A young man with a top knot bun that would make Jane Austen envious is sitting out on the deck at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. He is talking to friend decked out in a knit hat that would not go amiss on one of the seven dwarfs.
“Hey, let’s go for a mountain bike ride tomorrow. The Galisteo Basin Preserve is ‘turnt’ right now.” Bun-man, nurturing a locally brewed beverage, responds, “Sis, the skiing is sooo sick, soft corn snow on top of a great base- Yaaaaaaas let’s ski!” You might think these two would be stuck in a stalemate. But no, this is springtime and the weather is great for both. You can mountain bike in your shorts one day and shred up the corn snow the next then go for a sunset trail run any day of the week.
The Galisteo Basin Preserve trails are in great shape just like the hypothetical dudes surmised. Our group of 4 riders and 4 trail dogs set off from the Cowboy Shack trailhead one cool and breezy weekend morning. We start pedaling up Shepard’s Trail toward Eliza’s Ridge. There we are able to take off our wind shells and stuff them into our hydration packs. The sunshine feels wonderful, the trails are clearly lovingly cared for by the volunteer trail crews. Rugged arroyo crossings are fixed to allow safe passage down one side and up the other; like a roller coaster on two wheels.
We head for the western and southern trails where we find smooth flat single track through grassy meadows and rocky ledges and ridges with wide, grand views of the basin spreading to the south. It is a good idea to stop once in a while to take in the views instead of trying to sneak a peek as your roll on. But it is hard to stop because the trails are so much fun.
Packing a lot of fun into a weekend is what gives our spirits a lift and riding the lift at Ski Santa Fe is a sure way to pack in the fun. Spring snow is great for skiing, it can be fast but also soft enough to make some good turns. If you time it just right the bumps or moguls are firm but the snow on top is soft and turnable (is that a word?). One of my favorite runs is to zip down through the trees of Tequila Sunrise turning left to catch the Luge to Roadrunner and then down to the new Cody’s Glade and finally finishing a tour of trees and bumps with the steep pitch of Double Eagle V. The Old Burro Runout takes you back to the chairlifts for a rest for your wobbly legs and then another fun run on the mountain.
My wife’s birthday is in March and this year we celebrated with a trip to Taos Ski Valley. The highlight here among the many many highlights is a chairlift ride to the top of Kachina Peak. In the old days it was a 45 minute to hour long hike just to get up there. Now it’s just a few minutes. This chairlift opens up lots of wide open steep skiing. It is steep so only the best skiers should venture up. There is no easy way down, only double black diamond runs.
The day we ski here is like most of the springtime, sunny and warm. Up high on Kachina it’s windy which adds to the big mountain feel. We point our skis down the mountain and get into a rhythm picking our way through the moguls feeling exhilarated with each turn. At the end of the day our legs burn and tremble with the happy feeling of an excellent day of skiing steep terrain. It is good to know that Taos will be open an extra week, until April 9th.
Santa Fe has so many fun options for an active outdoor life. Some of the gems are our trails. If you enjoy the trails a lot, monthly, weekly or daily you can become familiar, too familiar. When you start to give names to rocks you step over on the trail it might be time to mix it up. Trail running by headlamp is an excellent way to add some spiciness. Most Monday evenings you can find some runners heading out from the Sierra del Norte trailhead of the Dale Ball trails. These runs are sponsored by Ultra Santa Fe are pretty mellow and open to runners of all abilities. We start off in the twilight before sunset so we can watch the sun paint the world below us as we climb up the hill and traverse around the mountaintop. Soon it is dark and the headlamps come out.
Running with a headlamp narrows your focus to the trail right in front of you. It also changes the trail you were intimately acquainted to one that is familiar but different. You follow a tunnel of light through black. Black trees, black shadows and then you come around a bend in the trail and the lights of Santa Fe glow in the distance, below your mountain-top trail. This sight is another good reason to stop and soak up the view before blasting down to the parking lot.
Galisteo Basin Preserve trail map link
Ski Santa Fe snow conditions
Taos Ski Valley snow conditions
Dale Ball trail maps