The Chile Challenge is put on by the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club and the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association every February and is held in the hills just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
While most of the rest of the country is still snow-, ice-, and "wind chill"-bound, Las Cruces is enjoying average daytime temperatures in the 60s while at night it normally doesn't drop below freezing. For our dollar, this is the way to spend a winter vacation.
Normally we focus on the 50-foot-high waterfalls and Jeeps wearing a minimum of 44-inch tires. We do that because no wheeling picture ever looks as extreme as the situation was in real life. So after so many years of focusing on the hardest trails at the Challenge, we'd simply forgotten that there are trails for all kinds of Jeeps there, from mild to wild. Mind you, we didn't say stock Jeeps.
Most, if not all, of the trails run along dry riverbeds cut into the mountains over the years, and this results in plenty of exposed rocks, dry waterfalls, and a lot of sandy soil. Also, many of the trails intersect or are visible from one another, so that even if you are out there to do some easier, stress-free wheeling, you can likely see what the big dogs are up to.
Mind you, if you are a big dog, the Chile Challenge still has plenty to keep you entertained. So if you want to get out of the frozen tundra you call home and you have some vacation time coming to you, maybe checking out the 2009 Chile Challenge is the winter vacation destination for you.
One small caveat, though: The four-wheel-drive clubs who put this event on work closely with the BLM and the BLM opens otherwise closed trails for the event. Patzacuaro's Revenge, for example, is not a trail that is normally open to the public, but is open for this event. Also, to try to alleviate environmental impact, total attendance for the event is limited to only a few hundred registered vehicles, so if you are thinking of going, get your registration in sooner rather than later. For more information about the Chile Challenge, go tolascrucesfourwheeldriveclub.com.