Above: If you're driven by a competitive spirit and a love of fresh powder, hit New Mexico's ski areas this month. Photography by Reed Weimer.
TEN … NINE … EIGHT …
At the New Year’s Eve countdown in Times Square, a glowing ball descends a 141-foot pole in the final 60 seconds of the year. Such “time balls” were originally nautical tools, used by ship navigators to calibrate their measuring devices. The citizens of Las Cruces—more than 2,000 miles away from the Big Apple and far from any ocean—imbue the tradition with a spicy Southwestern twist. Hit the fourth annual Las Cruces Chile Drop, when a 19-foot glowing chile makes its dramatic descent. Thousands turn up for the New Year’s Eve celebration, family-friendly fun, a beer garden, and a vast array of chile-infused delicacies. (575) 640-8283; las-cruces.org
During A City Different New Year’s Eve, on the historic Santa Fe Plaza, Mayor Javier Gonzales presides over the raising of a tin Zia symbol crafted by a traditional Spanish artisan. During the lead-up, partygoers can sip hot cocoa, nibble bizcochitos, and dance to the tunes of Sol Fire, Alex Maryol, and other local musicians. (800) 777-2489; santafe.org
Fireworks have decorated the night sky since the days of the Tang Dynasty in seventh-century China. Back then, pyrotechnics were considered cosmic good luck charms that could ward off evil spirits and ensure joy and prosperity. Epochs later, Taos Ski Valley spreads the good luck during its New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. on December 31 with a laser light show, followed by a daring ski run lit by hand-held flares. Afterwards? Grown-ups ring in the New Year at the Martini Tree Bar. (800) 776-1111; skitaos.com
Angel Fire hosts its annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade & Fireworks, which begins an hour after sundown at the base of the ski mountain at Angel Fire Resort (800-633-7463; angelfireresort.com). New Year’s Eve festivities in Red River span the city, with a Torchlight Parade & Fireworks at Red River Ski & Summer Area and a family-friendly Old Fashioned New Year’s Eve Party at the Red River Community House, with pizza, music, games, and a ball drop at midnight Eastern time (10 p.m. here) so the little ones can get their sleep. (575) 754-3030; redriver.org
Rev up your New Year’s resolutions on day one—particularly if any involve burning calories after holiday feasting. Outdoor activities this month target everyone from amateur athletes to elite trainers. Kick things off on January 1 with the Egg Nog Jog in Albuquerque, a 34-year-old tradition started by Alan Overmier in 1984. The 5K run/walk follows the acequias of Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, in the North Valley. (505) 884-7653; heartandsolesports.net
For a chillier challenge, suit up for first-day action at state parks across New Mexico on January 1. The midday Polar Bear Plunge at Storrie Lake State Park, near Las Vegas, has attracted locals and visitors for 22 years. Sugarite Canyon State Park, near Ratón, hosts a First Day Hike through a historic coal camp that ends in time for you to partake in the afternoon’s Polar Bear Plunge into the park’s Lake Maloya.
Go full backcountry at the Santa Fe Snowshoe Classic on January 7. This seven-kilometer race unfolds across trails at 9,500 feet, beginning at the Big Tesuque picnic and camping area on Hyde Park Road (505-231-6166; santafestriders.org). On January 27, head to Eagle Nest Lake State Park, east of Taos, to compete with hundreds in its Ice Fishing Tournament. Sure, temperatures might drop below zero, but formidable cash prizes await. (575) 377-1594; enl-cc-parkfriends.org
POWER TO THE PUEBLOS
Winter celebrations at New Mexico pueblos are often open to the public (but not their cameras). Take in the Turtle Dance at Taos Pueblo on January 1 and Vespers with Firelight Dances at San Ildefonso Pueblo on January 22. Picuris Pueblo and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo celebrate St. Paul’s Feast Day with dances on January 25. Make sure to call ahead to each pueblo (there’s a phone directory at indianpueblo.org) before you hit the road for events.
Claire Chase is no ordinary flutist. Equal parts musical innovator and daring performance artist, she works with avant-garde composers from around the world to create experiences of sound and movement. The New Yorker has called her “spectacular,” and the MacArthur Foundation awarded her its legendary fellowship in 2012. As part of the Taos Chamber Music Group’s current season, Chase appears at the Harwood Museum of Art on January 20 (575-758-9826; taoschambermusicgroup.org). And she’s just one of the world-class musicians swinging through New Mexico this month.
The Neave Piano Trio—violinist Anna Williams, cellist Mikhail Veselov, and pianist Eri Nakamura—plays the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces on January 18. “Neave is actually a Gaelic name meaning ‘bright’ and ‘radiant,’ both of which certainly apply to this trio’s music making,” says Robert Sherman of New York’s WQXR Radio (646-536-7864; neavetrio.com). The Southwest Symphony in Hobbs teams up with the Canadian eight-man band Brass Transit to present tunes from the songbook of the hit-making band Chicago. The concert at Tydings Auditorium on January 20 does more than imitate the songs; it revives the era with spellbinding power. (575) 433-0247; swsymphony.org
In Albuquerque, don’t miss the Mozart’s Requiem Fund-Raising Special by the New Mexico Philharmonic and the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus. Together, they breathe life into the composer’s epic final composition—famously unfinished when he died in 1791 and later completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr—at Popejoy Hall on January 27 (505-277-4569; unmtickets.com/philharmonic). The Santa Fe Symphony rings in the New Year with the music of Johannes Brahms, Edvard Grieg, and Franz Liszt at the Lensic on January 20. (505) 983-3530; santafesymphony.org
Astronomers call places with low light pollution “dark-sky” sites. With its vast tracts of stunning wilderness, New Mexico boasts many of these prime stargazing spots. In fact, the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array is one of the best places in the world for astronomical observation. Fifty miles west of Socorro, the facility is famous for its 27 radio telescopes that stand 25 meters high. Get up close when the observatory hosts a First Saturday Tour on January 6, with free 45-minute guided walk-throughs at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. That evening, head to Socorro for a Guided Night Sky Telescope Viewing at the Etscorn Observatory, on the campus of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The event begins at dark and lasts two hours. (575) 835-6431; socorronm.org
On January 26, San Juan College Planetarium in Farmington hosts its monthly Astro Friday. This month’s theme, “Navajo Sky Legends,” explores the cosmology of the Diné people. (505) 566-3361; sanjuancollege.edu
WORD TO THE WISE
Winter weather is unpredictable in New Mexico! Call ahead before you attend an event, always bundle up, and be prepared for snowy or icy driving conditions.