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Top Experiences in New Mexico

Ski the Southern Rockies

It may sound like a mere novelty—skiing less than 100 mi from the Mexican border, which, indeed, you can do at the relatively small and casual downhill facility in Cloudcroft. But the Land of Enchantment offers some of the most difficult and breathtaking ski terrain in the country, and is home to several outstanding facilities. The southern spine of the Rockies, with elevations topping out at 13,000 feet and well over 250 inches of annual snowfall in some places, runs right down the center of New Mexico. Often recognized by major ski magazines for its first-rate ski school and demanding trails, Taos Ski Valley is the state's most famous winter-sports destination—it comprises a friendly, handsomely developed village of condos and restaurants. Other nearby northern New Mexico venues with great alpine and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling include Red River, Angel Fire, Pajarito (an underrated gem in Los Alamos), Santa Fe, and Sandia (just east of Albuquerque). And down in the state's southern reaches, in addition to Cloudcroft, you can tackle some 750 well-groomed acres at Ski Apache, just outside the resort town of Ruidoso.

Browse the Art Markets of Santa Fe

New Mexico's most popular destination, Santa Fe is also one of the great cultural treasures of the Southwest, packed as it is with first-rate museums. The best season for appreciating the arts is summer, when the Santa Fe Opera comes into full swing, as does the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. But the biggest weekends of summer are when the legendary Indian and Spanish markets come to town, and there's no more exciting time to take in Santa Fe. The Spanish Market dominates the city's historic Plaza the last weekend of July and draws more than 250 local artisans versed in the traditional regional practices of straw appliqué, hide painting, metalwork, retablo and santo carving, weaving, and furniture making. During the third weekend in August, more than 1,200 artists representing some 100 tribes throughout North America display their jewelry, textiles, paintings, and other fine works during the Santa Fe Indian Market. Additional antiques-related markets take place in mid-August, and the city hosts a smaller but still excellent Spanish Winter Market in December.

Sample New Mexico's Wines

You might think beer would be the state's most celebrated drink, given the laid-back nature of New Mexicans and the fiery nature of the local cuisine. In fact, the region has developed into an increasingly fruitful (pardon the pun) and critically acclaimed wine producer, its soil and climate perfect for growing a number of varietals, from Pinot Noir in the cooler upper elevations to Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in warmer areas. There are about two-dozen vineyards in the state, and half have tasting rooms. Albuquerque's Gruet Winery now ranks among the nation's most esteemed producers of Champagne-style sparkling wines, and others around the state—Black Mesa, La Chiripada, Casa Rondena, St. Clair —have garnered prominent awards. But you can also try local vintages during several popular festivals. The Southern New Mexico Wine Festival in Las Cruces and the Albuquerque Wine Festival both take place in late May. Las Cruces then hosts the Harvest Wine Festival over Labor Day weekend, which is when Bernalillo holds its New Mexico Wine Festival. Other communities with wine events include Ruidoso (mid-June), Santa Fe (early July), and Alamogordo (late September).

Usher in the Holidays, New Mexico Style

The piñon-scented air, cozy adobe architecture, and traditional Native American and Spanish festivals have long made New Mexico a great place to visit during the December holiday season. In Carlsbad, boats cruise by lighted holiday displays during the town's Christmas on the Pecos celebration. Christmas in Santa Fe is perhaps the city's most festive time of year. During the 10 days of Las Posadas Novena at San Miguel Mission, the story of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem is reenacted. The Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, is grandly celebrated at the Santuario de Guadalupe, and Christmas at the Palace resounds with hours of festive music emanating from the Palace of the Governors in mid-December. The traditional Christmas Eve stroll down Canyon Road, complete with snacks and costumed carolers, is the way to celebrate the night before Christmas when in Santa Fe. Christmas Native American dances take place at most pueblos. The Spanish-inspired dance-drama Los Matachines is performed at Picurís Pueblo. There are also pine-torch processions and kachina dances at Taos Pueblo and Basket, Buffalo, Deer, Harvest, Rainbow, and Turtle dances at Acoma, Cochiti, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Taos pueblos.

Take the Tramway to Albuquerque's Sandia Peak

Take the aerial tramway to the top of the Sandia Mountains for an incomparable view over Albuquerque. You can ride the world's longest aerial tram (it climbs over 5,000 feet in elevation, and covers nearly 3 mi in distance) to the top, take in the soaring panoramas of the entire Rio Grande Valley from Santa Fe down toward Socorro, and enjoy drinks plus lunch or dinner at the lofty High Finance Restaurant & Tavern, which clings precipitously to the sheer edge of Sandia Peak. But if you have time, use the tram as a means to an exhilarating outdoor adventure—at the top you can access the Sandia Peak Ski Area in winter for fun in the snow, or for challenging mountain biking down these very slopes in summer. You can hike on short and easy trails or choose far more challenging ones, including the famed La Luz trail, which descends down the face of the Sandias back into Albuquerque's Northeast Heights neighborhood. You can also drive to the ski area and ranger station (and then hike or take the chairlift to the tram station)—this beautiful drive takes about 45 minutes.

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