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Festive events to take place atop mountains

In New Mexico, there’s little excuse to stay inside all winter. Mountain running and biking trails become cross country ski trails; hiking and orienteering routes become ideal places to snowshoe.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of the right incentive.

If you go
Chama Chili Ski Classic and Winter Fiesta Jan. 19-21. For more information visit or call Mary Ann DeBoer at 575-756-2746.
The 2013 Sandia Snowshoe Race Jan. 19. For more information visit Find more information on the Friends of the Sandia Mountains at
Local retailers such as REI and Sport Systems rent skis and snowshoes.

Two upcoming events are classics in the New Mexico “get up and get out” genre. The first is the Chama Chili Ski Classic and Festival. The second is the Sandia Snowshoe Race, held at the top of Albuquerque’s big mountain. Both welcome newbies as well as hardcore winter athletes.

Now in its 40th year, the Chama Classic is one of New Mexico’s winter hallmarks. What began as an opportunity for skiers to get together and compete, has – in recent years – morphed into a three-day extravaganza of skiing, eating and drinking, with workshops, clinics and contests for the entire family.

And, while competition can be fierce – particularly in the 15K and 10K events – race director Mary Ann DeBoer stresses that, “a huge aspect of the event is simply that it’s fun. People come out because it’s beautiful and there’s something for everyone.”

This year the classic also will feature the return of a dog event, either sledding or skijoring (a sport in which a dog assists a cross-country skier). Once a fixture of the event, dog sledding took a back seat in the 1980s as more serious cross country skiers got involved. But New Mexico is a dog loving state and getting them into the game is part of DeBoer’s efforts to create a more inclusive and participatory experience for winter sport fans.

The classic will also feature a 1970s theme in honor of its anniversary this year. Costume, beer-tasting and chili-eating contests featured the last two years also will be included. The top awards for men and women in their respective age groups is the New Mexico chili ristra.

Like the classic, the annual Sandia Snowshoe Race has been around for a while and offers a place for beginners – as well as serious contenders – to enjoy some wintertime competition. Started over a decade ago, the 5K Sandia race is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Sandia Mountains, a non-profit organization designed to assist the U.S. Forest Service in conservation and educational tasks towards maintaining and protecting the Sandia Mountains.

Over the years, the race has drawn mostly locals, note race co-directors Joy and Matt Bosquez.

There’s always some representation from elsewhere in the state and from across the Southwest, “but wherever they’re from,” says Joy Bosquez, “they come to have fun.”

Most participants finish the 3.2-mile course in about 45 minutes to an hour and a half. The really fast snowshoers can clock in at 30 minutes. The course closes a couple of hours after the start, and Matt Bosquez notes there are often people pushing the cut-off time.

The big change in recent years has been the introduction of sponsors, and the race directors both agree it has made a difference in the experience, both for the racers and for the handful of spectators.

“There’s better swag – including a T-shirt and other goodies,” Matt points out. “The prizes are better, and there’s really a festive atmosphere at the top (of the mountain).”

Both events are scheduled for next weekend, and presuming neither event fills up ahead of time, participants can register on the same day as the race. However, the Sandia event is capped at a relatively low 150 participants, and those considering racing should sign up as soon as possible.