By Ellen Miller-Goins
Snowshoe or cross-country ski through snowy woods and perhaps you’ll chance upon a snowshoe hare, squirrel, coyote, elk or deer. Stop to listen and you can hear clumps of snow falling from pine trees or the soft thud of snowflakes like tiny footfalls. This is the appeal of these kinder, gentler winter sports and of a place that brings it all to life.
Cross-country skiing offers a range of options from trekking through untracked terrain to skiing on groomed trails – usually machine packed (for the Nordic skating technique) with a set of parallel tracks for the ultimate in kick and glide. It’s also the best environment to learn to cross-country ski – sort of like learning to kayak in a pond before heading for the rapids.
Snowshoeing is easy on the joints and about as strenuous as walking down a trail and because snowshoes have good traction and don’t require the balance of, say, skiing, you can sightsee and watch for birds, deer and animal tracks.
If you’d like to experience the feel of wilderness – while skiing or snowshoeing on groomed trails – check out:
• Angel Fire Resort’s Nordic Center offers more than 12 kilometers of groomed, classic and skate cross-country ski trails at the golf course. Snowshoeing is also allowed on these trails. Weather permitting, opening date is Nov. 22. Operations are dependent on snow conditions, so please call (575) 377-4488 to confirm hours during the winter season. Visit angelfireresort.com/activities/winter-activities/nordic-skiing.
• Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Area offers more than 18 kilometers of exclusive snowshoeing trails, plus more than 28 kilometers of trails – groomed for classic and skate skiing – that meander through large aspen groves and old-growth forests with views of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, Gold Hill, the Moreno Valley, Touch-Me-Not and Baldy peaks. Rentals include touring, performance and skating skis, child tow-sleds and snowshoes. Lessons are offered for beginners to advanced skiers. Snowshoers can enjoy new headlamp nighttime tours or join ladies’ tours Thursdays. Located 3.5 miles east of Red River just below the summit of Bobcat Pass on State Highway 38. Call (505) 754-2374 or visit enchantedforestxc.com.
For information on backcountry trails, check with the local Forest Service office, chamber of commerce, rental shop or book store for trail maps and guide books.
Amole Canyon, located 14.7 miles south of Ranchos de Taos on State Road 518, or La Jara Canyon, 17 miles east of Taos on U.S. 64 at the first switchback on Palo Flechado Pass, are both good options. Several excellent trips can also be taken from the end of State Road 578, 5.5 miles out of Red River including West, Middle and East Fork trails. Cross-country ski or snowshoe rentals are available at many ski rental and winter outdoor shops.
Event highlights at Enchanted Forest:
Luminaria Ski Tour, Dec. 25, 6:30 p.m.: Ski or snowshoe under the warm glow of candlelight. It is a New Mexican Christmas tradition to place luminarias (bonfires) or farolitos (paper bags with sand and a lighted candle inside) around houses and along streets. With this event, the candles provide plenty of light to see the trails and if it begins to snow, the effect is just incredible. Afterward, enjoy complimentary posole, cookies and hot drinks. (Snowshoe reservations are strongly recommended.)
New Year’s Eve moonlight ski, snowshoe and sledding, Dec. 31, 7 p.m.
Snowshoe Headlamp Tour, Jan. 13, 7 p.m.
Moonlight ski and snowshoe, Jan. 27, 7 p.m.
Valentine’s Day Headlamp Snowshoe Tour, Feb. 14, 7 p.m.
Just Desserts Eat and Ski, noon, Feb. 24: Ski or snowshoe out to tables laden with homemade desserts from Red River restaurants and enthusiastic bakers from all over. This is not a race, it’s a gorge fest.
Headlamp Snowshoe Tour, March 17, 7 p.m.
Dog Days, March 16, 17 and 19. Come ski the regular trails with your doggie pal.
Closing day, March 18 (subject to trail conditions)
Note: All events are weather dependent. Call (575) 754-6112 to verify before coming.