Eat, drink and ski happy in Salt Lake this winter

What’s the happiest place on Earth? Well, Disney claims that title, but here’s the problem: Utah does, too. If they were in different countries, no conflict would exist, but since they do, we have to sort this out.

A Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index recently released ranks Utah highest among all states in happiness. And, if that’s not enough, Men’s Fitness magazine ranked Salt Lake City fittest in America. So, the endorphins are firing, and Utah is thrilled. Want to get a little taste of this happiness?

The Gold Medial Podium Package celebrates Salt Lake’s Olympic legacy. Skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes while taking advantage of some great deals. Book a four-night vacation by December 15, 2009 — including a Ski Salt Lake Super Pass — at any of the 22 participating hotels, and your fourth day on the slopes and your fourth night in the hotel are free.

For Fitness, Albuquerque, New Mexico is Number One.

Albuquerque, New Mexico has hit number one in Men’s Fitness magazine’s top 10 list for the city where the people are the fittest. I’m not surprised. I used to live there and it seemed every weekend there was some charity race, bicycle ride, swimming event or another enticement to get one’s body in motion. This Sunday is the Sweetheart Run to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters, for example.If you go to the Albuquerque Roadrunners website you’ll find a calendar that lists each month’s local, area and national runs.

One organized cycling race I found is the Lobo Classic, March 3-4. For other cycling events, check out New Mexico Cycling. There are also mountain-biking trails a-plenty.

With the Sandia Mountains to the east and the mesa to the west, in the winter it is often possible to go cross-country or downhill skiing and golfing on the same day. The east side of the mountains stays snowy at the top often well into March while down in the city, the temperatures are generally warm enough to comfortably run and bike ride year-round.

Hiking in the Sandias is as easy as grabbing a water bottle and a snack and driving to the edge of Albuquerque where some of the trail heads are. Try the Pino Trail. In minutes, after a couple of switchbacks, the rush of life is left behind. I seem to remember that this trail will link with another one that heads to the top, and once there—what a view! For a list of Sandias hikes try this link from the Great Outdoors.

One of my friends suggested one summer that we hike up the mountain before dark and hike down by the full moon. Neat idea but we didn’t take into account that the moon has to crest the mountain before it lights up the trail. We had to wait at the top until well after midnight before it was light enough to see to hike down. Luckily, the guy who managed the gift shop let us hang out there after we bought T-shirts since the ones we had on were soaked with perspiration. After dark the temperature does a nosedive-another small factor we forgot.

If you are in Albuquerque and want to get fit, be warned, the city is a mile high and the top of the Sandias is a mile more. Drink plenty of water and take time to get acclimated to the altitude.

Here’s a guide to more outdoor activities that Albuquerque has to offer.