3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations
For Those Looking For a Throwback Ranch Town
Red River, New Mexico, has flown under the radar for several years, but it has a devoted and growing fan base that appreciates Red River’s rustic, ranch-style charm. Originally the stomping ground for Apaches, Red River (then known as River City), drew prospectors and fur traders to its mountainous steps. Shortly after, several German families moved in.
The town ended up with an interesting mix of German mountain chalet and old-western mining-style buildings. When the mines dried up, the prospectors left but the settlers stayed, favoring the town’s 8,750 feet altitude and its average 188 inches of snowfall.
Red River’s Mardi Gras celebration is for you if you have an adventurous heart and a love for all things Mardi Gras, minus the New Orleans humidity.
Each year, this sleepy little old western mining town is awakened by their own 20s-style version of Mardi Gras, called Mardi Gras in the Mountains. For 5 days and nights each winter, both locals and tourists party the nights away to live music in 20s flapper costumes or purple, gold, and green masquerade-style masks. Day and night, while on the ski hill or out to dinner, the thing to do is to drape as many metallic plastic beads around your neck as you can manage.
I made a cute little video of Mardi Gras in the mountains, from day to night:
The festival offers Cajun Creole cuisine specials, costume parties and a short, but amusing parade (with a mix of Mardi Gras and 1920’s prohibition-themed floats), complete with bead and candy tossing. Be sure to pack your best masquerade ball gown for your chance to be crowned queen at the gala costume ball.
On the first night of the festival, we watched as the locals gather outside Motherload Saloon and put scraps of paper with their worries written on them into the mouth of a huge paper mache “Loup-Garou” wolf. Vaguely reminiscent of Burning Man, the ‘wolf’ is then set on fire and everybody cheers as they watch it — and their worries — burn to dust. They then go inside and dance (and drink) the night away.
If you’re looking for real animals, you’ll be happy in Red River, as there are plenty of very friendly deer, elk, and wild horses roaming around (but please don’t feed them, as it makes them stop foraging the woods for real food and become malnourished).
Red River is a great place to get ski lessons, as there are about 40% green slopes on the mountain, lessons and lift tickets are inexpensive, and the instructors are top-notch. I got lessons with Adam, and in three days graduated from 100% beginner to being able to handle myself on a snowboard. Next stop: black diamonds!!
Tips: To get around town during your stay, be sure to get a rental car because there aren’t any taxis, and Red River is hours from the airport. We stayed at the Auslander because it’s the closest accommodations to the mountain (it’s right at the base), although we soon realized that the whole town it only about a five-minute walk from the ski lift!