Note: This is a blog summary of our podcast episode with MST Adventures, some of the flow of the podcast has been edited and information has been added to provide context/links and to create a written format of our chat. I hope that you find this to be a helpful resource. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. Enjoy!
New Mexico is an all-year-round treasure trove of fun, wildlife, and adventure. But not everyone knows about the best things about New Mexico, or the outdoor adventures to do there on all four seasons. Here’s the great news – we hopped on a truly information-packed call with MST Adventures co-founder, Corey Spoores and talked about the attractions in Albuquerque, and their passion for the outdoors that led to starting their business.
How did MST Adventures start?
We started serving customers in late 2016. I was guiding paddling trips teaching Whitewater classes Flat Water trips with another company and when it came to the end of the season and I was like, “What do you guys do in the winter?” I was a recent transplant to New Mexico and they were like, “We don’t really do anything.” That kind of surprised me for sure.
I started working for the local Big Box store better known as REI and I was like “You guys don’t rent gear? That’s kind of crazy.” So that’s why I started with snowshoes. I just saved checks and we bought 18 pairs of snowshoes and we started doing day rentals.
What was it like to start the business? What were the challenges?
Some of the challenges were learning the landscape of commercial permits, finding good guides, training the guides, and finding the right staff. You also need to try different things and know what works and not be afraid to switch.
What inspired you to offer outdoor adventures to people?
Here in New Mexico, we’ve got the Sandia Mountain. It has 10,000 ft elevation and it stretches south into Monsanto’s. It averages 22 inches of snow a year and a lot of people go there to recreate. There is a ski resort on the backside of the mountain. There are great trails and we thought, why not help facilitate other people getting outdoors? That was really what it’s all about. I just like the idea of getting people out and getting them educated and just showing them that there’s more to do than play Nintendo.
What are some unique things to do in New Mexico?
New Mexico is very rich in culture. If you’re there in the summertime, there’s really magnificent hiking along the
The nature experience is so nice and interesting. It’s like Arizona or Texas desert with all the amazing wildlife that comes along with it. If you’re there in the fall of September/October you’re going to hear and see elk — they’re all over the place.
Located only 45 minutes from Albuquerque, you can take a tram to the top and hike and that only takes 10-12 minutes. It’s very accessible.
Chaco – Northwest of Albuquerque, it has some ancient Pueblo and ruins up there and it also has a great southwest culture.
Bandelier National Monument – 2 to 3 day trip
Is located on the northern part of the state which is outside of Santa Fe. It’s a National Monment that if you have the time, spend a few days there because some of the beauty there comes with not being able to day hike. You can’t get to the Rio Grande and explore it unless you are a very strong hiker and charging hard to see it in one day.
There’s another very unique place literally another 20 minutes down the road, which is the Via Caldera National Preserve.
Via Caldera National Preserve. It’s run by the National Park Service and when you get back in there, it will make you think that you’re standing in the middle of Yellowstone because it’s grasslands you’re in this giant Caldera. It’s rich and beautiful in color in the fall, the elk are bugging (they sound like an unhappy 2-year-old) and you’ll feel like that you’re in the middle of Yellowstone. Just north of Albuquerque about 45 minutes and there are some hot springs in the area as well.
San Antonio hot springs are some very popular hot springs in the wintertime. It’s a 5-mile snowshoe or cross-country ski in and those are San Antonio hot springs. They range from about 92 to 96 degrees. So they’re not super hot, when I’ve gone in there in the wintertime like it’s very comfortable to go in and you know where your swimsuit and just hang out for a while and relax.
Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area
There is magnificent hiking around the Wheeler Peak Wilderness area in the summer. You can have a super high-quality experience as most people only go a short distance, like 5 miles out and back. One of the trips that we loved was a backpacking trip to Williams Lake, we even packed in an inflatable paddle board and paddled Williams lake.
Then we hiked to the top of Wheeler Peak and we saw grouse, bighorn sheep, deer, and the nature experience was a wonderful thing to do.
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Gila National Forest and Gila Wilderness
Once you hit Albuquerque and you’re going south, if you want to see animals, you have to go through the Gila National Forest and Gila Wilderness Area. It is a humongous area that you can see all kinds of elk, the elk there are super thick. If you are there in the fall, you’ll hear the elk, that’s when their rut starts. It’s near Silver City, NM.
If you want to see some places that are small towns, like 13 people. These are some of the amazing small towns, the backpacking is awesome and the driving this area is absolutely beautiful. The drive from Silver City to Elephant Butte is beautiful as it offers a phenomenal eco change. It’s all national forest so there are some national forest campgrounds that you can stay in. There is some camping near Gila Cliff Dwellings. There are also the Jordon Hot Springs nearby that you can visit, a
In the spring of the year, you can raft the Gila river when it is running. This is around Feb-March, it’s a small river and it only runs from the snowmelt. It’s slated for national scenic wild river designation that we hope that it goes through.
