine glass. When day is done, grab a seat at El Cañon Cafe & Bar inside the Hilton Santa Fe and you’ve got it made.
Part of El Cañon’s coziness comes from the 300-year-old hacienda it calls home. The location is ideal for friendly coffee meet-ups but nighttime is the right time to warm up by the kiva fireplace and compare vintages from the extensive wine list. Light dinner fare lets you create your own pairings in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere that just says “ahhh, Santa Fe.” Be sure to check out the Hilton’s Winter Getaway Package, which thoughtfully includes two adult beverages nightly!
Escape for the Cure
Don’t let winter keep you home on the range and stuck in the house. A Santa Fe getaway is the perfect prescription for curing winter weariness. Plus, there’s no better time to catch the year’s best specials. And what could be more special than fresh snow, azure skies, and a memorable spot for sharing a glass of wine by a warm piñonfire?
Editor’s Note: We welcome a guest blogger this week, recounting his guys’ adventure in Santa Fe last Spring.
I know it’s a trend for guys and their buddies to take getaways together these days, and I often get asked to recommend a destination. So I offer the following as a public service to those guys trying to agree on a location for their “broventure.” Last April, my buddies and I debated where we should go, and we decided on Santa Fe. We expected a great time, but what we found here totally blew our minds. See, we discovered an outdoor mecca for dudes, complete with light-up-your-taste buds Santa Fe food and amazing micro-brewed beer.
Great Buds + Great Outdoors = Great Santa Fe Memories
We were anxious to embark on our outdoor spree the very first day. Should we strap on the waders and do some fly fishing? Maybe hit the area’s legendary mountain bike trails? So many options! We had some avid skiers in the group, so we started the trip with the world-class slopes at Ski Santa Fe. At the time, Ski Santa Fe had one of the deepest bases of any mountain in New Mexico—a total skier’s paradise. Man, the skiers and boarders among us shredded away on our first morning in Santa Fe. But the day was still young, so we decided to head down the mountain and squeeze in a round of golf. Where else but Santa Fe can you do this?
My friends and I have been known to hit a golf ball or two before adjourning to the 19th Hole. In fact, one of the guys is a full-on scratch golfer. I’m here to tell you Santa Fe offers mind-blowing options for novice and advanced golfers alike. The Northern New Mexico Golf Trail, with its ten 18-Hole courses, is a wonderland of golf. We’re talking everything from mountain to high-desert courses, all with stunning views of the New Mexico landscape. At the top of the must-play list is Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe, just eight miles west of downtown. This legendary muni course is in high-end country club condition, with 360-degree views of the mountains. And yes, we did retire to The Links Bar & Grill after an amazing round. As you might expect, all that outdoor action made us mighty thirsty.
Santa Fe: Home of Craft Beers, Small-Batch Spirits, and Blissed-Out Guys.
So, guys being guys, we decided the next item on the vacation agenda should be glue that holds friendships together: beer. Lucky for us, Santa Fe is a goldmine of craft beer brewpubs. Our first stop was Blue Corn Brewery. To get a sampling of their many heavenly hops, we ordered beer flights including everything from Atomic Blonde Lager to the Roadrunner IPA and Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout. Blue Corn recently medaled at the Great American Beer Festival, so this place is more than legit. And if you want a plate of bona fide Santa Fe New Mexican food, their stacked enchiladas and braised pork stew ruin you for the same-old Mexican food back home.
With an amazing meal and a tasty flight of beers under our belts, we opted to raise our spirits even further at Santa Fe Spirits. These folks distill a dizzying array of small-batch spirits ranging from single-malt whiskey to gin and vodka to brandy. The master distiller gave us a guided tour of the entire distillery, and we sampled various cocktail concoctions in the tasting room. It was the ideal way for us guys to wind down the day. And yes, we took a cab back to the hotel. And oh, what a hotel: the Inn of the Governors.
