10 Tips for a Terrific Ski Vacation in Red River, New Mexico

Are you ready to take the kids out to ski?  New Mexico is the closest place to go in Texas, and has some incredible ski areas.  I grew up skiing in Red River, and from skiing and snowboarding to playing in the snow, there’s just so much to do in this little town!  We went this year for Thanksgiving with family and friends, and had a really incredible time!  Check out my tips for visiting and making the most of your visit!


1.Getting There – because road trip stops are half the fun! 

If you’re coming from DFW, it’s about a 9.5 hr. drive.  Some of our favorite stops along the way are in Amarillo.  The Big Texan Steakhouse has fun activities to let the kids stretch their legs.  You can also grab a couple of cans of spray paint, and head over to Cadillac Ranch to paint your name on one of the vintage Cadillacs planted in the ground.  Palo Duro Canyon in Canyon, just outside of Amarillo, and Caprock Canyon State Park in Quanah, offer beautiful scenery and great hiking trails.

If you’re going up through Raton, NM, stop off at Capulin Volcano National Monument to walk around the rim of an extinct volcano.  It’s about a mile walk.

From Houston, Austin and San Antonio, you’ll most likely come through Lubbock.  We really enjoy the burgers and outdoor playspace at Blue Sky Texas.   The Lubbock Lake National Landmark offers nice trails to stretch your legs while learning a little more about the history of the area thanks to educational kiosk by Texas Tech.

Helpful Tip:  Fill up or top off your gas in Amarillo or Lubbock, and again before you leave the state.  There is a significantly higher difference in gas prices in New Mexico.  In Red River, it was close to a $1.00/gallon difference.  


2.  Where we stayed

We stayed at the Copper King Lodge right in town.   The Lodge has motel rooms, and 2 and 3 bedroom cabins.


We stayed in a 3 bedroom cabin with a full kitchen and living area.

Since we were there for Thanksgiving, it was so much fun to be able to have a REAL home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner, thanks to my Mother in Law!  As we were sitting down my kids reminded me that in New Orleans last year we ate McDonalds instead of a Turkey Dinner!  Traveling during the holidays sometimes has it’s sacrifices, but it was great to be able to sit down together this year!


It also had a gas fireplace that we loved!

Helpful tip:  The air is dry, especially compared to Texas!  In addition to drinking tons of water and being very well hydrated because Altitude Sickness is no joke, take along a travel humidifier to avoid waking up dried out and with a sinus headache!  


Sitting right on the Red River, we had tons of ducks and deer, plus we were feet away from the hot tub and fire pit.  Each unit had an outdoor grill.

Helpful Tip:  We brought with us a 40 lb. bag of deer corn from Academy, about $4.65.  We fed the deer and ducks daily, and the kids loved it!  We used all the corn by the last day, and even had to break out a bag of carrots to feed them!  


It’s a ski-in ski-out lodge, but the ski lift next to the lodge doesn’t open until mid-December, and was closed during our stay in November.  The trail was open and it was nice being able to ski right up to our back door.


Since the lift wasn’t open, the kids took advantage of the hill and took our sleds out there!  They had so much fun!


We have our own inflatable tubes, and they sell and rent sleds in town.


There was also a nice hill on Main St., just behind Red River Stables, where the kids can sled with their own sleds.


If you’re considering purchasing a sled, I really prefer something inflatable like a tube, which is also easier to pack and store the rest of the year.  I love these big snow tubes, which come in different shapes, on Amazon!  Click HERE to view them.  I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission on each purchase.


The deer were a daily visitor to our cabin!

DSC_0241.JPG The Who, What are Where to Skiing, Step by Step


3. Renting your equipment

You can rent your equipment at the Main Chalet, which is convenient, but a little crowded and rushed.  We found it a little less expensive (and they were less hurried) at Sitzmark Sports on Main.  At either location, you can rent the night before you plan to ski, and keep it until 9am the day after your last day of skiing.  Sitzmark was offering a special for a free day with a 2 day rental if you said Turkey.  I of course told my kids they had to gobble around the store to get the discount.  Be sure to ask if they have a promotion.

They also sell a ton of equipment, including boots, helmets, goggles, glasses and shirts.

Click HERE to visit the Sitzmark Sports website.

Helpful Tip:  Find a way to label your rented skis for easy identification.  Sitzmark wrote our names on our skis, which helped in finding them when a young girl took the wrong skis by mistake. 


4.  Lift Tickets

You’ll need to purchase or pick up your lift ticket at the Main Ski Chalet.  You can buy online or a the Chalet.  There are plenty of options and deals when buying your lift ticket, so check HERE first.

Helpful Tip: You can purchase a full or half day lift ticket, so consider if your young children will want to do a full day of skiing, or if you’re a late sleeper.  

Helpful Tip:  If there isn’t a discount for purchasing multiple days, or purchasing in advance, you can purchase on the day you ski, and save money if you decide not to ski.  It’s easier and more convenient to purchase all at once.   

Helpful Tip:  If you purchase your lift tickets for multiple days, you get one ticket that goes on your jacket, or your child’s, and they scan it each time you get on a lift or the Magic Carpet in the learner’s area.  For younger children, it’s easier to put in a place they can’t access, like the back of the jacket, because you’re out of luck if they pull it off and lose it.  

We purchased 4-day lift tickets, but I second-guessed myself later, thinking that it would have been nice one day to make the hour drive over to Taos Ski Valley to ski for a day.  Angel Fire is only a 40 minute drive, but wasn’t opening until mid-December.

