New Mexico for Thanksgiving

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 19-25, 1996
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New Mexico for Thanksgiving
Question: Planning to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, looking for seclusion and nice accommodations. Have spent the past two years at Sundance in Utah. Really enjoyed it but looking for a change. Leaning toward New Mexico (never been there), Taos area possible. Flight time must be short and nonstop from St. Louis. Traveling with our daughter, 8. She loves horses, skiing, and rafting. We can stand the horses and also love skiing and hiking. Hate bed and breakfasts; seclusion is the keyword. Please help fast, am about ready to book a flight to Santa Fe and just wing the accommodations. Thanks much.

Kevin Nash
St. Louis, MO
[email protected]

A taste of the Southwest
for Thanksgiving.

Adventure Adviser: Let me first come clean: I live in Santa Fe, so I'm probably biased. That said, I'll start my shameless gushing. Definitely spend Thanksgiving in northern New Mexico. Your daughter can ride, you can hike and--if it's a good ski year (and let's hope it is)--take a few turns at Taos Ski Valley or the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Forget rafting, though, since we're talking about late November.

In Santa Fe, book a room at Rancho Encantado, a 140-acre upscale resort about seven miles north of town. Your pal Robert Redford from those heady Sundance days stays there when he's in town. Sign up for one of their one-hour trail rides a day ($35 per guest). Or do your exploring on two feet; a maze of hiking trails extends outward from the lodge into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Bring your racquets and, weather permitting, get in some hitting time on the year-round outdoor tennis courts.

Thanksgiving is high season in Santa Fe, so expect to pay dearly for the full-on ranch experience. Basic rooms start at $180 per night, double occupancy and small casita suites (separate guesthouses) go for a hefty $250 per night. Meals are extra. Call 800-722-9339 for more information.

For a similar Santa Fe experience, there's also the history-rich, 1,000-acre Bishop's Lodge, once the private weekend getaway digs for Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy in the late 1800s. Like Rancho Encantado, they have horseback riding (two rides a day, $30 per guest, per ride), miles of hiking, and tennis on the property, but the added bonus is the bishop's sacred chapel behind the main building; pick up the special key at the front desk for a self-guided tour. Rooms range from $190 per night (standard double occupancy) to $235 (deluxe suite). You'll pay extra for meals. Call 800-732-2240.

The Bishop's Lodge is closer to town, which means the drive up to Santa Fe Ski Basin (505-982-4429), about 16 miles from the start of Artist's Road, should be a quick half-hour. Opening day every year is pegged for Thanksgiving, but only if the weather cooperates.

If you'd rather base yourself in Taos, a good non-B&B kind of place is the Quail Ridge Inn. Long on facilities like outdoor heated swimming pool, hot tub, tennis and squash courts, and fitness center but a little short on cutesy New Mexico atmosphere, Quail Ridge is definitely the place to go if you want a just-one-of-several-hundred-guests experience. Room rates range from $80 per night (double, with pull-out sofa bed) to $160 for a one-bedroom suite; kids under 18 are free. Call 800-624-4448.

Taos's first name in seclusion, however, is indisputably Shadow Mountain Guest Ranch, about six miles east of town at the end of a 2.5-mile washboard dirt road. Accommodations in the ranch's cabins are comfortable but rustic. The emphasis here is on horseback riding ($30 per hour), backcountry or nordic skiing (guided trips or lessons, $15-$20 per hour), and snowshoeing. This is for good reason: Situated at 9,000 feet, the ranch borders Carson National Forest and its 11,000-foot peaks, wooded valleys, and creeks. But be prepared, Kevin, because co-owner Bob Wenham is one of the friendliest people I've ever met. If your preference for seclusion means you'd be averse to attentiveness and occasional chit-chat in the dining room, you may be better off at Quail Ridge. Basic in-lodge rooms start at $90 per night and fully equipped cabins go for $120. Call 800-405-7732. In addition to the ranch activities I mentioned, you'll obviously want to spend a day on the slopes at Taos Ski Valley (505-776-2291) or nearby, beginner-friendly Red River Ski Area (505-754-2382). Call ahead for projected opening dates.

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