Guys Kicking It Santa Fe Style at the Inn of the Governors
Okay, full disclosure about hotels in Santa Fe: There are a mind-boggling number of amazing choices. A) That’s a very good problem to have. B) You and the crew will get all the details you need to reach a consensus here. After much discussion, the guys and I settled on The Inn of the Governors. It’s located right in the heart of the Santa Fe action, and it’s loaded with old school Santa Fe vibe—adobe fireplaces and all. And get this: Their complimentary “Mountain Sunrise Breakfast” is enough to keep a guy satiated for an entire day. We’re talking Southwestern scrambled eggs, apple cured bacon, hashbrowns, and lots more. Unbelievable in terms of quality and quantity.
The Inn of the Governors has it all, including the Del Charro Saloon. Lots of hotels have a bar. But the Inn of the Governors has a saloon. Voted Santa Fe’s Best Bar by the Santa Fe Reporter, the Del Charro serves up dude-sized margaritas and local craft beer on tap. And its rugged, old west interior and constant stream of sports on flat screen TVs make it the perfect place to celebrate your guydom. If you’re hungry, well, you better be up for a challenge. From the Stuffed Green Chile Cheese Burger to the Chipotle Wings to the Frito Pie, Del Charro serves up heaping helpings that’ll have the biggest, baddest hombre begging for mercy. Del Charro is open til midnight daily, so there’s no excuse for missing out.
It’s Good to Be a Guy in Santa Fe.
Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, golf galore, food you’ll find nowhere else, a rocking microbrew scene, live music…the list of reasons why Santa Fe offers the perfect getaway for guys goes on and on. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll return with a feeling of invigoration. (Trust me on this.) If you’re thinking of getting away with your bros, think Santa Fe, Bro.
Words like “perfect” always scare me a little. I feel like I’m tempting fate and asking for too much by using it. But there are times when the thesaurus can’t show me a word that describes more perfectly (here I go) a day sent from heaven. I do my share of grousing about the little inconveniences of winter, but the antidote is embracing the white wonderland in all its glory by heading for Ski Santa Fe with a seamless ski day in mind.
Start the Day by Eating the Santa Fe Way
We ski fans are ready to go early, but we need to fuel up first. There’s no point in getting so close to the sky if you don’t stay all day, so acknowledge that old adage that begins, “Breakfast like a king … ”
To me, the best bite of the day isn’t a bite; it’s the first sip of coffee from Ohori’s, setting a Santa Fe standard for independent coffee shops since 1984. After all, a locally roasted cup supports local talent! Santa Fe boasts an impressive crew of coffee brewers, and a coffee tour is part of the adventure for my caffeine-loving visitors. The scintillating downtown aroma of Ohori’s roasting makes everyone a loyal sipper.
Once the caffeine kicks in, food follows. If there’s fresh powder, grab a Santa Fe classic: the breakfast burrito to go. Finding the perfect (!) iteration of this tasty item is a hotly debated topic. Everyone has their favorite, hand-held or smothered, with meat or veg, big enough to share or hands-off. Me, I head for the Santa Fe Baking Company, with burritos and baked goods to suit every taste.
When there’s no new snow, we may opt for a sit-down breakfast. In that case I’m digging into the Paranormal Pancakes (they’re that good), while I peek over my plate to identify the day’s guest on the KSFR Radio Café. This weekday talkfest is broadcast right from the Baking Co., and later I can catch the podcast of a potent conversation with a Santa Fe thinker.
Scout’s Motto: Be Prepared
With the good fortune to live here, I’m already outfitted, but when ski pals visit, make it easy and rent gear, either in town or up on the hill at Cottam’s Ski Shop. Known since 1976 for great customer service — and for storing visitors’ skis overnight — Cottam’s makes a trip to Ski Santa Fe a one-stop deal. Rental packages cover everything for spending a day up top without the hassle of hauling it from home. But I do recommend reserving in advance — super-simple, no deposit — to be sure you have all you need.
