Sunday, February 11, 2007


The West's best cities by the slopesWhy rush to the runs? These four ski-area gateways provide a delightful excuse to stop--and avoid the crowdsBy Dan LeethSpecial to the TribunePublished February 11, 2007

ALBUQUERQUEAn Old Town--and its spicy flavorsIn a land better known for salsa than snow, Albuquerque provides a spicy transition from chili powder to chilly powder.Where to stay:Check out Old Town, the historic center of the city. Footloose romantics will enjoy the Hotel Albuquerque (800-237-2133; with its walk-to-everything location.Families can book rooms at the nearby Best Western Rio Grande Inn (800-959-4726; Those in a quest for style should try the Hyatt Regency downtown (505-842-1234;, 2 miles from Old Town.Where to feast on regional fareRed or green? The official New Mexico state question refers to the flavor of chili smothering the local fare, and either can pack a mouth-warming wallop.In Old Town, try La Hacienda (505-243-3131) across from the Plaza. A few miles to the north stands Sadie's Cocinita (505-345-5339), an Albuquerque institution famous for its zesty fare. Icy margaritas help extinguish the fire.What to doOld Town offers adobe architecture, funky shops and the 1793-vintage San Felipe de Neri Church, oldest building in Albuquerque.Nearby, visitors can catch culture at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, get a buzz at the American International Rattlesnake Museum or take a radiant walk-through of the National Atomic Museum. The town also offers the Turquoise Museum, International Balloon Museum, Wheels Transportation Museum, Unser Racing Museum, and University of New Mexico Geology and Meteorite Museums.The Albuquerque Biological Park holds the Albuquerque Aquarium, Rio Grande Botanic Garden and Rio Grande Zoo. Finally, skiers visiting the Nob Hill District can get their kicks on a nostalgic stretch of Route 66.Don't miss"The Sandia Peak Tram," says Megan Mayo of the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau. "On a clear day you can see 11,000 square miles of New Mexico, which is pretty incredible."In the neighborhoodPetroglyph National Monument west of town features Indian rock carvings, and to the north are the remains of ancient native dwellings at Bandelier National Monument. Their distant descendants now occupy 19 pueblos around Albuquerque. Hot springs and waterfalls garnish the Jemez Mountains northwest of Albuquerque. Santa Fe lies an hour's drive to the north, and Taos stands another hour beyond.

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