let it snow in new mexico


let it snow in new mexico
national post, Saturday, February 18, 2012
travel & escapes
Jodi Balfour stars
in Global Tv’s BomB
girls, and she’ll
tell you the best
spot to rent a vespa
Where to go? My travel habit is usually to visit somewhere I have never been, rather than
develop a consistent relationship with a place. My most recent favourite is Zanzibar. Why? A
crowded ferry ride away from Tanzania’s coastal city, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar is a marvel for the
senses. Every sight and smell is provocative, inspiring a sense of the old and new. Tanzanians
are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, insisting on a welcoming smile and wave as
they pass you on the streets, exclaiming “Jambo!” It is a sunny, sweaty, intoxicating feast of a
vacation. Must do A spice tour, snorkelling, night markets for fried fish and coconut smoothies. Hire an old Vespa and scoot down the coast. Best to skip The purely tourist-populated
resort accommodation along the coast in the north of the island. Melissa Leong, Weekend Post
Let it snow in New Mexico
Make the most of the
state’s spring skiing
By Jesse Kinos-Goodin
Thinkstock / Getty images
Bombs away
Once a U.S. Navy target practice site, the tiny island of Culebra now
o≠ers quiet sunny beaches — and just the odd rusty tank
By Karen Burshtein
t’s 12 p.m. and I’m being driven
to the tiny Culebra airport by
Carlos who manages the hotel
I’ve been staying at. In about 30 minutes my plane takes off. I’m a little
stressed. But I take my cue from Carlos who’s chill. The airport is eight
minutes away. Carlos even suggests
doing a little sightseeing on the way.
But, then, at the entrance to the hotel, he spots Jose “Chiwy” Rivera, the
hotel’s gardener and, Carlos tells me,
one of the island’s foremost fishermen.
“You have to see this guy. He can catch
anything with his hands. Last week
my wife saw an octopus and Chiwy
fished it for her.”
He suggests asking Rivera to demonstrate his skill to me.
The fisherman agrees, and hops
in the car. So instead of sightseeing
en route to the airport, Carlos steers
his ATV toward a hidden dirt road
minutes from the hotel that leads to
a gorgeous rocky cove.
On the way Chiwy modestly tells
me, “I can catch lobster with my
hands. Here in Culebra the lobsters
don’t have claws.”
We get out and the fisherman and
I slink into the water. I dive under
water and with my mask watch him
in action. My plane is leaving in, like,
25 minutes and I’ve just begun a dip
in the sea.
Chiwy nabs a bonefish, I think he
said, in the time it takes to come up for
breath, holds it up for me to see and
before I know it we’re back in the car.
That kind of spontaneous adventure
is typical of Culebra, the 11-square-mile
island, 27 kilometres off “mainland”
Puerto Rico. Culebra is the quintessential off the beaten path, laid-back
island paradise. Those who know it
say that Culebra has some of the most
beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.
Add low prices, an uncultivated beauty
and unexpected experiences such as
bumping into a someone who’ll nab a
lobster for your dinner, and it’s underthe-radar days are surely numbered.
I arrived in Culebra via a puddle
jumper after a week in San Juan and
a weekend in Vieques, a nearby island
I thought was low key until I got to
Over several days I explored Culebra’s deserted and stunning, if facilities-lite, beaches, each with its own
attributes and set of challenges to
get to. At times I was accompanied
by locals. Otherwise, I tooled around
the island on the preferred method
of transport of visitors: an electric
golf cart.
Culebra’s most famous playa
is Flamenco Beach. The crescentshaped stretch of powdery white
sand and translucent turquoise water on the northwest side of the island
has become a fixture on Caribbean’s
Best Beaches lists.
I arrived at Flamenco late afternoon
to a beach so empty it looked like it
had been closed for the day. It was, sort
of. The day trippers had just left, the
owner of one of the nearby colourful
food kiosks selling island specialities
told me. “They come and leave with
the ferry.”
The ferry shuttles them from Fajardo on the isla grande or main
island as Puerto Rico is known. The
ride takes approximately two hours,
and costs about $2. During spring
break/holy week, Culebra attracts
Puerto Rican university students who
I hear sometimes sleep in front of Fajardo’s ticket office to make sure they
get a place on the ferry. (Though this
might also be because the ferry has a
reputation for unreliability.) But with
miles of beach, even on holidays Flamenco is not crowded.
