Skiing New Mexico

Red River

They call the dazzling, 84-mile bracelet of two-lane road that loosely rings the state's highest peak, 13,161-foot Mt. Wheeler, the Enchanted Circle. A skier can make a multi-day vacation by traveling that circuit, combining days at Taos with visits to Red River and Angle Fire.

Like many a western ski town, folks first came to Red River to mine. Gold in this case. Now families come to ski. Just a few blocks long, the town presents a busy commercial agglomeration of family-owned, family-oriented motels, restaurants and shops. But, the ski slopes conveniently flow right to the streets, and the place conveys a certain curious appeal, with a fanciful trolley to take visitors up and down Main Street, super friendly people, and the annual skiers' Mardi Gras in the Mountains—ten days of partying, parades and playing dress-up. It sounds a little hokey, but it's easygoing and, well, fun. The Mardi Gras attracts an incredible number of Louisianans who are, ironically enough, trying to escape Mardi Gras at home. Go figure.

But, it's that kind of spirited congeniality that gives Red River its personality. Nearly everybody who skis here, for example, gets to know Wally, an infectiously good natured, slightly gristled looking west Texan who functions as a ski instructor, part time barkeep and one-man public relations army. Wally took us first to Moon Star Mining Camp—a maze of narrow, easy delights for kids, embellished with ersatz mining artifacts—because, after all, this is a family resort, family-owned and operated and aimed to please families. Then we scooted along some short, intermediate runs under the Green Acres chair. Trouble was, Wally stopped every 15 yards to caterwaul a hearty hello to people on the chairlift.

"These folks come out here every year," he intimated in his drawl. "We get to know 'em pretty good."

It was like skiing with Gabby Hayes. But, just when we thought we'd be limited to amiable cruising at a southern-fried pace, we came to the top of something called Tightrope, which led to something else called Catskinner. Steep, yes; and bumpy. We had to change gears, and it kept us honest.

Some folks might find Red River, and Taos-style die-hards sure won't find the same challenge. But, a lot of folks enjoy it fully, thanks to its reasonable family pricing and small area ease of use. And, Nordic skiers think they've died and gone to heaven when they venture into the nearby Enchanted Forest cross-country area, the state's largest.

Red River:
Phone Number:
Accommodations: 800-331-7669

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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