If you’ve ever wondered why Red River, New Mexico, ranks so high on many Texans’ list of best mountain towns, we’ve got answers.
One, it’s got an irresistible and quirky German-Alpine-Western-mining town vibe. Two, it’s easy to get there from Texas –– if you’re not up for the 12-hour drive from Austin, hop a seat on Taos Air, which offers direct flights to nearby Taos. From there, grab a ride share from JJ’s Rideshare of Red River. Three, it’s small enough to feel manageable, but big enough to serve up good food, good music and good fun.
People don’t come for the glitz and glamour or hoity-toity hotels and restaurants. They come for a family-friendly ski mountain, a chill downtown with a good brewery and distillery, plenty of respectable Texas barbecue, gorgeous scenery and a place to gather their families tight. Just driving over the pass into town will make you feel like you’re descending into Whoville in a scene from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
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The best mountain town
The ski area opened in 1959, and it’s located within walking distance of everything in town. A vaguely European-looking mural near the ticket booth depicts retro-looking skiers soaring through the air. Ski season opens the day before Thanksgiving every year and picks up steam as the snow falls. Seven lifts whisk visitors up the mountain, where they can access 64 trails that crisscross the resort’s 209 skiable acres.
It’s more affordable than bigger name destinations, too. Adults pay $89 per day if they purchase lift tickets online in advance, and kids under age 5 ski free with a paying adult. Seniors 70 and older are free, too, as is parking.
On the mountain, you’ll find wide open groomers, steep, powder-filled tree runs, three terrain parks and zero crowds. The family-owned resort has been operating for more than 60 years.
Ma Nature typically drops more than 200 inches of snow on the slopes, but 85 percent of the mountain is covered by snowmaking equipment for times when she doesn’t cooperate. Operators added seven new snow guns this year, for even better coverage.
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Explore downtown Red River
Off the mountain, downtown stretches for a mile along the main highway, but it’s just three blocks wide. That means plenty of space for a nice collection of shops, restaurants, bars and hotels.
At the Red River Brewing Company & Distillery, which opened in 2018, you can belly up to a bar made from a slab salvaged from a 480-year-old pine tree lost in a fire, sip small-batch beer and sample tequila, gin, vodka or rum distilled on the premises. Or toss back real Texas barbecue –– owner Linda Calhoun, Red River mayor since 2006, hails from the Lone Star State.
Just up the road, Shotgun Willie’s serves up the three B’s: burgers, barbecue and breakfast tacos. And while you’re in the neighborhood, dash across the street for some signature green chile pistachio fudge from the Candy Crate.
Is snowmobiling more your speed? Several local companies offer guided snowmobiling trips up Sawmill Canyon toward 11,249-foot Greenie Peak. You’ll zip along winding trails, bound through snow-covered meadows and pass a mine once used by early Spanish explorers. Check with Bobcat Pass Wilderness Adventures, Red River Back Country Adventures, Sled Shed or Red River Offroad.
Stay in a yurt in the best mountain town in New Mexico
Red River offers an array of hotels, home rentals and condos, but if you’re feeling adventurous, consider booking a night in one of the yurts at the Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area.
You’ll have to hike a mile or two to get there, depending on which one you reserve. The cozy shelters, outfitted with comfy beds, a wood stove stocked with firewood, a kitchen area with a propane cook stove, and a port-a-potty, sleep six to eight people. One is even equipped with a dog bed for your four-legged pal. Rates start at $85 per night, and for an extra $50, someone will haul in your gear for you.
Plan a trip now
We’re already dreaming about our next trip to Red River. Upcoming events include Oktoberfest from Oct. 8-10 and the holiday tree lighting in Brandenburg Park on Nov. 25. Ski slopes open Nov. 24. For more information about Red River, where family traditions start, visit www.redriver.org.