There's something about the time between Christmas and spring break that makes me want to go on a trip. I try to avoid traveling (and especially flying) at holidays, so around January I'm usually feeling like I need to get away. And this year, since Steve and I hadn't been skiing in a really, really long time, we decided to take a ski vacation to New Mexico. (Being from Colorado, this was a little weird for me, but it was a shorter drive, and the skiing was actually quite decent.)
Steve was in charge of planning the trip, and upon the suggestion of a co-worker, he chose Angel Fire (not far from Taos). It's a smaller resort in a small town, without many of the amenities of major resorts, but the upside was that it was shockingly affordable. We stayed at the resort lodge for something like $70/night, and since we were staying at the lodge, we got half-price lift tickets. At a time when some resorts are charging well over $100/day to ski, the $32 we paid was a steal.
The first day we were there, Steve went snowboarding on his own. I walked him out to the lift and took a picture of him. You know, like it was his first day of school.
I had planned some days off from skiing based on our last ski trip, to Crested Butte, when I only skied three days of the week we were there. Crested Butte is an idyllic little ski town, and I loved hiking, ice skating, cross-country skiing, wandering around, reading at their cozy little library, etc. Angel Fire, it turned out, is more the kind of place where you have to make your own entertainment. I did some reading in our room and then headed out to the post office to mail postcards to the bunnies (yeah, our bunnies get mail) and to our neighbors who were taking care of them. Angel Fire's only post office is about three miles from the lodge, which is longer than I would have liked...but not as far as it can become if you take a wrong turn along the way. All in all, I walked about seven miles on that trek, but it was a beautiful day, so I can't complain. I took this picture looking from the main road into town up toward the resort during a brief period of clouds...
...but soon the gorgeous blue sky returned:
We both took the second day off (since we drove, we weren't constrained in what we could pack, so we had lots of books) and then spent the last three skiing on a really relaxed schedule. Staying up at the resort made it easy to wake up whenever we wanted to (um, late) and then mozey out to the slopes.
I even managed to find a few little jumps that were pretty fun.
Did I land it? Yes, yes I did.
Oh, perhaps you noticed our new helmets?
We've never used them before, but we decided this was the year to go ahead and make a modest investment in the most valuable assets we have: our noggins. (I think we spent about $100 for the two of them.) I would estimate that about half of the skiers/boarders were using them, and I think it's only a matter of time before not wearing a helmet will be as shocking on the slopes as it is on a bicycle. In fact, during our trip we heard about two or three skiers dying of head trauma at other resorts, so it was an easy decision. And they're comfortable and kept our ears nice and toasty, so it was no imposition on our ski comfort. The only thing was that mine left a tiny gap between my goggles and my helmet (see the sliver of forehead in the picture?), and my head got a little chilly. Steve's was a perfect fit, though.
I'd love to say that New Mexico skiing was totally inferior to Colorado skiing, but in reality it was very comparable to the best resorts I've been to (although there were a lot of areas of branches and even some rocks poking out of the ground due to the lack of snow this year). And the lift staff by far the friendliest I've ever seen -- they blew me away every time we rode up the lifts by asking whether we were having a good day, were enjoying the snow, etc. And the resort seemed to go out of their way to accommodate the miniature skiers, too, with lots of kids' lessons and even a tubing hill right there on the main mountain, with a moving walkway to bring the inner tubes back up to the top.
It always tickles me to see the ski school groups looking like a mother duck and a bunch of ducklings.
The only area where I could fault Angel Fire is in the food/lodging department. Our room was fine -- by no means fancy, but clean and modern enough, and definitely a great value -- but the only window opened out onto the indoor pool area, so we didn't get any natural light and couldn't even really keep the drapes open. Likewise, meal options were very limited, especially up at the mountain itself. Once we found The Coffee House, a little cafe on the first floor of the lodge, that became our go-to lunch spot. It would have been our choice for breakfast, too, but we had brought our own milk, cereal, and fruit. (Fortunately, the room had a mini-fridge.) Unfortunately, the cafe wasn't open for dinner, and none of the other restaurants in the lodge were too impressive. However, the resort owns a "country club" (I put that in quotes because I'm not sure if it's really a country club) a few miles away that has a fine dining restaurant, Elements, where we ate twice during our week.
The first time we had a lovely dinner with one of the very best waiters ever. The dining room is a large, rustic space with huge beams and a massive yet cozy fireplace, and as we waited for our dessert, we decided that we wanted to finish our meal in front of the fire, which our waiter was happy to accommodate.
All of the food was delicious, and piano music supplied by a very talented (and fun) pianist was the icing on the cake (er, souffle). It was an easy decision to return later in the week for "martini night," when we shared complimentary appetizers and ordered light entrees in the lounge area.
But back to the skiing, and to finish with something funny: Steve got a new snowboard before our trip to Crested Butte a few years ago. It was on clearance, it felt good, rides fine, and the yellow matches his jacket. It has this big "5150" across the bottom, and we didn't know what that meant until we looked it up and discovered that that's a reference to the second of California law that relates to putting someone on lockdown if they're a danger to themselves or others. (If I remember correctly, this law was used to get Britney Spears under control a few years ago.) So the implication is that Steve is a snowboarding lunatic, which couldn't be further from the truth. He is probably the most safety-conscious person I know, and while he takes more risks on a snowboard than, say, in his car on the highway, he's the last person who would need to be committed for excessively risky behavior.
Over the next few days, I'll share more about our trip, including, of course, some neat green stuff that we had to leave Austin to find.