If you love being tempted by a gorgeous spread of every outdoor gear item you could possibly desire, renting (or buying) at Alpine Sports is an ideal (that’s another way of saying perfect) option. With 50 years of service to Santa Fe skiers, this family-owned downtown business is one I gladly patronize. The socks alone are a foot fantasy, and a real ski sweater ranks as stylish winter-wear on or off the hill. Rentals are easy online, and the staff is knowledgeable, helpful and most of all, passionate about capturing a perfect (can I use the “p” word again?) Santa Fe ski experience.
The Hills are Alive … With Snow Sports!
Enough talk, time for action! A 16-mile drive leads from the Santa Fe Plaza into the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo range, tail end of the Rocky Mountains, drifting down from Canada to their stony end in New Mexico. While I endeavor to heed the stay-fit advice of the Snow Sports School, there’s usually a year between my ski experiences, so I want a reminder — okay, a lesson. With the variety of skill levels in our crew, lessons thankfully accommodate all.
It’s hard to believe breakfast gets used up so quickly, but brisk winter weather combined with full-body activity has a high calorie-burning quotient, so after lessons, sustenance is required before hitting the mountain. It’s gotta be lunch at Totemoff’s! Fantastic views, skiers zipping by on the Thunderbird run, what’s not to love? Hot drink specials are available all week long, but waiting to mix alcohol until day is done is my motto.
I start with a few easy runs; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once I’m sure I have my sea legs — oops, ski-legs — I’ll move on to a few trips down Lobo to prime myself for Burro Alley. I only dream of tackling Desperado; I admit that’s a Western adventure for a gal whose quick-draw skills are faster than mine. Although my snow-abilities will never merit showing off on a board at the Freestyle Terrain Park, you can bet I’ll make a stop to admire those who can ace it.
Day Is Done, Gone Is the Sun, Time to Gather for More Fun
When the sun starts to sink into the horizon, it’s time to round up the troops because I have my mind set on happy hour at Agave Lounge, one of my favorite Santa Fe go-to’s. I love sinking into a leather banquette near the fireplace when I have totally earned the right to relax. The Pomapolitan is my premium pick in a martini, perfect (sorry, I had to say it) for perusing plates to share. I adore snacking on the green chile sliders, but after a full day outside, the quesadilla is coming along on this refueling ride. Yes, you figured that out, this is not the last stop — we’re going to soak these tired limbs!
Indulgence Earned, Indulgence Found
Mighty achy muscles mean a bit of pampering is in order. I’ve always felt that if health plans included regular alternative therapy, we’d all be healthy centenarians. Given the plethora of Santa Fe massage schools, whose graduates often stay on in our healthy city, it’s no wonder there are healing hands at many hotels and spa facilities. But I’m not just talking massage, I’m thinking of pairing therapy with a soothing soak.
To mix massage with hot tub heaven, it’s back up the hill to Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Bath House. A sense of total escape ensues when a hot stone massage is followed by an hour in a private outdoor hot tub under a peaceful moon. And now that 10K has added their new restaurant, Izanami, (Sunset Magazine named it #3 on their list of great things in 2014), if we’re still hungry there’s an answer close at hand. We can simply stay for the 9 pm happy hour to cap an active day in the City Different, an especially good notion right now, since Happy Hour is 33% off through February to celebrate Ten Thousand Waves’ 33 years of making people feel terrific!
Get Into Gear and Get Out for a Great Day in Santa Fe
Didn’t realize that Santa Fe had such a super snow scene? Now you’re the one in the know, so go ahead and share the good news! With an early Thanksgiving Day opening and recent snows continuing to plump up the powder at the Ski Basin, Santa Fe skiers are having a fantastic season of sunny fun under a bright blue sky. You simply can’t ask for a better — dare I say it, more perfect — combination of snow and sun (and great deals) than the blessings we’ve received from Old Man Winter. So don’t hold back, come enjoy a Santa Fe snow day yourself!
