You, cross country skis and nature
By Cindy Brown
Cross country skiing is the perfect way to be outside in the winter and enjoy the sunshine and snow in solitude. The rhythm of gliding along on the snow adds a pleasant dimension to the experience of being in a Northern New Mexico forest. You may be lucky enough to see deer, elk or big horn sheep in meadows and hillsides near the trail. If you’ve always wanted to try cross country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing, there are several options near Taos to learn how and also to go out on your own in the forest.
Resorts and lessons: Enchanted Forest is located just outside of Red River on Carson National Forest (CNF) land and was established 30 years ago. There are more than 22 miles of trails. Some of them are gentle slopes like Power Puff and others are more challenging like Face Flop Drop. In addition to cross country skiing, the area offers snowshoe trails (see page ???). There is also a warming yurt accessed by the March Hare Trail. From Enchanted Forest, both Wheeler Peak and Gold Hill can be seen.
“We have a la carte lessons, as well as packages that include lesson, rentals and trail-use passes,” says co-owner Ellen Miller-Goins. “Unlike with snowshoeing, lessons are essential to one’s enjoyment at Enchanted Forest. So many first-time skiers make the same mistakes in their technique and we’ve observed many ‘long-time skiers’ who make those mistakes as well. Poor technique leads to early exhaustion and inability to handle skiing downhill, can make an enjoyable day frustrating.”
Enchanted Forest offers easy to expert trails. Some of the outlying trails are designated as more difficult. “Distance is also an important factor in determining degree of difficulty,” says Miller-Goins. She adds “Most people can ski most of our trails after a lesson.”
At the Angel Fire Resort Nordic Center, there are opportunities for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. More than 50 miles of trails roll along the Moreno Valley canyons of spruce and pine trees, beginning at 8,600 feet in elevation. For more information, visit angelfireresort.com or call (575) 377-4488.
On your own: Just about 30 minutes from Taos Plaza off State Road 518, the Amole Canyon area has a series of loops that are open for cross country skiing. There are several beginner trails with gentle grades and some are groomed periodically. Look for the blue diamonds that mark the trails. There are courses that vary from one mile to more than six miles, and some with more challenging grades for experienced skiers.
Continuing on south past the Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, look for the Agua Piedra Campground. Near the entrance, there is a log cabin. It was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and served as a warming hut for one the earliest ski areas in New Mexico. It is now used for events such as family reunions. The open areas near the cabin are good places for beginners to try out their skis, and the Agua Piedra Trail and others offer more challenging terrain for advanced skiers.
On the road that leads to Taos Ski Valley, there are trailheads off to the north that direct you to gorgeous snow-covered trails with many creek crossings that are appropriate for advanced cross country skiers, if the snow is deep. At the Ski Valley, look for moderately challenging trails like the one to Williams Lake and the steeper Bull-of-the-Woods to Long Canyon Trail.
Many of the roads in the national forest are closed to auto traffic in the winter, making them ideal wide open trails for cross country skiing. For more information on cross country ski opportunities in the CNF and directions, visit fs.usda.gov/ or call (575) 758-6200.
*If you are new to the area, give yourself time to become acclimated to the altitude. Most of the trails listed are located at 8,000 – 11,000 feet. Expect to tire more quickly than usual.
*Go with another person or a group and let someone know when you will be back
*Be prepared for changing weather conditions and bring extra layers of dry clothes
*Carry food and water with you
*Sunglasses or googles are crucial for sun protection
*Bring maps, compass or GPS
*Carry a first-aid and repair kit, along with matches
*Check with the CNF and local outfitters for current snow conditions and avalanche warnings.