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A Return to Chama

March 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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You may recall a post I published last winter about a wonderful winter weekend in Chama, NM. For the past 40 years, the small town of Chama has been hosting a delightful weekend-long series of events catering to the outdoors lover. The events include both diagonal and freestyle cross country ski races of several lengths for participants of all abilities. There are also snowshoe races and a variety of family events. In addition, clinics are provided to improve skiing technique, educate participants about proper wax selection and applications. And workshops are offered, such as Yoga for Skiers, throughout the weekend.

Terry, before the race

Terry, before the race

An entire community event, restaurants and hotels run specials to attract visitors. There is a chili competition at a local community center and the High Country Saloon offers free Green Chile Stew and chips and salsa to all visitors. Further, live entertainment is provided Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday, after all races are completed, as well.

The mass start

The mass start

Finally, while there are a number of motels in Chama that are offering weekend specials and are only too happy to have your business, RVs may also be parked in the trailhead parking area for the weekend. Another unique component of this race is that the ski trail only exists for two weeks each year. Devoted local residents work year round to put on this event and design and groom the trails only in the week before it is run, the third week of January every year.

Chama Chile Ski ClassicIn preparation and as a training race for his 32nd completion of the 50K American Birkebeiner, held in Wisconsin every February, Terry chose to participate in his second annual Chama Chile Ski Race. It might seem that skiing a mere 15K race is not preparation for skiing the longest ski race in North America, but you must recall that the Wisconsin race is at about 1,000 feet above sea level. The Chama race, on the other had, starts at approximately 10,000 feet and goes up from there.

Given the he has been living and training at 7-10,000 above sea level for an entire year now, Terry was thrilled that he improved his time over last year by a full six minutes. Further, while last year he ended the race exhausted and depleted, this year,

Terry, nearing the end of a long 18K race

Terry, nearing the end of a long 18K race

he felt good and skied strong. This year was especially enjoyable due to the race announcing talents of Steve Ilg, a native of Durango, CO, skier and yoga instructor. Finishing the short freestyle race first (i.e. winning it) he took over the microphone and added much to the enjoyment of all listeners by commenting on the racers, the ski technique and the festivities.

If you are interested in more information, please check out Chama Chili Ski Classic on Facebook. But if you make the trip, remember that hiking, snowshoeing and skiing at elevation will take more out of you than doing any of those activities at lower elevations. Use caution when exerting yourself, but do go and visit and enjoy the event. On a side note, Chama is also the starting point for the Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway, which offers a ride up into the beautiful mountains of Colorado. It would be one more activity to add to an already busy, but delightful, weekend.

Read more about Colorado camping and things to do in Colorado.

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