The magic of winter casts a spell that more than makes up for the need to bundle up in layers, and warm up the car a while. When days are short and nights are long, I have extra time to ruminate on the vibrant mix that has created our unique culture — the indigenous civilizations thriving across the landscape, the inspired seekers who leave their tracks in art and music, and the dedicated citizens who make our city better by their inventive presence. These cultural touchstones bless us with singular reminders of how lucky we are to live in the City Different and how much we have to share in our wintry wonderland.
New Mexico Native Culture Is Alive and Well
Of all the things that I cherish about living in the Land of Enchantment, the fact that we have a rich and thriving Native culture takes first place. New Mexico was essentially unknown to the rest of America for so long — we didn’t become a state until 1912 — so our Native residents simply went about their daily routine, and in the process, kept their ancestral Pueblo lifestyle and traditions intact.
With the holidays close upon us, the best way to dig into the roots of these ancient traditions is to attend a Pueblo dance over Christmas or New Year’s. Pueblo Feast Days are tied to the name day of the saint to whom the Pueblo’s mission church was dedicated, but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dances are a special joy that take place at many pueblos. Seeing stars glitter above in a cold winter sky on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) or snow sparkling on the hillsides makes a holiday Pueblo Dance a must for me and mine. And it’s not just those two dates — Taos Pueblo celebrates with a Turtle Dance on New Year’s Day, and King’s Day dances (January 6) appear on several pueblo calendars, although checking in advance to see who is dancing is part of the drill. And on January 23, we’ll gather for the feast day at San Ildefonso, home of legendary potter Maria Martinez, who originated the black-on-black ware for which the pueblo is renowned. Please remember to honor pueblo protocol: no photos, no notes. Just watch, listen, learn, and enjoy the mysteries of the past brought to life in the present. Check out my post to learn more about the Eight Northern Pueblos near Santa Fe and my recent feast day experience.
Snow Suits Winter in Santa Fe
Cold temperatures generally lead me to warm up via cold weather sports, and Santa Fe is an especially good sport in the winter. The Sangre de Cristo mountain range east of Santa Fe has been frosted regularly, and that means snow fanatics have built up a head of steam for winter sun and fun.
Ski Santa Fe lovers sign up for a daily email snow report on current conditions, and I fess up to have snuggled close to the fire in my jammies more than once to watch the live webcam broadcasts before I don my parka. With 77 trails ranging from snow bunny status (me) to expert adventurer (them), an afternoon or two on the slopes is enjoyable for all, regardless of experience level. When my snow-loving sister comes to visit with time to spare, it’s a breeze for her and the kids to sharpen their skills with one of Ski Santa Fe’s multi-day programs, for both adults and children.
Seeing the pristine Santa Fe vistas at a slower pace has been simplified with a welcome resurgence of old-fashioned snowshoeing. A trek into the Santa Fe National Forest has become one of my more pleasurable outings, with lightweight equipment making it thankfully distinct from carving out a snowshoe trail to the north 40 at the turn of the century to feed the cows — glad I’m living here and now! It’s so quiet out there in the forest that a plop of snow suddenly falling from a branch or the screech of a hawk soaring overhead become those virgin moments I carry inside to inspire me all winter. And novices, I think it’s ever so wise of you to try an adventure in the company of experienced guides like Outspire before investing in the gear yourself. And if you need more ideas for cold weather fun outdoors, check out my Winter Sports post.
Santa Fe Is All Souped Up
If you’re like me, you probably grew up slurping a bowl of soup at school lunches. I can assure you that thanks to living in the food heaven of New Mexico, my soup supping has come a long way since the days of institutional chicken noodle! See what the chefs of Santa Fe have to say — or rather, do — about a bowl of goodness, and put the Santa Fe Souper Bowl XX on your food shopping list. Yes, it’s all about super soups, a topic that warms my heart and the spot below. Since multi-award-winner Jambo Café has retired from the fray, competition for the top slot will be fierce at this year’s benefit event February 1st, making this a savory way to start a month. Get those tickets before they’re all scooped up, because we Santa Feans have been dreaming of duck soup (true, I haven’t seen a duck broth yet, but I just love those Marx Bros.) as we wonder which tempting tureen of taste rates a silver spoon.
