Winter in Santa Fe: Snow, Spas, and Chocolate

After the fall crowds have departed and the temperatures have plummeted, Santa Fe can get pretty quiet. Don't let that keep you away - winter is a great time to visit! A fresh coat of snow makes the city look magical, and there are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to keep you busy. Best of all, you won't have to fight any crowds!

Some of our favorite winter pastimes:

Get outside

Hit the slopes at Ski Santa Fe

Ski Santa Fe offers great skiing, great views, plus plenty of green chile stew!

Ski Santa Fe offers great skiing, great views, plus plenty of green chile stew!

It may not rival Jackson Hole or Vail, but you can't beat the convenience of Santa Fe's local slopes. From downtown, you can be on the mountain in 30 minutes (build in more time if the roads are snowy). Parking is fairly easy, but for even easier transport, hop on a blue RTD bus, which picks up at several locations downtown and drops you off at the lifts. The mountain will please skiers of all levels, with gentle bunny slopes, as well as more challenging terrain at the top. Make a lunch stop at Totemoff's to fuel up with local staples like green chile stew and tamales. Grab a craft beer and head to the deck to enjoy the New Mexico winter sun!

Explore the mountains on snowshoes

For a less intense - and less expensive - way to experience the winter weather, strap on a pair of snowshoes. Most of the hiking trails near the ski basin also make great snowshoe trails. One of our favorites is Aspen Vista trail, an out-and-back trail through a snow-covered aspen forest. If you don't have your own gear, you can rent snowshoes and poles at Cottam's Ski Shop, on the way up the mountain - you'll just need sturdy hiking boots to wear with the snowshoes, as well as warm clothing (Cottam's also rents jackets and pants).

Warm up

Sample spiced chocolate 'elixirs'

Cold weather is the perfect excuse to drink hot chocolate, and there's no better place for it than Kakawa Chocolate House. Try one (or several!) of their 'elixirs' - small cups of rich chocolate blended with herbs and spices like lavender, chile, coconut, and vanilla. This is also a great place to pick up beautifully made, delicious chocolate concoctions to take home.

Relax

Ramen and sake at Izanami restaurant are a winning combination on a snowy day

Ramen and sake at Izanami restaurant are a winning combination on a snowy day

Chill out at Ten Thousand Waves

Unwind from a day of skiing, snowshoeing, or museum-hopping at Ten Thousand Waves Spa, a stunningly beautiful Japanese-style spa located in the hills just ten minutes from downtown Santa Fe. This wonderful place is consistently ranked among the top spas in the county, and it's easy to see why. Relax in the outdoor soaking tubs (a magical experience when it's snowing), or choose from the spa's heavenly massages, facials, and wraps. When you're sufficiently chilled out, walk over to the spa's restaurant, Izanami (you can even wear your kimono!) for creative Japanese small plates and an extensive sake list.

Hit the town

While September and October are known as festival season in Santa Fe, there's plenty going on during the winter months too. Some of city's top winter events include:

GLOW at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden (December 15-31, 2017)

Bundle up to see the lovely Santa Fe Botanical Garden lit up for the season. Each year's decorations follow a different theme, and are always creative and whimsical. Enjoy hot beverages and nightly entertainment while you stroll around the garden. This one's great for kids, too!

Farolito walk (Christmas eve)

This Santa Fe tradition brings out the crowds! Locals and visitors alike brave the cold to stroll down Canyon Road, which is lit up with hundreds of farolitos (paper bag lanterns). Locals also burn bonfires in the surrounding streets. You won't have to stay outside the whole time, though - galleries open up their doors and offer hot drinks while you take a break from the cold and browse local art.

Restaurant week (February 18-25, 2018)

Who doesn't love a good deal on great restaurants? Santa Fe's restaurant week is the time to try the city's top dining spots, with prix-fixe dinner menus from $15 to $45 per person, as well as some reasonably priced lunch deals. The event also features a number of cooking classes and seminars.

WinterBrew (2018 dates TBD) 

Come out of hibernation to sample (unlimited!) beers from dozens of local and regional breweries, as well as small plates from local chefs. This event, which takes place inside the Farmers Market Pavilion, also features live entertainment.

The Santa Fe landscape looks completely different under a layer of snow

The Santa Fe landscape looks completely different under a layer of snow

Alison Nichols