Red River Ski Area and Enchanted Forest Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Area were the sites of the annual UNM Invitational on Feb. 20-21, featuring hundreds of student athletes from a handful of major universities and colleges competing in both alpine and Nordic disciplines.
UNM notched a respectable fourth place overall finish, racing in the NCAA’s hardest division, the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, which includes such powerhouses as the University of Colorado, Denver University, the University of Utah, Alaska-Anchorage, Colorado College, Colorado Mountain College, Montana State, the University of Wyoming and Westminster.
UNM’s team features an international cast of athletes, including skiers from Canada, Europe, as well as Colorado, Utah, Washington, New York and Wisconsin — plus one New Mexican, Nick Veth of Taos, whose father Alain Veth, is a former racer and owner of Le Ski Mastery at TSV.
UNM’s Carl-Johan Öster’s secured third in the slalom, catapulting him to a seventh-place finish overall. From Stockholm, Sweden, the senior majoring in athletic training races in GS and slalom.
In his second year on the team, Öster said, “I am doing much better this year. I feel more comfortable on all the courses and am better at balancing study, training and competing. I am also a little bit older than some of the guys so I ski with my head. I see how to tackle tricky combination gates.”
Asked if he expects to continue racing after college, he replied, “If you ask my ego and wishes, yes. I love skiing and love competing but we will see where I end up. It looks good for me to make the national finals, but there are other things waiting for me beyond skiing.”
The recent warm daytime temperatures and overnight freezing caused a host of crashes and missed gates on the slalom course. Three UNM women racers failed to finish, while Alaska-Anchorage and Colorado Mountain both had just one finisher on the women’s side. Sydney Staples led the UNM women with a 12th-place finish.
Nordic was a different struggle. Emilie Cedervärn, the odds-on favorite for RMISA MVP, and No. 3 scorer Austin Huneck were both out due to injuries. UNM lost Julia Devaux to shin splints during the 5-K skate, and Aljaž Praznik was scratched right before the race due to a lingering back injury. Petteri Vaherkoski led the way for UNM men with an 18th. On the women’s side, Kati Roivas finished 12th.
Skiing is just one of two sports UNM has ever won a national championship in.
Directing the UNM ski team are head coach Fredrik Landstedt, Joe Downing (head alpine), Mark Miller (assistant alpine) and Ove Pasha Kahn (assistant Nordic). The NCAA Championship will be held March 9-12 in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Go Lobos!
The Lobo Invitational has been held since the 1970s at Red River. And while the mountain lacks a run long enough to hold a giant slalom, its slalom course, set on the run Down Town, is a blast to watch and fills the town with an unusual level of excitement and babble of foreign languages every year it rolls into this “Ski town of the Southwest.” Spectators line the slalom course and wildly shake cowbells, hooting and hollering for their favorite racers. If you’ve never watched such an event, put it on your bucket list for next year.
And, if you’ve never skied Red River, you’re also in for a treat. Though not a large ski area (1,600 vertical feet), it is a surprisingly diverse mountain with terrain for every skier or boarder. Most runs are ranked beginner or intermediate, including one that allows beginners to ascend to the summit and ski safely back to the base. Atop the mountain, in a sunny locale, is a sweet beginner-intermediate pocket of runs served by the Green Chair. This popular old double will be replaced this summer, says general manager Walt Foley, with a quad chair.
Broad intermediate runs spool off the front face and roll back down almost to Main Street in the heart of town, with one lift, the Copper Chair, lifting off from a town road and over the sparkling Red River itself. The Silver Chair serves another batch of fine intermediate and advanced runs on the “backside.”
And, there’s also a handful of exciting expert runs here as well. The longest, by far, is Cat Skinner, which features some truly precipitous pitches. Other super steep, if short, runs include Bad Medicine, Mineshaft, Dropout, Miners Alley, Tailings and Linton’s Leap.
If you happen to be here during a storm cycle, you’ll be delighted with the powder skiing, as most clientele here avoid the fluff like the plague. You’ll be skiing untracked all day, both on the slopes and on tree runs like Slice Box Glade. There are also three terrain parks, including the impressive Hollywood, served by its own mid-point unloading station.
If you go
Red River is located 110 miles north of Santa Fe, northeast of Taos. Its scheduled closing day, March 20, will include a pond skim event just above the newly renovated Lift House with its broad sunny deck, full bar and pub grub.
Fine dining is limited but Texas Reds is a great spot for steaks and roast beef, and decent New Mexican fare can be found at Sundance. Other good options are Brett’s Bistro, Black Diamond Grill or Capo’s. On weekends, dinner waits can run an hour or more, so reserve ahead, if possible. One of Red River’s nicest amenities is the fact that most accommodations are within a few minutes’ walk to the ski slopes. One such place, with two hot tubs, laundry, free Wi-Fi and clean kitchens is the Auslander Condominiums (800-753-2311, 575-754-2311 or www.auslandercondominiums.com).
The town, a favorite of Texas and Oklahoma visitors, has two classic watering holes with live music on weekends, the Bull o’ the Woods Saloon and the Motherlode, so plan on some boot-scootin’ at night.
For further details on visiting, see www.redriverskiarea.com or call 575-754-2223.