It’s All About the Art of the Canvas AND the Plate!
It has to be about art AND food when you call it an ARTFeast! Now in its 17th iteration, this inspired festival raises funds for art in the schools and packs a wallop of fun into one weekend, February 21-23. This host of happenings mixes the passionate participation of artists, galleries, chefs, and vintners to create a yummy one-night-only edible art tour, with a silent auction, an artists’ brunch, an art of home tour, a fashion show, and a golf tournament all thrown in for good measure. The edible art tour is both a challenge and a revelation, as restaurants across the Santa Fe dining scene pair artistic morsels to complement the output on gallery walls and pedestals. My eyes and my taste buds are regularly rewarded by the consummate artistry, and this one is high on my list of have-to-do-it. As befits a hot event in the cool month of February, tickets are already available for all the events, and hotel partners offer special rates over the weekend.
Shine a Light on Dining During Restaurant Week
Our regional cuisine is one of the first things that springs to mind — mouth-wateringly, I might add — so it’s no wonder that we celebrate with a week of great dining adventures every year. So I’m giving you an early heads up: February 23 through March 1, Santa Fe Restaurant Week boasts seven days of dining out deals and has Santa Feans licking their chops in anticipation. There are currently 47 spots on the list, and that list is sure to grow longer as the weeks grow shorter. Personally, I have already started a dining wish list that I’ll be sharing (are you listening, honey?). So clear your calendar, and look for my post in a few weeks with more details.
All That’s Missing in Santa Fe Is You
So many things to do, so hard to choose – that’s why visitors come back to Santa Fe again and again, sometimes decade after decade. No matter what time of year, the sun is shining (no joke, 300+ days per year), a pot of something delicious is always simmering somewhere to tantalize adventurous taste-buds, and ideas just bubble up to the surface in the inspiring atmosphere. We are grateful to the ancient cultures who share their history and traditions with this young century, as we delight in the new pleasures that result from change and growth. Bring your questing spirit to Santa Fe — vision is in the landscape and in those who people it with their talent and drive and plain old fun.
As snow begins to dress Santa Fe in her winter garb, we bless our good fortune at living where the sun makes the slopes sparkle with brilliance, under an arc of bright blue sky. When we see a snowcap stay put on Santa Fe Baldy (we take a direct approach to naming tall peaks above the tree line), we know it’s time to start waxing skis, airing out gaiters, and planning a trip into the high country to embrace the best of winter in the pristine natural setting of Santa Fe.
Take Out the Wax and Head to the Mountains
The 12,075-foot summit at Ski Santa Fe looks down over 1,725 feet of skiing and snowboarding, spread across 660 peaked acres of the Sangre de Cristo range, just 16 miles east of downtown Santa Fe. There are a whopping 77 trails to experience, with 20% earmarked for amateurs like me, and the other 80% ranked as difficult to very difficult (hint: expert). I admire Ski Santa Fe’s claim, “no lift lines,” and 7 lifts accommodating 9000-plus skiers per hour make it generally do-able. The ski hill always aims for a Thanksgiving Day opening, and with early snows turning the mountaintop frosty white, it seems like a distinct possibility to me. My eager snow buddies have their gear at the ready and are chomping at the bit for us to get out there!
Snowboarders hone their skills at the Freestyle Terrain Park, with 15 individual features to conquer, from numerous box designs to a tree-ride. I know my limits, but I’m in awe — and a little envious! — of the aerial artistry. Of course, safety first is the mantra here. Since the ski area maintains a professionally trained, EMS-certified ski patrol, ski and board traffic is monitored with an eye to making an afternoon at Ski Santa Fe enjoyable and safe for the whole gang.
