For your holiday gift list this year, think outside the box—way outside it—with gifts that refuse to be contained. Rather than giving eachother more stuff that has to be stored and maintained, why not give your loved one an experience they’ll cherish for a lifetime? Give the gift of knowledge, joy or adventure. While such things are intangible, they are also meaningful and enduring.
An Old-Fashioned Sleigh Ride
What could be more quintessentially yuletide than a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the snow? Throw in hot cocoa and cookies, and we’ve officially reached peak winter nostalgia. Arrange for a couples or family ride with Roadrunner Tours in Angel Fire.
The frost may bite, but that will only add to your warm, fuzzy feelings as the sleigh glides along a groomed nature trail starting at 4 p.m. A short stop at the halfway point allows for photo opportunities and time to walk around, pet the horses, and take in the peaceful surroundings. For the more culinary minded, you can add on a three-course meal following the ride. Tours are available December through March, last just under one hour and are appropriate for all ages. “This is our 33rd year of doing sleigh rides for Christmas,” owner Nancy Burch says. “It’s a tradition, and it makes a wonderful gift.” It’s not only a longstanding tradition, but also a popular one: During the Christmas season, tours fill quickly, so plan ahead and make reservations in advance.
Roadrunner Tours: $40/kids; $50/adults, 575.377.6416, nancyburch.com/sleigh-carriage
More Snow Fun at Sipapu
For the thrill seekers and snowbound mountain bikers on your list, embark on a snow sport adventure unlike any other. Instead of something ordinary like skiing, try ski biking. Ski biking is just what it sounds like: you rocket down a snow-covered mountain on a contraption that is basically a bike on skis. Does it look mildly ridiculous? Sure. But it’s also wildly fun.
The learning curve for ski biking is much, much shorter than for skiing or snowboarding, and since you can sit down on the ski bike, it’s still enjoyable for younger or less athletic participants. It’s a great way to include non-skiiers in the joy of snowsports, but it can also be a novel change of pace for experienced mountain carvers. It’s slightly absurd, and great for cutting loose and just having a good time. I recommend you gift this to yourself as well, and join in the snow biking escapades.
Sipapu Ski Bike Rentals: $32/adults; $29/kids; $23-$45/lift tickets, 800.587.2240, sipapunm.com
A Mountain Trek with Llamas
A perfect gift for nature lovers gives them the chance to get away from all the noise and chaos of city life, and escape into the wilderness to enjoy the solitude of our natural world. Wild Earth Llama Adventures offers hikes with llamas throughout Northern New Mexico—everything from day hikes to five-day overnight trips. All ages and fitness levels can be accommodated, and hikers can choose to summit New Mexico’s highest mountain (Wheeler Peak), explore the lush forests of Valle Vidal, visit petroglyph sites in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and more.
Llamas are gentle and sure-footed, making them ideal companions for fearless trailblazers and tentative beginners alike. Wild Earth Adventures professes real affection for their pack animals, saying, “Their presence makes our time in the wilderness even more memorable.”
Best of all, it’s a sustainable business that works in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and wilderness advocacy groups to promote conservation and stewardship of public lands in addition to running a rescue for unwanted and neglected llamas, so you can support Wild Earth Llama Adventures with a clear conscience, secure in the knowledge that your gift is not exploiting animals or damaging delicate ecosystems.
Personal Photo Safari with Geraint Smith
For creative types who enjoy new surroundings, a personalized photo tour with Geraint Smith provides an ideal mix of exploration and self-expression. Geraint has been photographing for more than 40 years, and he has an impressive resume, having photographed for Forbes, The Washington Post, Smithsonian American Art Museum and more.
In his tours and workshops, Geraint shares his love of the Southwest’s wide-open spaces and incredible light. He has a number of options available, including half-day and three-day tours in some of New Mexico’s most beautiful and iconic places: the Rio Grande Gorge, Rio Chama, Abiquiu and the high road to Taos. Let your loved one follow in the footsteps of Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe, as a photo tour with Gerain reveals the magic of this incomparable country.
