Summer on the slopes in Red River, NM

 

Soak in some sun––and work up a sweat––in Red River, New Mexico
Ted Alan Stedma

Ski resorts, by definition, live in beautiful places—the biggest mountains, the most pristine forests. And those mountains don’t close shop come spring.

Many resorts have morphed into summertime playgrounds, but few do it with as much charm and small-town panache as Red River, a burg of 435 people in the heart of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

The former mining town was on the skids until snow seekers gave it new life in the late ’50s. Now it has beefed up its summer menu as well, with a new chairlift that opens up a whole mountain’s worth of trails.

Here’s the summertime skinny—plus three more ski towns that look pretty great in shorts too.

Where to hike

  • The new triple Platinum Chairlift in the Red River Ski Area ($14, day pass $20) is a hiker’s dream. It whisks you up Red River Mountain past 10,000 feet, where trekkers can follow the marked trails or just fan out along the mountainside and mosey on down. (Yes, it’s safe: Everyone gets down eventually.
  • Meanwhile, the very fit can tackle Wheeler Peak, the state’s highest mountain at 13,161 feet. The trek (which starts from the Horseshoe Lake/East Fork Trail outside town) is more than 16 miles round-trip, but the panoramic payoff is worth the burn (free; www.fs.fed.us/r3/carson or 575/758-6200). 

Where to go biking

  • Cyclists can ferry their own mountain bikes up the lift or rent full-suspension models in town at Sitzmark Sports ($12 for 1 hour, $25 for 4 hours; 416 W. Main St.). Up top, the fun begins: Very experienced riders can head straight down, but most will want to stick to the trails and savor the views of the canyon cradling the town.
  • Whiz along the Purkapiles Secret Trail or Moonstar Trail, which crisscross the backside of the mountain, or charge down the front on the Lariat Trail. At the base, you can go for a lovely backwoods ride on the Pioneer Canyon Trail.

Meet the locals 

  • There’s something going on every day at the Red River Community House, and it’s all free: guided hikes, weekly outdoor concerts, movies on ​the lawn.
  • Another August highlight is the Hot Chili Days, Cool Mountain Nights festival (Aug 19–21; from $10, 3-day pass $45), which hosts live music and cook-offs, including the ​New Mexico State Green Chile Championship.

Where to eat

  • Texas Reds Steakhouse ($$$; ​400 E. Main St.; 575/754-2922) looks like a prop warehouse for an old western movie set, but this 43-year-old institution is the real McCoy. You can’t go wrong if you order a charbroiled steak (try the buffalo) or an elk burger.
  • Just up the street, the Timbers ($$; 402 W. Main St.; 575/754-6242) is an airy western chalet—don’t miss the barbecue chicken and garlic mashed potatoes.

After hours

  • Lift House Bar & Grill ($; 200 Pioneer Rd.; 575/754-2976) is the place to be at 5, when locals gather for microbrews and burgers on a sunny deck overlooking the river. Head to the Lost Love Saloon (400 E. Main St.; 575/754-6280), where musicians play most weekend nights—you might catch an impromptu hoedown.

Spend the night 

  • Check into one of the forested riverside cabins at Copper King Lodge (from $79; 2-night minimum) and enjoy the shaded wood decks, river-facing hot tub, and fishing holes just steps from your door.

3 more ski resorts with summer spirit

  • Grand Targhee Resort, WY: Credit the nearby Teton Valley—where cowboys are as plentiful as ski bums—for the down-home appeal of Grand Targhee Resort in Alta. Slopeside lodging is a steal (from $119, including breakfast), as is the $20 day pass for chairlifts that take you (and a bike) to hands-down the best wildflower trails in the region.
  • Vail, CO: Score a sweet summer deal on a room in Vail (from $110). A gondola ride to the top of Vail Mountain ($22 day pass) is a must for the views, and kayakers can head to Gore Creek (866/745-8245 for details), which mellows out now after its June peak runoff.
  • Taos Ski Valley, NM: In summer, the black diamond terrain of the Taos Ski Valley ($10 lift pass) transforms into a genteel playground for wildflower hikes, trail runs (no bikes), and llama treks. Bed down ​at the Taos Mountain Lodge (from $85).Perfect summer trips