There’s a place for big ski resorts, but over the years they’ve lost a lot of their luster in our hearts. They seem sterile. Fast food and even faster lifts with a big price tag. Instead, we’ve been searching for places that have more of a community feel and less of a rabid powderhound frenzy atmosphere. An area with a more relaxed demeanor. One that enjoys what Ma’ Nature and Old Man Winter gives them without an attitude. Red River Ski Resort is one of those special places.
Growing up skiing Midwest resorts, one of my fondest memories that’s still etched in my brain is the energy. The hooting and hollering. The laughing and sometimes even screaming of kids flying down the hill. Red River Ski resort has a similar feel albeit with bigger terrain.
Where True Texans Come To Play
This is where hard working western Texans go to ski. It isn’t about fashion or being the best on the slopes. It’s about having fun and partying like it’s New Years. For example, in November they have the annual Turkey Toboggan race. It’s EXACTLY what it sounds like. Contestants bring their own FROZEN turkey and slide the mountain on it. You’ll see people bombing down the hill in camo gear and hunting bibs. And once the sun sets, the party atmosphere heads into the town of Red River. Bring your cowboy dancing boots and catch up on your sleep BEFORE the trip because you’ll have too much fun while you’re there.
Quality Over Quantity
Ski areas with a maritime snowpack typically have a short shelf-life for soft snow. This is due to the type of snow that falls, and with the heavy water content, it may last a day or two tops. On the other side of the spectrum, you have continental mountain ranges that get dry snow that can stay soft for a week or more after a storm. Unfortunately, popular destinations near big population centers like Denver or Salt Lake City quickly sour due to skier density.
Snow So Dry It’s like Feathers
While New Mexico doesn’t get the BIG numbers like Utah or Tahoe, its snow isn’t just dry, it’s some of the driest in the world. This is due to its high elevation and being located in the high desert of the Southwest. Instead of firm and chunky days or weeks after a storm, you’ll find chalky goodness allowing you to easily get an edge in.
The trail map may read 290 acres and 1,600 vertical feet, but Red River Ski Resort skis MUCH bigger than its statistics. It’s a great place to go for a long weekend, or better yet, combine with a full tour of all the ski resorts in the region. Taos is only about an hour drive making for a good diversion.
Red River Ski Resort understands their market well. Their focus is 100% on families skiing, and it shows. The backside of the mountain is designed to cater to the youngest tikes to make them enjoy skiing to the fullest. This side of the mountain is home to the most relaxed terrain on the mountain. A well-spaced aspen forest features low angle slopes allowing your kids to frolic to and fro like fawns. To add to the fun factor, alongside the trails there are an assortment of attractions like a miner’s cabin to play in.
With the exception of Linton’s Leap, a strong intermediate will enjoy nearly every trail looker’s left of Platinum chair. We HIGHLY recommend skiing every one of them too. The way the resort has cut its trails reminds us more of an East Coast area. Each one has its own character and takes advantage of every roller, pitch, and angle to maximize the fun factor.
This place came as a shock to us when it comes to steep terrain. Taos is famous for its steeps but we hadn’t heard a peep about Red River Ski Resort. It may not have the quantity of trails to pick from, but the ones that do exist are fun, steep, and fall-line goodness. We spent a full day lapping the trails to looker’s right of the Platinum Chair. The best part is due to the steepness, 99% of the skiers and snowboarders won’t be on these runs so you’ll have this area pretty much to yourself.
I have to specifically call this one trail out. When the owner Linton took us here, it reminded me of one of the Front Four at Stowe. Like a rollercoaster, it starts slow following the Copper Chair lift line. Nice soft moguls to bounce around through even on a snowboard, and then suddenly the bottom drops. Just wide enough for the chairs itself and boxed in on both sides, you have no option but to take it. To ratchet it up another level, you’re under the chairlift putting you in the spotlight for all lift riders to take in every mistake or perfect turn you make.
Finish Off At The Lift House
The main gathering place is the Lift House. Within it, you’ll find great food for an even better price especially compared to the mega resorts. If you’re there on a weekend or holiday, saddle up on the patio that overlooks the main trail. Skiing at Red River Ski Resort becomes a spectator sport. People hoot, heckle, and cheer everyone that makes a spill down “The Face.” Just imagine a classic Warren Miller film.
No Lines And Quality Snowmaking
Although there isn’t a high speed in sight, you’ll also not find the long lift lines of places like Vail or Palisades Tahoe. Most likely, you’ll end up stopping way before the day is done because of the amount of runs you’re getting. The Southwest is notorious for long dry spells especially in the early season. Luckily, Red River Ski Resort has invested millions on their snowmaking system. Laying out a carpet of man-made snow ensures that once the snow does fly, you can ski every inch of it without worrying about what’s underneath.
Park Rats Rejoice
Due to my back illness, my park days are sadly behind me. Based on what I saw though, I was impressed with the terrain parks at Red River Ski Resort. They had dedicated staff to make sure that the landings and jumps were meticulously cared for during the day. In addition, the landings and take-offs were designed correctly, meaning that the landings were steeper than the take-offs.
We haven’t visited Red River in the summer months, but based on what we heard from local residents, this is when the party really kicks into high gear. As the heat of western Texas hits the triple digits, these same folks who visited in the winter bee-line to the San Juans to get a break from the heat. Besides the cowboy dinners, hiking, and off-roading, the slopes of Red River have a few attractions to enjoy too. This includes things like scenic chairlift rides, zip-lines, and even summer mountain tubing!
Where To Stay
You could technically stay in Taos, but we recommend basing yourself IN the town of Red River. As we highlighted earlier, the nightlife in this town is worth noting especially if you’re a music fan. The Motherlode Saloon is legendary and some historians argue that without Red River, Austin’s music scene wouldn’t be what it is today. To get a rundown of all the places stay: Hotels, Motel, & Inns – Places To Stay In Red River NM.