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Published: October 2009Where to Live + Play Now!
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Text by Greg Melville + Sarah Tuff
Photographs by Jen Judge

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Red River, New Mexico
Pop. 515

Carved into a sandstone canyon in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Red River is an ideal recessionary hideout: Lift tickets at the Red River Ski Area are almost half of what you’d pay in most Rockies resorts. Fat Tire drafts are $3. And when your parents (inevitably) come to check in, you can even pick up the tab—a night’s stay at the Alpine Lodge on Main Street is $83 in peak season. Bucky Thrash, 27, came to visit a college friend and liked the cheap, no-stoplight living so much that he quit his job as a marketing consultant in Fort Worth and relocated, quickly landing gigs as a bartender and ski instructor. “Nothing is corporate here,” he says. “Not even the ski area. You have to drive an hour just to find a McDonald’s.”

Red River began as a prospecting town, but powderhounds gave it new life after the mines went bust. Today the ski area has 57 trails and seven lifts connecting the mountain directly to Main Street’s hodgepodge of Old West and Swiss Alpine facades. Après ski season, Red River, at 8,750 feet, stays cooler than much of the Southwest (July temps rarely top 75&176;F) with easy access to the cottonwood-covered mountains of Carson National Forest. Hike eight-mile Wheeler Peak Trail to the state’s 13,161-foot high point. Or raft the Class III Rio Grande with New Mexico Adventure Company (bighornsports.us ).

Closer to home, Red River’s community center organizes free activities up to five times a day—outdoor movies, group hikes, BBQ cook-offs. Our advice: Take advantage of them; career options are limited. (The mayor not only sells real estate but owns the lone food market with her husband.) And when the economy picks up, be ready to get creative with your résumé: “Mixologist” has a much better ring to it than “barback.”

$400 monthly rent gets you: A one-bedroom apartment, ten minutes’ walk to the ski area.
Job market:Bartending and ski instructing pay the bills. Careers outside of tourism are hard to come by.
Know before you go: Red River is entirely surrounded by national forest—1.5 million acres of it.

BY THE NUMBERS:
$61:Lift ticket at Red River Ski Area
28: Hot springs within an hour’s drive
218: Inches of powder a year


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  • Have been spending a month every summer in Red River since 1997 and wouldn't go anywhere else. Would…
  • Have been spending a month every summer in Red River since 1997 and wouldn't go anywhere else. Would…
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