“I approach each client individually and find out prior to the trip what they’re looking for and their level of photography,” he says. “Most of them want some help with their cameras or they want to see places and explore new ideas and compositions. So we suss it out while talking on the phone and talk about the places they want to go and the kind of imagery they want to make.”
Geraint uses his familiarity with the region’s back roads, people, places and culture to customize each trip to the client’s needs and expectations. Although you’ll see the sights you want to see, these aren’t sightseeing tours. Rather, Geraint incorporates hands-on photographic instruction and technique demonstration with the carefully selected sights. He reviews images with clients, and can also provide tutelage in Photoshop and Lightroom, but these tours are mainly focused on shooting in the field, developing creative projects and refining your photographic eye. Printed gift certificates are available by phone or online for group sizes as small as one or as large as nine.
Not only does a photo tour provide lasting memories and renewed creativity, but also one-of-a-kind pictures that recall the memories of this distinctive gift.
Geraint Smith Photography Tours: $250-$1,450, 505.501.4880, geraintsmith.com
A Gym for the Mind
Bestow upon the visionaries in your life—the builders, makers and doers of the world—a cornucopia of cutting-edge tools, and all the resources needed to bring their vision to life. MAKE Santa Fe is part of a community of “makerspaces” that have popped up over the past several years to gather together and celebrate people who like to build, experiment and create.
MAKE Santa Fe itself is two years old, and its purpose is to bring the community together and give everyone an opportunity to work with traditional crafts and cutting-edge materials. They describe themselves as, “Like a gym, but with powerful tools instead of exercise equipment and skilled craftspeople instead of personal trainers.” As Team Leader Ginger Richardson explains, “We want the whole community to know that they can come here and and exercise their creativity.”
A membership to MAKE Santa Fe gets you free access to an impressive array of tools, most of which would be unattainable for the average hobbyist: laser cutters; engravers; sewing machines; high resolution 3D printers; autocad software; soldering and welding stations; a woodworking station with table saw, miter saw, band saw and other standard woodworking gear; plus computer workstations, materials to use the tools, and members-only workshops. Ginger says, “There is always someone on site to assist, so we’re able to provide the expertise and the mindset to help people accomplish what they want.”
But perhaps the thing they’ll cherish most about a gift membership to MAKE Santa Fe is that as a member, they’ll become a part of a dynamic community that freely shares knowledge and ideas. That makes it one of the most inspiring gifts on this list.
Make Spirits Bright
Help those who enjoy entertaining take their at-home mixology skills to the next level with a cocktail class at Santa Fe Spirits. Santa Fe’s most popular local distillery, Santa Fe Spirits creates unique liquors with regional ingredients including vodka, whiskey, a gin made with local juniper berries and cactus flowers, and an atapiño liqueur, made with ponderosa resin. Santa Fe Spirits brings this inventiveness to their cocktail menu, and now, to cocktail classes at their recently remodeled Mallard Way location. Classes take place Wednesdays, from 6 to 7 p.m., and require advanced booking—minimum class size is three to four to encourage mingling and having fun. James Reis, the Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room manager, explains that the course begins with a short overview of cocktail history, then moves on to modern mixology. They create and sample a variety of libations designed to practice different techniques: perhaps a mojito for muddling, a shaken margarita and a Manhattan to work on stirred drinks. It’s designed to give people the confidence to use these techniques on their own, as well as the bottles and tools needed to stock an at-home bar. “When people are finished with the class,” James explains, “they have a better understanding of what they want to mix at home and what tools they would need to do that.” That’ll make for a jolly celebration, with enough merriment for the gift-giver to enjoy as well!
Santa Fe Spirits: $30 per person, 505.467.8892 santafespirits.com
These ideas represent just a sliver of the incredible undertakings that you could grant your friends, family and loved ones this holiday season. New Mexico has no shortage of experiences to surprise, awe and delight. So get out there and unwrap the unmatched Land of Enchantment.
Story by Melyssa Holik