Today, though, I shared the beach
with exactly three people, and a few
of the 50,000 Sooty Terns that nest
on Peninsula Flamenco.
I stretched out on my patch of
sugar-white sand. After the last bit
of heat had been squeezed out of the
afternoon sun, I walked down the
beach wondering why such a perfect place would not be full of highrise hotels.
Mystery solved when I saw a rusty,
graffiti-covered military tank in the
middle of the beach, a little way down.
Until 1973 Culebra was an aerial
bombing site for the U.S. Navy. While
the military presence was hardly
popular, it did have the side effect of
keeping developers at bay. This tank,
an eyesore on the beach, was left as a
monument to its past, but also, I supposed optimistically, a warning for
the future: “The military presence
saved Culebra from rampant overdevelopment. Keep it that way.”
Later I had an appointment to
tour more of its stunning beaches
with Cecilia Rodriquez. Cecilia, originally from San Juan, now owns,
with her husband, the island’s only
luxury inn, the Club Seabourne.
I showered quickly in the outdoor
facilities in the campground behind
Flamenco beach. Wild chickens were
closing in on me as I stood under the
drip drip shower.
I met Cecila in front of the food
kiosks and we headed off. I saw how
easy it is to navigate the island; the
island has only two roads, albeit
heavily potholed. Getting to specific
beaches is harder; most are accessed
via overgrown dirt paths and a lot of
hiking from where we parked.
As we approached secluded Zoni
beach, I saw signs that from afar
looked like leftover military warnings. But on closer inspection they
were turtle warnings. Zoni is home
to some of the most endangered
turtles in the world. They nest on the
island spring and summer and residents are especially protective of this
If You Go
Getting there
There are two commercial ways to get
to Culebra from “mainland” Puerto
Rico: the ferry from Fajardo (islaculebra.com) or aboard one of Puerto
Rico’s small domestic airlines, such
as Vieques Air, which leaves from San
Juan or Vieques (viequesairlink.com).
Where to stay
z Club Seabourne is Culebra’s most upscale hotel/resort, located on the east
side of the island (clubseabourne.com).
z There are several guest houses with
typically colourfully painted facades in
Dewey. The five-room Palmetto
Guesthouse is recommended (palmettoculebra.com about $100 a night).
z For further information, visit
beach. Rodriguez kept reminding me
to be careful where I walked lest I
tread on a Leatherback or Hawskbill
egg, despite the fact the turtle nesting area is cordoned off.
Later, we hiked for about 20 minutes over a rocky path to Carlos Rosario, a black-sand beach.
As we crisscrossed back through
Dewey, the island’s lone town, we encountered a mammoth — for Culebra
— car jam; about 15 cars were lined up.
Rodriguez explained that this was the
day the island’s lone filling station received gas. It’s a big day on the island.
She also pointed out a few of the
island’s handful of restaurants such as
Susie’s, where fresh seafood is on offer,
and Juanita Bananas, where there’s
island lobster, sofritos and margaritas
made with limes grown onsite.
Melones Beach, a favourite amongst
snorkelling enthusiasts is a gorgeous
and healthy coral beach that is one
of the easiest to access. You can walk
there from town.
More beaches were out of reach
at the end of the day. To get to pebbly Soldier’s Point, the southernmost
point of Culebra, Rodriguez tells me,
you need to take a kayak. I did later
on, and was rewarded with a biology
book of marine life; starfish, stingrays and unspoiled reefs.
Another morning I paddled to Fulladoza Bay. “Turn right at the mangrove forest,” Carlos told me, as I set
off. “You can’t miss it.”
But I never got to Luis Pena Island, a
nature reserve a mile across the bay. Or
Rescasca Beach, the hardest to access
— a rigorous hike or jeep ride through
rock strewn canyon and ravines and a
steep descent down Mount Rescasca, a
dry tropical forest with rare trees like
cupey and jaguey, and orchids growing
between large boulders.
These beaches are, presumably,
for those for whom the others aren’t
remote enough.
z Travel support provided by Puerto
Rico Tourism.
Weekend Post
“Red or green?” is something you’re
asked a lot in New Mexico. In fact,
New Mexicans are so proud of their
two varieties of chiles (it’s eaten on
practically everything, including the
McDonald’s cheeseburger Bueno), it’s
considered the official state question.
