On a stroll down Main Street in Red River, New Mexico, we almost thought we'd stumbled onto an Old West movie set. Steep hills hovered close all around, covered with dark green pines and blanketed with brilliant white snow. Clapboard storefronts--some with wood sidewalks and hitchin' posts out front--sported names such as Texas Reds and Motherlode Saloon. Cowboy boots and hats looked right at home on the people ambling past, and we were "howdy-ed" before we'd walked half a block. Like many small Western towns, Red River is a friendly place in the way a 19th-century boom-to-bust mining town turning family resort almost has to be.
Storefront window displays, new sidewalks, signs for espresso, and folks toting skis make the town's 21st-century playground status clear. But Red River is small, and just above the rooftops, the mountains of Carson National Forest are constant reminders that modern resort life is still a relative newcomer here.
Red River (population about 400) is arranged east-west along 11/2 miles of the narrow valley carved by its namesake. Access is via State 38 from Questa at the junction of State 522 about 11 miles to the west, or over Bobcat Pass about 4 miles east of Red River. In town, State 38 becomes Main Street, lined with restaurants, shops, and lodging.
Cross-streets are short, since the valley rises steeply some 2,000 feet on both sides, with the ski area on the south side and homes and lodges throughout the valley. Architecture on both sides of the river tends toward rustic Wild West with Swiss Alpine touches. The scent of piney mountain air and the snowy ski runs that end right in town make it clear why Red River has become a winter getaway for folks from mountain-challenged states like Texas and Oklahoma.