By Ellen Miller-Goins
The sun shines bright in Red River, where guests feel free to play the day away with activities like skiing, snowmobiling, snow coach tours, tubing (on the ski mountain after hours), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding (usually in late winter, early spring), concerts, two-steppin’ and, naturally, shopping.
Red River Ski & Summer Area offers terrain for all abilities. About 90 percent of Red River’s lodging is within walking distance of the slopes. Two out of seven chairlifts rise directly from town. The town’s free public transportation bus also makes regular passes through this former mining town.
Last winter, the Emerald Quad Chairlift debuted, offering better access to the Silver Chairlift and the Summit Camp’s family-friendly slopes wandering among the aspens, as well as the popular Moon Star Mining Camp. But snow has been a huge focus for decades, beginning with the late Drew Judycki, longtime manager, then owner of the ski mountain who was inducted into the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame in 2008. That focus continues this year, according to Walt Foley, deputy general manager and director of mountain operations. “We’re always improving our snowmaking.”
This year, Foley said the area is adding more snow guns and upgrading existing snowmaking on runs like Boomtown. Reno, Nevada, company Seasonal Labor Solutions is again providing four snowmakers and three groomers to make sure snow at Red River is of the highest quality.
“This is, I believe, year 15 for us,” Foley said. “It’s made a ton of difference in the product. These guys are professionals. They do this all year-round. They’re in the Southern Hemisphere in the summer. They’re here to do a job and they get it done.”
Red River Ski & Summer Area uses man-made snow to make a base, as well as for additional coverage throughout the season. Lest anyone believe man-made snow is somehow inferior, the area’s website notes, “Artificially manufactured snow, when made properly, is as good as natural snow. Snowmakers, many of whom are from New Zealand, move through the night, riding snowmobiles, checking placements, analyzing the snow and adjusting snow guns to make the best quality snow. Snow groomers then smooth the snow with a Sno-Cat, using the front blade to move the snow and pulling a tiller behind the Sno-Cat, the snow is tilled making it fluffy and skiable.”
Free-skiers and snowboarders love Red River’s terrain parks, from the Pot O’ Gold Terrain Park on Gold Rush Hill to the more challenging Hollywood Terrain Park beneath the Platinum Chair. After a day of practice, riders can show off during “rail jams” before parades with torches and fireworks every Saturday and holiday at 7 p.m. during ski season.
Red River caters to snowmobilers by providing miles of groomed trails all the way up Sawmill Canyon to the 11,249-foot Greenie Peak. The Valle Vidal is a 100,000-acre wildlife tract with a 50-mile loop from Sawmill Canyon. Upper Red River Valley is another favorite haunt, where snowmobilers like to take the switchbacked road leading to Middle Fork Lake.
Red River Off-Road offers winter UTV (utility task vehicle) tours for up to six passengers through snow-covered aspen meadows, gold mines and abandoned miners cabins, with a stop for sledding.
When it comes to shopping, unique stores can be found throughout Red River. Besides ski shops with everything you’ll need to hit the slopes, local shops feature unique apparel, fine art, jewelry, souvenirs, specialty items – whatever you’re looking for, Red River has it.
As all winter die-hards know, après-ski also helps make a vacation special. Local bars bring in a range of musicians from local talent to touring bands, country music to alternative rock to DJ-fused magic. The Red River Community House also offers free family-friendly activities year-round. As an added bonus, Flybox Wi-Fi provides free high-speed Wi-Fi service around Red River (and secure Wi-Fi for a fee).
For more information, call (575) 754-2223, ext. 201 or 202 or go online to redriverskiarea.com or redriver.org.
Opening day, Nov. 22, weather permitting at Red River Ski & Summer Area
‘Switch on the Holidays,’ 7 p.m., Nov. 23. Kick off the Christmas holiday in Brandenburg Park with Christmas caroling and the annual tree lighting, then move indoors for cocoa, cider, cookies and a visit from Santa.
Annual Race & Skills Camp, Dec. 1–3, Red River Ski & Summer Area. Skiers and snowboarders from intermediate to expert can get tips from top skiers with the University of New Mexico Ski Team.
New Year’s Eve celebrations, Dec. 31, begin with the annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks Display at Red River Ski Area. Then families can head to the Red River Community House for an “old-fashioned” New Year’s Eve party to enjoy pizza, music and games. A countdown ball drops at midnight Eastern Standard Time (10 p.m. in New Mexico), allowing even younger celebrants to ring in the new year before heading to bed.
Winter Carnival, Jan. 12-14, Red River Ski & Summer Area. Events include snowmobile races, snowman building, kid-friendly games and events, live music, shopping strolls, torchlight parades, fireworks and more. During the snowmobile hill climb, race to the top of The Face at the Red River Ski & Summer Area.
Skijoring returns for its third annual competition in Red River on Jan. 13 and 14. This “Western-style” competition combines horses in a full gallop pulling skiers through an obstacle course comprised of jumps, gates and rings. Races start at noon both days.
Red River Songwriter’s Festival, Jan. 25-27, Lost Love Saloon and Motherlode Saloon. Three days of music, love, friendship, food, drink, and the celebration of music and song.
University of New Mexico NCAA Home Meet, Feb. 2 and 3, Red River Ski & Summer Area and Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area.
Mardi Gras in the Mountains, Feb. 8-13. Red River knows how to celebrate Mardi Gras with costume balls, bead tossing, singing and dancing, Cajun and Creole gourmet delights, parades, kids costume contest, Cajun cook-off, burning of the loup-garou (werewolf), crawfish boils, downhill gator race and more.
Beach Week, March 3-10, Red River Ski & Summer Area. Tank tops and hula skirts are spotted frequently zipping down the slopes during this annual event that includes torchlight parades and fireworks, live music, winter tubing, après-ski specials, beach parties, children’s glow stick parade every Friday night, pond skimming contest and more.
Red River Comedy Club, March 3. A collection of comedians get together for one weekend to compete for comedic glory in an open mic comedy competition at the Red River Conference Center.
Season: Nov. 22, 2017- March 25, 2018
Base elevation: 8,750 feet
Vertical drop: 1,600 feet
Skiable acres: 290
Number of trails: 63
Number of lifts: Seven
Annual average snowfall: 214 inches
Snowmaking coverage: 85 percent
Average days of sunshine: More than 300
Hours of lift operation: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Information: (575) 754-2223, redriverskiarea.com