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Ski Resorts in New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley is home to the Enchanted Circle. Along the Enchanted Circle, there are several downhill ski resorts like Angel Fire, Red River, and Questa. In summer, Angel Fire’s bike park was rated one of our top 10 downhill bike parks!
If you want to cross country ski, you can visit the enchanted forest, where they have groomed cross country ski trails. You can ski, snowshoe and even rent a Yurt to stay in.
What is the best time to visit Albuquerque?
The Balloon Fiesta can be pretty busy if you’re down on the Balloon Fiesta field, but there’s a multitude of ways to experience Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.
As for visiting, temperatures are great between the end of September and December. Also, you can visit between October and November. There is a great change in colors from the golds, the yellows, and the green during the fall.
We see balloons every day of the year, but it’s during those nine days that we see them floating in a special way. That’s because of where they are launched. We see these balloons on paddleboards by traversing Balloon Fiesta Park following the Rio Grande.
The festival of Cranes – Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge
Another wonderful place to visit between October and April is the national wildlife refuges, and they get a festival of cranes. We are in the Rio Grande flyway so we get a lot of migrating waterfowl, we have seen this year, so far, Sandhill Cranes that left the northeast part of Russia and are now wintering in New Mexico. They have over a 6’ wingspan and they make a very unique noise. They come in huge flocks, you can hear them flying in the sky while on our paddleboard trips.
How hard is paddleboarding? How much experience does someone need to come to take a paddleboarding trip?
I’ve had folks as young as seven on their own paddleboard and paddling proficiently and I’ve had folks as old as 73 on the paddleboard never experienced the river on a paddleboard before and paddling proficiently by the end of the trip. We pride ourselves in taking the time that’s necessary to make you feel comfortable, providing you with expert American Canoe Association certified instruction, as well as sharing personal experiences and a variety of tips and tricks to make you feel comfortable.
Now that being said, not everybody feels comfortable standing right away and that’s totally okay.
You can stand up on a paddleboard, you can kneel on it, you can sit criss-cross applesauce as the kids call it. If you have a mobility impairment, we have the ability to even fix a cooler to the paddleboard so you can have an item to sit on. Our goal is just to get you out and help you experience things.
What is snowshoeing?
Most people know snowshoes as the wooden frame with the webbing on the bottom – that’s like old-timey. Snowshoes have evolved quite a bit since then, there are several different styles and varieties. What you see now is some sort of a metal frame with a vinyl trampoline that your foot would sit on with a binding system to hold your foot in and some sort of traction device on the bottom.
We use the MSR Evos snowshoes. They have traction devices for lateral movement, they have a crampon attached to the foot binding that helps you climb up. The EVO ascends also has a climbing bar that comes from the back of the heel. So if you are on a prolonged incline your foot can rest on it and it helps you with how much strain is on your calf. If you were using your climbing bars on flat ground, you’ll feel like you’re on a pair of high heels. But once you have a little bit of elevation, it feels really comfortable because your foot is now level. These decks are almost indestructible.
What to wear snowshoeing?
We recommend a waterproof hiking shoe or boot. If you’re just doing short hikes, you can get by with tennis shoes but we recommend a waterproof shoe if possible.
A nice wool sock or something that’s not cotton for your feet because you do tend to get some snow in the tops of your shoes. If you have access to gaitors, that’s good. It’s like a piece of material that goes around the top of your shoes and seals it off and essentially makes sure your shoes taller. You can wear ski gear or rain gear, it’s also a great choice.
Avoid wearing blue jeans, because the cotton fabric will wick moisture as you’re moving and you can get colder, faster.
A simple poncho is just as effective and sometimes, keeping it simple is all that you need to learn what you like or dislike about a certain type of gear.
What do you want to tell adventure seekers about recreating responsibly?
My number one pet peeve that I would like people to be more aware of is restroom litter. I don’t mean seeing toilet paper on the ground in the bathroom. We’re talking about toilet waste on the trails. We like to educate folks on leaving no trace when visiting.
We need to take 2 ziplock bags with us when we’re in the woods, one for clean toiler paper and the other one for dirty toilet paper. There are wag bags that you can purchase or bring old grocery bags. You need to pick up and pack your waste back out with you. In the southwest desert, we don’t get enough rain to efficiently break it down where the waste would ‘’disappear’’, like other places in the world. If you’re not carrying a shovel with you to dig a hole, it’s going to be there on the surface for a long time.
In the times of COVID, we have seen an increase in outdoor recreation that is unlike any other time that I can think of. One of the earlier concerns was toilet paper and being able to stock and safely sanitize pit toilets porta-potties and things like that. A lot of forest managers, just close them up because they d because the environmental impacts from that short period of time are great. If more folks pack the trash in and pack their trash out, you’ll have a better appreciation when you go to a pristine piece of wilderness and see it clean.
What would you say to anyone who wants to visit and explore New Mexico?
Come and enjoy the land of enchantment!