Friday, January 6, 2012

Red River, New Mexico: Enchanted forest XC Ski and Red River Ski Area

Enchanted Forest XC Ski Area
Bobcat Pass above Red River, NM
~6.5M groomed ski ($12/pp afternoon access pass after 12:30)

Enchanted Forest XC Ski
While much of the Colorado snowpack has been suffering, Pacific storms have instead snuck to the south and dumped on Northern New Mexico. And with the holidays over, crowds disappear and the lodging prices drop, making it the perfect time of year to check out the Land of Enchantment.

Just minutes above and to the east of the quaint mountain town of Red River, New Mexico, lies the Enchanted Forest Ski Area, at the top of Bobcat Pass. We've visited this area before, with J being on snowshoes, but now it was time to try out her new skis.

We had a fantastic afternoon skiing the outer loop, which ends up being over 10k of trail. The mixture of a few rolling hills was enough to challenge J with some downhill turns, but the trails are generously wide enough and devoid of obstacles. Best of all, the warm afternoon sun was perfect for churning up corn snow on the groomed trails.

I did a few quick spur trails, including a "double black" run called Judy's Lead where I kicked up a mule deer that ran in parallel with me for a bit down the trail. Otherwise, the far side of the loop has exquisite views of the Latir Wilderness, along with groves of tall aspen.

The trails weren't crowded by any means, but we had the views at the edge to ourselves.

Although $12 is steeper than free skiing or places like Happy Jack, it's pretty competitive for a high-quality selection of groomed trails with great views. And certainly not a bad way to work up an appetite for New Mexican chile!
For that, our go-to place is Sundance Mexican in town, which has solid chips-and-salsa, margs and Shiners, turkey tacos, great veggie chile (red and green), and sopapillas.

Red River Ski Area

Of course, Red River itself is a ski town, with a ski area looming right above town. We've been here before, it's a small but fun area. In January, lift tickets are nearly half-price ($35 in 2012) with a valid college ID, and discount afternoon-only tickets are also available. Again, with better conditions than Colorado (40+ inch base), we knew we couldn't go wrong.

The ski mountain mostly faces north, so as to hold onto the snow, which means shade and ice can be an issue. But otherwise the mountain is mellow and friendly to beginners, for better or worse. In this case, J was happy to take mellow runs for her first downhill of the year, while I worked on a semblance of tele skiing. The real challenge is to avoid the Texans and Okies, of course, but it's all good. Truth be told, I took a few falls myself as I was working on my turns, but I actually put the climbability of my bindings to good use by retrieving at least half a dozen skis and poles from various yard sales, and was otherwise happy not to get hit by anyone.

Although Red River is mostly known for it's proximity to the, uh, South, it's a worthy destination for anyone searching for a combination of beginner slopes with legitimate downhill, cheap lift tickets and lodging, and great food. And, this year at least, some decent snow.

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