As you descend into the valley, a somewhat bizarre apparition awaits: tidy rows of wooden buildings, all done up in Old West–look facades, complete with boardwalks and swinging saloon doors. No, it’s not Elizabethtown of yore; it’s the ski village of Red River (the giveaway: the Alpine touches, such as Der Markt grocery store).
Although Taos loyalists dismiss the Red River Ski & Snowboard Area (575/754-2223, www.redriverskiarea.com , $55 full-day lift ticket) as an amateur’s playground, it’s nothing if not convenient: The trails run right into town, so the chairlift is walking distance from anywhere. The mountain is fairly evenly divided among beginning, intermediate, and advanced trails.
Like Elizabethtown , Red River was once a community of wild prospectors, carving copper, silver, and gold out of the hillsides. When that industry eventually went bust, the town salvaged itself by renting out abandoned houses to vacationers in search of a respite from the summer heat at lower elevations (the average summer temperature is just 75°F, dipping to 38°F at night).
Luckily, just when air-conditioning started to become widespread, the ski area opened in 1959, saving the town from a major slump.
Red River has a year-round population of only about 450—though it can feel like a ghost town in spring and fall, when everyone’s taking a collective break from the high winter and summer seasons.
For an overview of the community’s history, visit the 1914 Little Red Schoolhouse Museum (702 E. Main St., 575/754-6564, 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Mon., Tues., Fri., and Sat., 6–9 p.m. Thurs., donation), behind the library at the Y junction on the east side. The town hosts a rowdy Memorial Day motorcycle rally as well as a surprisingly large Fourth of July parade and a Mardi Gras street party; contact the Red River Chamber of Commerce for more details (100 E. Main St., 575/754-2366, www.redrivernewmex.com ).