Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is February

Winter is my second-favorite season. Fall is indisputably the best of all seasons in New Mexico. However, not everybody agrees about winter being the second-best season. I keep hearing complaints this month about the cold weather. Personally, I have not yet decided yet whether spring or summer is the worst time of year around here - both have their problems, but we'll get to that when the time comes. For now, why I love winter…
February 13, on the 10k Trail in the Sandias
As far as I'm concerned, this is exactly what February should look like. And the weather has been quite cooperative this year. This is the trail that inspired me to buy backcountry skis as it often pitches skiers downhill, around curves with trees everywhere. With a few inches of fresh powder on top, it is really a lot of fun. We usually just ski north along the trail for 45 minutes or an hour, then turn around and come back in about the same time. Then head home in time for lunch.

February 18 with WRW at the end of the Jemez Dam Road
Of course, this is also February. What you see in this photo tells me how you'd feel about winter in New Mexico. Do you see a perfect blue sky and dry pavement? Or do you see a bunch of cyclists bundled up in jackets and long pants for a cold winter ride?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Winter Trails

Several weeks ago a good friend got an iPhone. She told me that she realized that she'd been denying herself this device for a long time because it seemed extravagant. She wanted me to get an iPhone too because she knew that I secretly wanted one. I thought about it really hard, and realized what I had really wanted for years but hadn't allowed myself to buy… a pair of backcountry skis.

Yes, I have telemark skis and cross-country skis, so I can handle the steep ups and downs as well as flat snow. The problem is that snow in New Mexico tends to accumulate on mountains, not in the flats. The cross-country skis are not terribly useful. Backcountry skis have a similar (but beefier) boot and binding as cross-country, but the skis themselves have metal edges (like downhill skis) are somewhat shorter and more parabolic. With these I can ski most of the same trails that I would hike in other seasons.

While shopping for backcountry skis, I discovered that the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works has an excellent website with descriptions of places around Santa Fe for skiing, biking, hiking, climbing, kayaking, etc. Unfortunately, they went out of business last summer but their website is still live for now. Their idea of backcountry skiing is a bit more extreme than mine. Their nice website has inspired me to share here some descriptions of winter trails around Albuquerque that I enjoy. I started with the Ellis and North Crest Trail post. You'll see some more soon.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos of rare cross-country skiing in Albuquerque (from the great snowstorm of 2007).

The foothills 365 trail (January 2007).
The Bosque at Central Avenue with the Bio Park in the background (January 2007).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ellis Trail to North Crest Trail Loop

The snow we got last night was just about perfect for cross country skiing. Around here, snow trails are in the mountains so the terrain can get a bit rugged. Today, we set out north from the Ellis Trailhead in the Sandias. This trail follows an obvious clearing but is not heavily travelled. We cut fresh tracks most of the way.
The trailhead is somewhere way back there.

Cutting fresh tracks through little ups and downs.

Vixen grows an ice beard.

 Eventually (after about 3 miles) we met up with the North Crest Trail and started to circle back. The Crest Trail hugs the ridge of Sandia and so it can get rather windy. The trees grow a bit stunted and unless it has snowed within the past couple of days, there probably wouldn't be much for skiing. It was a bit chilly up there today, but the sun started to come out a bit as we found ourselves on a narrow trail between snow-covered trees.
Winter wonderland.

Enjoying this before we really hit the uphill climb to the crest.

Frosted trees.

Wind-swept aspen.

Enjoying the view to the west.

You might be able to see Bernalillo down there.

All of these trails on the north side of the Sandia Crest trail are pretty quiet and beautiful with fresh snow. We worked our way back uphill past the radio towers to the Crest parking lot and crossed the road. South of the road, we found a lot more people (but it's still not crowded) with wider trails that have more packed snow. From here, it was a quick, fun glide back down the Kiwanis Meadow Trail and Switchback Trail to Ellis Trailhead.