And while the chile alone is well
worth the trip, choosing red or green is
not why I visited the “land of enchantment” earlier this month. I was there
for the simple shade of white — snow,
more specifically, and plenty of it.
While cities all over the United
States and Canada are experiencing
unseasonably mild winters, New Mexico has seen record snowfalls dump
the powdery white stuff on its ski resorts. And with the peak elevation
ranging from 10,000 feet to more than
12,000 feet above sea level, the snow at
these resorts is going to stick around.
There’s good reason Outside magazine
voted one New Mexican resort, Taos
Ski Valley, the best place for spring skiing this year.
Add the fact that even when it’s
snowing the sun can still shine bright
in New Mexico, making for a booming après-ski patio scene, and you’d
be hard-pressed to find a better place
for a spring skiing getaway. In a oneweek span I visited four resorts, making for a great road trip, but for those
less willing to log the kilometres (or
should that be miles?), these resorts
offer plenty of variety to keep you busy
for a full week.
Taos Ski Valley There’s a sign at the
bottom of the hill in Taos Ski Valley
that reads, “Don’t panic, you’re only
looking at 1/30 of Taos Ski Valley.
We have many easy runs too.” It’s
cheeky, but also true, considering the
mountain’s daunting facade of steep,
expert runs is enough to frighten any
novice skier.
With 3,000 feet of vertical over
110 runs, there’s always a beginner
or intermediate run to get you down
safely — provided you heed the sign at
the top of Lift 1 that asks novices not
to proceed any farther.
One unique feature of Taos is its
abundance of hike access only runs.
Making it to Kachina Peak, sitting at
12,481 feet, is a rite of passage, says
snowboard instructor Eric Baryza.
The hike takes locals 45 minutes
(it took me more than an hour), but
the feeling of riding fresh powder
down one of the many chutes makes
every gruelling step worth it. 1-800776-1111, skitaos.org
Red River Ski Area In the small town
of Red River you could draw a line
where the old West meets Bavaria:
Saloons, trading posts and steak houses vie with German-style markets and
lodges for your attention. But let’s not
forget the main Bavarian influence —
the Red River Ski Area, which makes
up for it’s smaller size (1,600 vertical
feet over 57 runs) with variety. Take
the kids on a tour of the Moon Star
Mining Camp, go tubing, snowshoeing, or enjoy an evening snowmobile
tour to the top of the mountain for
dinner on the peak. 575-754-2223,
Angel Fire Resort Angel Fire may
pride itself on having a mountain that
is almost fully accessible for the whole
family (76% of it is rated beginner or
intermediate), but it’s also the place
where I was blessed with 10 inches of
completely untouched powder.
Yes, your kids will love Angel Fire,
with its excellent beginner snowboard park, not to mention tubing, tobogganing and cross country skiing,
but there’s plenty to keep advanced
skiers busy as well. Ride the 30 acres
of tree runs, or hike 15 minutes out to
C-Pod and enjoy more than 2,000 vertical feet of powder. 1-800-633-PINE
(7463), angelfireresort.com
Ski Santa Fe Ski Santa Fe boasts the
second highest base in the U.S., sitting
at 10,350 feet (it’s peak is 12,075 feet).
It’s so high, in fact, that I was winded
just walking up the stairs to the ticket
windows. But while thin air is one
downfall to its elevation, amazing
snow conditions and variety of terrain
is the definite upside, with everything
from standard groomed trails to 30foot cliff drops.
One big advantage Ski Santa Fe has
is its location just 25 kilometres from
Santa Fe, a historic city where all the
buildings are made of adobe, and the
fragrant smell of burning pinon wood
permeates the air like incense.
There are also plenty of authentic
New Mexican restaurants, such as
Maria’s Mexican Kitchen, which boasts
more than 100 different types of margaritas (I recommend the Macho Cowboy). 505-982-4429, skisantafe.com
As for answering that “red or
green?” question, if you’re not prepared to commit to one or the other,
there is always the option to pick both,
or have “Christmas,” as it’s called. For
ski and snowboard enthusiasts, given
that the incredible snow conditions
make you feel like a kid on Christmas
morning, it seems like the most appropriate response.
z Jesse Kinos-Goodin was a guest of
Ski New Mexico.
Weekend Post
©2008 Barwick
Record snowfalls in New Mexico have raised hopes on the slopes.