The snow has come to Santa Fe, and we are delighted!
Fresh Snow Beckons!
Ski Santa Fe opened on November 27th, a little later than the hoped-for, but with real snow, no one is complaining. As of today, 30% of the ski area is open, with a 20″ base, and driving conditions up to the ski area are fine. Currently, the price of lift tickets has been lowered, but of course, that can and probably will change, as more terrain is available to ski.
Adult All Day: $95 and Adult All Day w/Peak Plus Card: $30
Teen All Day: $75 and Teen All Day w/Peak Plus Card: $25
Child All Day: $65 and Child All Day w/Peak Plus Card: $20
Senior All Day: $75 and Senior All Day w/Peak Plus Card: $20
Active Duty Military All Day: $78
Half-Day: $75 Beginner Lift Only: $42
And there’s a webcam too, if you want to see the mountain first!
In terms of rental equipment, you can stop on Hyde Park Road on the way to the ski basin and check out Cottam’s. In town, Alpine Sports is conveniently located at 541 Cordova Road. And Ski Tech Santa Fe is an easy in and out on St. Francis Drive, just north of Cerrillos Road.
Snow Makes a Sunset Dramatic!
Skiers with a yen for more dramatic conditions can head to Taos Ski Valley, about 2 hours north of Santa Fe, and rentals are available right there. Taos is open to the top of the mountain, with a base of 18″. And if your ski vacation is planned for after the new year, think about timing your visit so that you can enjoy the Taos Winter Wine Festival!
Cuddle Up by a Kiva Fireplace
Of all the thousands of archaeological sites you can visit on a trip to the American Southwest, the remains of the Chacoan Great Houses, preserved in Chaco Culture National Historical Park – a three-hour drive west of Santa Fe – have to be the most remarkable. They fulfill your childhood fantasy of finding the lost cities of Montezuma. Instead of a few low walls of hewn stone coursing through dead grass, with an interpretive sign above – standard fare in our parts – these ruins tower three stories high and penetrate deep into the ground. The stonework is exquisite. There are mysterious T-shaped windows above and giant circular kivas as perfectly preserved as Pompeii below. Walls align north-south and east-west with absolute precision. Great houses align with other great houses throughout the canyon, and windows turn out to be astronomical observatories of subtle cunning, timing the solstices and equinoxes like a huge stone clock. Tying it all together is a network of laser-straight connecting roads, nearly lost with age, worthy of the Nazca Plains.
All of this is located in the middle of the most arid, silent, isolated region you can imagine.
I had a chance to make an overnight trip this past weekend and immediately thought of Chaco. Because of its distance from Santa Fe – or any other city where there is lodging – about the only way to explore Chaco Canyon properly is to camp there or bring in a motorhome. The 15 miles of washboard dirt road that guard this place against daytrippers must be taken into account.
This means autumn is the perfect time to make the trip. You would not want to be on this road during a summer downpour! On the other hand, as isolated as it is up on the Colorado Plateau, not far from the Continental Divide, temperatures drop like a rock out here at nightfall, and the winter weather is viciously cold. Even spring camping will require preparations against the cold. Chaco still guards its secrets, one way or another. But what a place!
The stonework here is unmatched in North America. One fact that amazes every first-time visitor is this: all of this exquisite work – and there must be thousands upon thousands of square feet of it – was initially plastered over with smoothed mud and hidden from sight! From hints found deeper in the ruins, much of it might have been painted, as well, most likely the interiors.
The park runs a fantastic program of guided walks and night sky explorations. We took the 4:00 walk through the ruins of Chetro Ketl with Ranger G.B. Cornucopia, a 23-year veteran of service in the park and an astronomer, to boot. I cannot recommend these interpretive walks highly enough. Your visit to the park will be immensely enriched by the knowledge and information of the rangers.
Chaco Culture raises so many questions and attracts a bewildering array of theories and speculations, some of which shade off into the simply bizarre. People lived here and worked on these structures for over 300 years, in a very bleak place, with clear evidence of long-term planning and monumental vision. Pueblo Bonito was the tallest dwelling in North America until the 19th Century! And yet, they left very little evidence of themselves. They had no written language. Their descendants still live with us here in New Mexico and Arizona, but the stories retained by these people do not agree on the significance of Chaco. They only agree that it was significant.
Chaco Canyon is ground zero for the study of archaeoastronomy. So it makes perfect sense that the park would offer a program of night sky viewing. Even today, this isolated place is one of the darker places in the United States. An amateur astronomer donated a 27-inch telescope and observatory to the park. On a couple of evenings each week, G.B. gives a slide presentation on the more cosmic aspects of Chaco Culture and then opens up the scope for some deep-sky stargazing. The program starts at 8:00 p.m., and when the last slide faded, the Milky Way was glowing over the mesas, Jupiter was rising in the east, and shooting stars brought gasps from the audience. Other enthusiasts had brought their telescopes, and so we were regaled with views of Messier Objects, nebulae, and the moons of Jupiter.
