New Mexico’s Red River Ski Area can boast of a feature that’s surprisingly unusual among western U.S. ski resorts. Like Aspen Mountain, Park City Mountain Resort, Breckenridge Resort and a few others, Red River’s ski runs empty directly into an authentic town. The old mining community of Red River boomed in the late 1800s. The economy turned to tourism in the 20th century with the ski area opening in 1959. Drawing visitors primarily from Oklahoma and Texas, the mountain town remains a year-round destination. In fact, the summer activities prompted the ski resort to change its official full name to Red River Ski and Summer Area.
The ski area has a vertical drop of 1,600 feet with an average annual snowfall of 214 inches. The natural snowfall is supplemented by extensive snowmaking operations on 85 percent of the mountain. Although the snow could often allow for a longer season, the travel habits of the Oklahoma and Texas clientele keep Red River’s season a little shorter than at many other ski areas in the Rockies. Red River generally opens the day before Thanksgiving and closes for the season in March after the spring-break travel periods. For the 2014-15 season, Red River is scheduled to close on March 22.
The backside of Red River’s summit consists of a network of green trails through Aspen groves. Unlike many other resorts’ beginner areas located near their base area, Red River’s green terrain offers wonderful vistas. Looking over the Carson National Forest, the scenic area also features a small outdoor chapel and a replica of an old mining camp. At the end of the day, novice skiers can wind around to the front side and down to the base on green runs Lariat and Goldrush.
Click here for trail map
Mardi Gras in the Mountains
Each February, the town of Red River hosts an almost week-long celebration of Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras in the Mountains festival starts with the effigy burning of the Wild Tchopitoulas. Spectators write down their troubles on notes to go up in the flames.
The locals and even some visiting groups form “krewes” to organize the parties for the week. Each year has a different theme. “Peace, Love and Mardi Gras” gives the 2015 edition a 1960s vibe.
The locals like to brag that families tend to keep visiting Red River for generations. The family feeling extends to the ownership of the ski area itself. Drew Judycki became sole owner of the area in 1998. After Judycki died in 2008, his family continued operating the resort. The area’s steepest run, Linton’s Leap, is named for Drew’s son. Linton, himself, spends many late evenings in a snowcat shaping the terrain park.
Every Saturday night and on special holidays during the ski season, Red River hosts a free torchlight parade and fireworks show on the mountain. The parade comes down The Face, a steep black-diamond pitch right above the Platinum Chairlift.
Snow Coach Dinner Tours
The mountaintop Ski Tip restaurant hosts intimate dinners for up to 12 guests with transportation provided by a snowcat with a heated cabin. Chef Kai Dunbar prepares the dinner for up to two seatings each night. Each seating must have at least eight reservations for the Snow Coach Dinner Tour to run.