The Ski School accommodates ages 10 to 100, and both group and private skiing and snowboarding lessons are available. Face it, who among us can’t use a tune-up now and then, yours truly included? And, Ski Santa Fe’s acclaimed Adaptive Ski Program shares the joys of winter with the mentally and physically challenged — precisely the reason I buy my holiday wreath from them!
Getting Down to It Without too Much Downhill
A whole subset of winter-lovers exists for whom the swift descent down a vertical pitch holds no appeal. Yes, cross-country skiers, I mean you. There is something about the rhythmical motion of arms and legs as one passes through the quiet white countryside that makes cross-country a distinctive seasonal pleasure. Several of the Sangre de Cristo hiking trails double as cross-country opportunities, but those in the know head for the Norski Trail, dedicated to X-C skiers once the magic of winter has arrived. It’s a rare gift to be one of the early birds blazing a trail, enjoying the solitude and the feel of new powder puffing up underfoot.
Located below the Ski Basin, the Norski Trail has enough up-and-down to satisfy experienced skiers, but is designed to be appropriate for beginners and the legs of the younger set. The total distance is 2.5 miles, with several loop short cuts if you’re tired. When you enlist the entertaining Santa Fe Walkabouts guides, Georges and Fritz, no matter where you end your run, you’ll benefit from their expert tips and tricks as you glide along the looping trail. Norski Trail fanatics offer a gentle reminder to non-skiers that footsteps and paw prints compromise the quality of the X-C trail and degrade the cross-country experience, so if you’re hiking with your pooch, it’s much appreciated if you kindly pick another of the many trails available.
Put on the Snowshoes to Enjoy Snow a Little More Slowly
Being out on a winter hike as the sun shines above in the blue sky is a beautiful experience, but the thrill of going “where no man has gone before,” i.e. making your own trail on fresh snow, is extra-special. By bundling up and strapping on some snowshoes, even trails we’ve hiked before are transformed into a winter wonderland. The virginal white landscape is spread out ahead for discovery, with intriguing animal tracks and trails that give hints of winter activities.
Snowshoeing has enjoyed a growth in popularity as the equipment has improved. I appreciate the modern design and ample cleats, so I can relax into the flow without worrying about slipping and sliding. And being more maneuverable than skis, snowshoes let me step off-trail to more closely examine a fallen Ponderosa or trace the doings of four-footed forest dwellers.
Unlike skiing, the average person develops a snowshoe rhythm with ease, particularly in the company of the experienced guides from Outspire. Owner/guide Karen Denison notes that when she and her guides “take folks out on guided snowshoe outings, we do a lot of coaching over the telephone ahead of time about what to expect and what clothing would be appropriate to bring.” Outspire makes sure that snowshoes are correctly fitted, provides poles, and waterproof gaiters, and gives sound suggestions on finer points of technique.” Sounds like a plan to me, since winter safety is always part of my equation.
Show Off Your Salchow
With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, I imagine it’s likely that someone in your family is as fascinated by the footwork on the ice as I am. When I see a skater soar in a double axle or lift off the back edge of a blade for a Salchow, I hold my breath. And while I will never — and I mean ever — be as sure-footed as the budding Stars On Ice I see whirling and twirling at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center Ice Skating Rink, I still like to lace up a pair of blades and hope to stay upright for an hour or so.
The Chavez Center has been a local hit since it opened, with a weight room, pool, indoor track, and basketball courts, but the addition of a skating rink to our sports-loving town really filled a void. Hockey games and practices, ice dancing, even a public skate hour at a jaw-dropping 5:30 am means that rink time is available for all manner of ice escapades.
And there are even some special holiday events: Chanukah on Ice takes place December 2, and I’m really psyched to see how skaters match their footwork to the Dreidl song. A little later in the month, we’ll enjoy a tribute to the Sochi Winter Olympics, as the Santa Fe Skating Club sharpens their blades for a holiday skate show on December 14–15.
