Fellow travelers above Aspen Vista

The mountains above Santa Fe have been getting just about as much snow as anyplace in the Rockies this winter, and if you’re in the mood for a winter adventure, New Mexico is the place to come! Ski Santa Fe is having a stellar season:

The top of the hike, at the Quad Lift of Ski Santa Fe

With yet another coating of fresh powder last Friday – and soft flurries all weekend – I decided to get out the snowshoes and make a trek up the mountain and see things for myself. I chose Aspen Vista as my starting point, and at the spur of the moment decided to take a route straight up the mountain, where a path had been broken in the fresh snow, leading in an inviting way through the spruce and aspen:

Into the woods

The great thing about snowshoeing is, first, you can wander through the forest almost any way you please, far above the tangle of fallen timber and other obstacles on the forest floor, and second, you have the traction to ascend steeper slopes without switchbacking along a trail. (Of course, you have to have the stamina to ascend – and I was beginning to have some second thoughts around 11,000 feet altitude!)

It’s always worth it. I passed through hypnotic groves of aspen with violet shadows on the snow:

Aspen and light

I came upon a completely unexpected meadow and had a chat with some fellow adventurers and their dog:

The unexpected meadow. A good place to break out the thermos!

Santa Feans have an obsession with spiral shapes – I don’t know how many stone spiral mazes I’ve come across hiking in our mountains – and there was a veritable Stonehenge of a spiral, built of snow, at the top of the meadow:

Snow circles

Persistence paid off with marvelous views into Big Tesuque and its cloud-shrouded ridge:

The view south into Big Tesuque at the top of my climb

The path ended at the boundaries of Ski Santa Fe near the Quad Lift, with many happy skiers:

Ski Santa Fe – the Quad lift and slopes beyond

After a little rest, it was time to head back down the mountain (at a far faster clip!)

The path back down the mountain, through the spruce

And then home, for a well-earned rest.

It looks like conditions are going to be favorable all winter here in Santa Fe, so make some plans to get out in the snow while you’re here. Unlike skis or snowboards and their accessories, snowshoes are inexpensive to rent, and you can pick up a pair or two right on your way up the mountain from town, at Cottam’s, in Hyde State Park, about half way up to the snowy places.

Even if you choose not to get on the path less traveled, don’t rule out a short hike along some of our high country trails while you’re here in the winter. A day or two after a snow, many trails, like Aspen Vista are compacted sufficiently for an enjoyable walk in regular hiking shoes.

This could be you!