weekend wanderer

The Winter Magic of
Santa Fe

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October 20, 2009 — Thinking about the long winter ahead and how to make the most of it? Why not calendar a weekend visit to the crown jewel of New Mexico's high desert; just before or after the holidays, the artistic, culinary, and natural beauty of Santa Fe might provide the perfect respite.

Year after year, New Mexico's state capitol remains one of the premier tourist destinations in the country - a cultural mecca, an hour north of Albuquerque and indeed, a Land of Enchantment. Santa Fe is one of our country's oldest cities (think 1600s) and since the 1920s has had an uncanny pull for the artistic community, drawing authors, painters, and photographers from around the world to gather in its wide open space within the Sangre de Christo mountains, beneath vast azure skies that serve as a canvass for an ever changing interplay of dramatic cloud formations.

While mall mania at the edge of town has tampered with its signature coyote-chile-Native American esthetic, once within the heart of the city, with its carefully maintained Spanish Pueblo Revival architectural themes, Santa Fe remains as wildly romantic and picturesque as ever. Attractions such as the Plaza, where you really must begin your visit, the multitude of galleries on Canyon Road, the small but sweet Georgia O'Keefe Museum, the Santa Fe Opera House and School of Cooking, and the St. Francis Cathedral can easily fill your days between meals at brilliant restaurants such as Casa Sena, The Old House, and Geronimo (and don't forget the classic Pasqual's for breakfast). But in recent years, its been the spas, winter sports, and healers of every sort, that for my money have reached into Santa Fe's soul and imbued it with a more complex mix of 21st century attributes.

These are ancient tribal lands and the earthy, old world spirits of those who are long gone, at times seem to rise up from the ground with the intent of nurturing those who come seeking healing, most often, the stresses of the modern world.

In town, at 7000 feet, summers may be warm, but winter means plentiful snow in the surrounding mountains, and in turn, skiing and snowboarding in an area that has somehow avoided being overrun by boisterous busloads of winter sport enthusiasts. Ski Santa Fe is a mere 16 miles from the historic city center and features beautifully maintained runs and lifts for every level of skier and snowboarder in one of the highest ski areas in the country. Check out skisantafe.com.

At the end of your day on the slopes, the perfect follow-up is to treat yourself to a dip and maybe even a night or two's stay at the remarkable Ten Thousand Waves, a traditional Japanese onsen where serenity and soft lanterns lead you to outdoor hot baths (definitely book the private ones), where you'll warm your bones and your soul beneath the starry ski… Sheer heaven. Accommodations run the gamut from a Japanese styled Airstream "Capsule", to Crescent Moon, a large home-like suite that tastefully marries the best of Japanese and Santa Fean style. Ten Thousand Waves also offer a compelling menu of spa and massage services. Visit www.tenthousandwaves.com for more information.

If Indonesian overtones and the lap of luxury are more in line with what you seek in a perfectly pampered New Mexican weekend, save some time for a visit to Absolute Nirvana Spa and Gardens. Blissfully indulgent spa treatments such as a Balinese Massage complimented by a Rose Petal Bath await, just a short walk from the Plaza. Organic meals and sumptuous accommodations are also available. Check out absolutenirvana.com.