Getting into Gear
Playing outdoors in comfort and safety means having the right stuff. As Karen Denison of Outspire wisely counsels, “One of your worst enemies in winter is moisture, whether it comes from the outside leaking in or the sweat that you might generate yourself.” Multiple thin layers roomy enough to trap air ensure you stay warm and allow for adjustments as you work up internal heat. Extra socks are fine, but remember your footgear needs to accommodate them, so loosen your laces or consider getting bigger shoes or boots for winter.
If you don’t want to pack the skis … or the board … or the snowshoes … or the skates, remember you can rent gear from both Ski Santa Fe and the Chavez Skating Rink. And our friendly and proficient local guides will definitely make sure you are outfitted properly before you embark on any winter adventure with them.
Our local ski shops thrive on rentals as well as sales throughout the winter months. Alpine Sports has been in the same location on Sandoval Street for as long as I can remember. Bindings and boots, parkas and packs, skis and boards, this family-owned and -operated store has it all. Another option is Ski Tech, located on St. Francis Drive just north of the Cerrillos Road intersection. You gotta love a retailer who has a Ski Butler — AND who’s open on holidays.
A Santa Fe Winter Wonderland Awaits
Days may have grown shorter with the recent time change, but a winter getaway to Santa Fe still packs a punch. Our friendly sun does a quick job of melting the snow from our roadways, and glorious sunsets make the snow-capped peaks glow. Special deals and great meals are available all over town, and burning some extra calories on snow or ice means you can dig into that platter of nachos without guilt. The City Different has earned its reputation as a one-of-a-kind destination, and a visit for a snowy sporting adventure shows you another side of Santa Fe, one that will be warmed by memories of a white winter paradise.
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” – John Steinbeck
While many towns lull into hibernation during the winter months, Santa Fe vibrates with life. Picturesque snowdrifts blanket adobe walls. Laughter and conversation surround crackling kiva fireplaces. The spicy aromas of piñon and cedar permeate the air. Deep relaxing pueblo drumming echoes northern New Mexico. And flavorful pots of posole and green chile stew transport you back to grandma’s cozy kitchen. Food & Wine proclaims, “Winter is the perfect time to explore Santa Fe and discover all of its wondrous offerings.” We locals couldn’t agree more!
Winter in The City Different is, well, different. In a city blessed with a gorgeous array of winter scenery, you’ll often find lunchtime temperatures 30 degrees warmer than our crisp mornings, and sunshine during a snowfall is not uncommon. Few things match the sublime sight of light rays dancing between giant snowflakes.
Santa Fe is a 400-year-old historic city that is ever changing. We want to make sure you are in the know about all the latest happening in the City Different! Read on to find out What’s New in Santa Fe.
New Ski Area Base Lodge: Ski Santa Fe, located 16 miles from downtown Santa Fe, will open a 12,000 square foot expansion to La Casa Lodge base facility this winter. The new addition will increase the size of the rental shop, add new seating space in the food service area, expand menu options and add additional retail space. The area offers a dedicated children’s ski school and terrain for all abilities. Ski Santa Fe’s scheduled season for 2012-2013 is Thanksgiving through Easter.
Restaurants and Dining
New Chef at Rancho Encantado. Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe welcomes Andrew Cooper as its new executive chef. Cooper arrives from the Four Seasons Hualalai on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Chef of the Year Award. Chef Carmen Rodriguez of La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa was named Chef of the Year by the New Mexico Restaurant Association. Rodriguez was chosen not only because of his fine cuisine, but also because of his many contributions to the Santa Fe community and his efforts to encourage more Hispanic chefs.
Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen: First time restaurateur Fiona Wong and longtime culinary professional Soma Franks open their new health food café and wine bar. The restaurant will focus on using as much locally sourced farm to table food as possible, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. 1512 Pacheco in Pacheco Park.
Cave Wine Bistro: Opening soon, this intimate space will feature an eclectic menu and an extensive wine list with more than 125 wines by the glass alone. Plans call for keeping the kitchen open late every night at the bistro’s convenient location in the Plaza Galeria facing the Santa Fe Plaza.