5. Ski Lessons

My daughter (17), nephew (16) and son (10) all did ski school on our first day at Red River. My daughter has skied a couple of times before, so for her it was just a refresher.  I thought the ski school was very organized, more so than in the ones we have done in Colorado and Utah, especially for the younger kids.

I like that they have have 2 learning hills both with Magic Carpets, away from the other skiers and snowboarders.

From the Main Chalet, you can see both the Green Course – Goldrush, and the learners.

Helpful Tip: I can’t emphasize this enough, but make sure the kids are drinking plenty of water to avoid altitude sickness.  At least twice what they normally drink.  They also told us to eat protein and salty foods, and avoid sugary snacks.  

6.  The Main Chalet and Grill at the Lift House

We made the Main Chalet our base camp while skiing at Red River.  They rent skis, sell lift tickets, lessons and much more,  Inside the Chalet, you can watch the skiers from tables, buy food and drinks and there is even a daycare for younger children while you ski.  We packed an ice chest each day for lunch and left it in the Chalet.

Helpful Tip: Take a water bottle you can refill at the water fountain, and drink plenty of water!  

Helpful Tip: Take a charged portable charger for your phone to recharge your phone battery.  While there wasn’t wifi while skiing, they did have phone service. 

Helpful Tip: Dogs are allowed inside the Main Chalet.


The Grill at the Lift House is located at the base of the Face, next to the Platinum Lift, and they have a full-service restaurant and bar, plus tables and benches to watch the skiers.

The Ski Tip Restaurant at the Top of the Platinum Chairlift has amazing views of town.  It opens in mid-December, when the Ski Area opens full time.

Helpful Tip: Parking is very limited at the Ski Area.  Arrive early, walk or take the FREE shuttle, the Miner’s Transit. 


7.  Miners Transit

The FREE Miners Transit takes you around town, and will pick you up at your door.  The service runs year-round, 7 days a week, from 7:30am – 5:00pm.   The older kids would leave early on the shuttle to be the first to ski each morning, and while we loved just walking around Red River, it was nice when our hands were full.  The number to call is (575) 770-5959.  The drivers were the best, and gave us so many tips on places to go, eat and sight-see!


8.  Special Events

We visited during Thanksgiving Break, and while not all the trails were open yet, there were some fun activities happening!  We loved the annual Turkey Race, where kids and adults alike try to sit on a frozen turkey and ride it down the hill!


Another fun activity was the annual Switch on the Lights, when all the lights in Brandenburg Park are turned on!  Santa also arrived with the fire department to meet the kids and drink hot chocolate!


9.  The Torchlight Parade, 7pm Saturdays. 

Every Saturday Night during the ski season the have the Torchlight Parade and Fireworks Show!  It was so fun to watch as the skiers and snowboarders came down off the Face with torches as fireworks went off behind them!  We loved it!


10.  Shopping and Dining

While skiing took up the majority of our time in Red River, we also found a little time to walk around the cute, scenic little town in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.


Red River Brewing Company was a fun place to hang out, with local beer, food and homemade root beer.  Click HERE to visit their website.


The Smokehouse is located right at the base of the ski area, and has BBQ.


Yesterday Cafe was my in-laws favorite, with big burgers and a fun 50’s decor!


There were so many cute shops in town, with local t-shirts, souvenirs and things for the kids!


The shops are located down a 1-mile stretch of Main Street, making it an easy walk.


We all picked up Red River t-shirts.


And the kids found some cute little souvenirs.


I’m always seeking out the unique things of a town, these are the things I think we remember and make our memories when we travel!  I loved finding these Aspen trees (might be Birch, I have a hard time telling the difference without leaves) in town, that have initials and hearts carved all over them!

Jessica Cisneros, the head of the Red River Tourism, told me, “The small town feel is what makes Red River unique.  We have so many hiking and ROV trails, so just having the opportunity to go up into the mountains makes your trip here special. We have an abundance of wildlife in the area, from elk, deer, bobcats, bears and big horn sheep, and there’s a chance you can see anyone of these beautiful animals during the right season.  The deer wonder through town causing “traffic jams” on a daily basis. You will always be greeted with a smile anywhere you go in Red River, we want you to feel at home here.  Promoting a place I love is the easiest job I have ever had!”

More to do in Red River

Red River Stables offers horseback riding.  click HERE to visit their website.


The Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing (I WANT to do this), a Luminaria Ski or Snowboard Tour and a Dog Trail so you can ski with your dog!!  During the summer, they also have mountain bike trails, camping and more!  Click HERE for more information.img_9769

Fly Fishing is a big deal in Red River!  There are several shops to get you outfitted with the best flies, and outfitters to take you to the best spots.  We were told to head over to the Rio Grande, (yes, the same one in Texas) just below the fish hatchery, and we watched as they were pulling out some beauties.  A 1-day NM fishing license is $12 and a 5-day is 24. Click HERE to buy your license online.

While bear are seldom seen near town, I was told that during the summer the valley of the Rio Grande, below the fish hatchery is also a great place to spot a bear, if you want to see some wildlife!

During the late spring and summer, the snow in the mountains melts and runs into the Red River, making for some incredible rafting on numerous Class 3 and Class 4 rapids!  Far Flung Adventures is among a handful that does river rafting trips in New Mexico.  Click HERE to visit their website.

Red River, New Mexico
Click HERE to visit their website.

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