Southern Comfort

Spicing it up: The snow in the Sangres can be a religious experience. Photo courtesy of Cameron Martindell/offyonder.com

There’s more than green chili in northern New Mexico. The Sangre De Cristos hold some fantastic snow, sunshine, backcountry trails, retreats and nordic huts and ranches.

You want the real “Land of Enchantment”? How about waking to the sight of snow falling on an a remote winter wonderland, a pristine wilderness which includes a long narrow valley and herds of grazing elk. While you can’t just drive to this remote winter paradise, you don’t have to be burdened by hauling in a big pack or dragging a sled, concerned about menu planning and cooking, or even be avalanche savvy.

At the Costilla Lodge on Ted Turner’s Vermejo Ranch (vermejoparkranch.com) in northern New Mexico, the only access is via snowcat-tracked Suburbans. Eat meals prepared by the executive chef. And a private backcountry guide will get you out backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, wildlife viewing and more. With only 16 rooms and 205,000 acres of wilderness to be explored, chances are you won’t see any of the other guests until mealtime.

Alternatively, you could just go the more relaxed route and take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in. Then mosey your way to the grand living room where hot drinks and comfy chairs keep you company while you watch the snow fall or the sun sparkle on the blanket of fresh snow. After breakfast is served and enjoyed, the snow-tracked Suburban sits at the ready with a driver to take you on a relaxing tour along the untracked backcountry roads and through the pristine wilderness.

Naturally, you can mix and match all these activities to suit your interests. Regardless of what you end up doing, at the end of the day, a large wood-burning fireplace makes for a cozy evening when the snow starts falling, the savory aroma of the upcoming gourmet dinner perks up your taste buds, and the next morning the magic starts all over again.

While this may be a bit more luxury than you care for, there are more ways to enjoy the snow in New Mexico. Along with Costilla Lodge, check out these options:

Yurt It

If skate and classic cross-country skiing are your thing, the Enchanted Forest Cross-Country Ski Area offers over 30 km of wide, groomed cross-country ski trails and warming yurts. Some of the trails are dog friendly and snowshoers can explore their own network of trails. enchantedforestxc.com

Soak It Up

Vermejo Ranch, NM

For the more spa-centric winter adventurers, Bishop’s Lodge, which offers ranch-style lodging, sits on 450 acres just north of Santa Fe in the Tesuque Valley, surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It was established by the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, Jean Baptiste Lamy, as La Villa Pintoresca, whose chapel still stands here. bishopslodge.com

Take it higher

If you are seeking some inner Zen self improvement, the Vallecitos Mountain Resort offers specific retreats catering to yoga, meditation and even a “Hermitage for Self Retreat” cabin. The ranch provides snowshoe and ski access to over 300,000 acres in the Tusas Mountains and the Carson National Forest. vallecitos.org

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