Momo & Co. Bakery and Boba Tea Bar: An entirely gluten-free and mostly vegan bakery and teahouse that opened this fall. Baker Leslie Thompson, a native of New York, has met the many challenges of not only baking without flour, eggs and butter but doing so at Santa Fe’s 7,000 foot elevation. She joined with boba tea fan Carola Kieve, who created an all-natural version of boba tea, to open the Johnson Street storefront. The bakery also offers gluten-free and vegan entrees including pizzas, sandwiches, soups and salads.
The Real Butcher Shop. Pollo Real has been a popular staple at The Santa Fe Farmers market for years, providing customers with tasty, naturally raised poultry and eggs. Now the farmers are taking the next step, opening a butcher shop that will feature their own products and also naturally raised, grass finished and heritage meats and charcuterie from New Mexico and Colorado. The results promise to be delicious. The store opens around the first of the year.
Santa Fe School of Cooking Moves. The Santa Fe School of Cooking is in its expansive new location at 125 North Guadalupe Street. The beautifully renovated building, a former Packard dealership, has a cool retro/modern/New Mexico vibe and houses two kitchens and a large outdoor patio. Santa Fe chef and restaurateur Tracy Ritter is Director of Cuisine.
Santa Fe Culinary Academy Opens. The Santa Fe Culinary Academy, on the top floor of the downtown Plaza Mercado, is open and teaching classes. Fall classes include everything from basics classes for home cooks to continuing education for restaurant professionals. In January, the academy will welcome its first full-time class of aspiring professional chefs. A student restaurant will allow them to polish their craft. Santa Fe native Rocky Durham and Tanya Story are executive chefs and co-founders.
Museums & Openings
Santa Fe’s newest museum. The Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts is a national museum honoring the work of Native women from North America. Named for the first female student in the first Santa Fe Indian School art class, Pablita became the first Native women to paint full time as a career. The museum features the work of Native painters, potters, sculptors, weavers, jewelers, dancers, musicians, filmmakers, poets and writers.
New World Cuisine. A major new exhibit titled New World Cuisine: The Histories of Chocolate, Mate, y Mas, at the Museum of International Folk Art, explores our food’s many fascinating historic, cultural and geographic connections. The exhibit, which opens this December 9 and runs until January, 2014, will feature more than 300 objects related to the gathering, preparation, serving and storage of food. The histories of chocolate and mate are of particular interest and are illustrated by the many decorative cups, sippers, stirrers and pots used to make the popular beverages.
Hands on Santa Fe
DIY: A Creative Journey. In March, 2013 Santa Fe Creative Tourism and Santa Fe’s lodgers collaborate on a month of creative experiences combining workshops and classes taught by local artists with savings at participating accommodations. Discover Santa Fe through a hands-on class in painting, glasswork, writing, photography, folk art and more during this month of personal expression in Santa Fe.
In the News
Top Choice in Conde Nast Traveler. For the twenty-first year in a row, avid travelers who subscribe to Conde Nast Traveler magazine ranked Santa Fe as one of the top cities to visit in the United States. Santa Fe ranked fourth in the travelers pick, behind Charleston, South Carolina, San Francisco, California, and Chicago, Illinois. The popular survey, which is widely used by people planning vacation travel, polled more than 46,000 readers.
Additionally, five Santa Fe hotels were included in the Conde Nast survey’s Top 25 Hotels in the Southwest. Number one on that list is the Inn of the Five Graces. The Inn and Spa at Loretto was ranked fifth, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi tenth, Hotel Saint Francis twentieth, and La Fonda on the Plaza twenty-first.
Travel + Leisure magazine also picked out Santa Fe for its many charms, ranking it the second best city in America overall during its annual American’s Favorite Cities 2012 poll. The results included voting Santa Fe a #1 Cultural Getaway in addition to praising the city’s shopping, romantic side, museums and galleries, food, cleanliness, environmental friendliness and historical sites.