Chaco Canyon offers plenty of back-country walks to the ruins of Great Houses that have not been touched at all. If you want to recreate the experience of coming upon one of these remarkable places as the Spanish must have, you should make time for one of these hikes. Here we are coming upon Tsin Kletsin high on South Mesa, standing hauntingly in its own debris.
Of course, we had to climb this to get there. The road in Chaco Canyon itself forms a paved loop. Once you’ve braved the bumpy drive into the park, you can explore many of the Great Houses on your own, taking advantage of the interpretive booklets that are available at the entrances to the sites. This allows you to explore many sites without too much walking. The ability to spend the night at Chaco will significantly enhance your visit. Here’s the morning view from our tent at Gallo Campground.
If you can find any way of visiting this remarkable place, I urge you to make the effort. Many companies that offer tours of the American Southwest include Chaco Culture National Historical Park on their trip calendars. Some of them even stay at Inn on the Alameda when in Santa Fe. If you are doing an auto tour of the Four Corners, you can visit on the Santa Fe – Albuquerque – Durango leg of your drive without taking too much time out of your day. And if you are staying in Santa Fe and would like to arrange for a trip and a guide, please consider Great Southwest Adventures.
Be sure to bring plenty of water. There’s a clean-up crew waiting for you if you forget.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is approximately 180 miles west of Santa Fe. The most straightforward way to get there is to take I-25 south from Santa Fe to its intersection with State Highway 550 at Bernalillo, where you will turn right, following the signs for Cuba and Farmington. 550 is a good 4-lane road that skirts the Jemez Mountains to the south and cuts through the little town of Cuba before turning northwestward toward Bloomfield, Farmington, and the Colorado border. Approximately 50 miles from Cuba, near mile marker 112, you will see signs for the park on the left. This is county road 7900, which will later intersect county road 7950 to bring you into the canyon. The intersections are clearly signed.
Please be aware that it is a 23-mile drive from 550 into the park and that the last 15 miles of this drive are on a graded dirt road that could become impassable in wet weather. Even in dry weather, the road may be washboard, and you will not be able to make the drive very quickly. The roads in the park are one-way and paved.
The park charges an entrance fee of $25 per vehicle, good for seven days. If you choose to camp, there is a $20 nightly fee, payable at a self-serve station at the entrance to Gallo Campground (although the camp host graciously helped us in person). Camping is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and since the sites are limited, this can be a frustrating issue on popular weekends. There are restrooms at the campground, but there is no potable water and no facilities for washing oneself or dishes. There is a faucet with drinking water at the Visitor’s Center.
Chaco is a haunting place. Be prepared for some unusual experiences while you are there.
Yet another busy summer is behind us, and the best time of the year for Santa Fe is here! Yes, “best” is quite a qualifier, but after 40+ years in New Mexico, I have come to believe that September and October make for truly sublime travel to Santa Fe. The weather is perfect, the town is not as crowded, and there are still many things to do and see. One of the big events takes place this month as wine enthusiasts from around the world pour into town (pun intended!) for the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta.
The Wine and Chile Fiesta is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and continues to be a huge draw for those who love to have their palate tickled with the zest of New Mexico’s spicy cuisine while also enjoying fine wines.
If you love to fish, Northern New Mexico maybe your dream vacation. The Pecos River is an excellent location for fly fishing and regular cast fishing, offering incredible fishing options just a short drive from Santa Fe. The Pecos River is known for its Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Rio Grande Cutthroats. The river has benefited from extensive restoration and rehabilitation to restore native trout, helping make the Pecos a great place to fish in almost any season.
We recommend checking out the Orvis fishing report here for the most up-to-date information on weather, water, and fishing conditions.
The Pecos offers some truly exceptional waters for casting in a beautiful setting. Let us help you plan your fishing trip.
Located at 706 Camino Lejo on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill, the Museum of International Folk Art is part of the state of New Mexico’s museum system and a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. The museum holds the most extensive collection of international folk art in the world, numbering more than 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries. Museum founder Florence Dibell Bartlett donated the core collection of 2,500 objects.
Since that time, the collection has been primarily shaped by the generous support of individuals, most notably Alexander and Susan Girard, with their gift of 106,000 objects, and Lloyd Cotsen’s Neutrogena Collection, consisting of 2,600 exceptional textiles and objects.
The collection continues to grow and is founded on the belief that we may illuminate human creativity and shape a humane world through the traditional arts. The museum is family-friendly, with multisensory experiences and a designated play area for kids.
From small beads and mirrors to sculpted works, people work with glass all over the world. The Museum of International Folk Art presents a selection of glassworks and works with glass from the collection. The display will be on view in Lloyd’s Treasure Chest this summer.
HOURS AND FEES
Regular hours for the museum are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The museum is also closed on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.
Admission fees are modest. For New Mexico residents, fees for adults, students, and seniors 60 and older are $7. Free admission for all New Mexico residents is available on the first Sunday of each month. Seniors are admitted free each Wednesday. For nonresident adults and seniors, admission is $12, and children 16 and younger are free.
To learn more about experiencing all that Santa Fe offers, or for help planning your trip to the Inn on the Alameda.