Ski Rio, New Mexico, has been resurrected. The sleeping giant about 40 miles north of Taos, went to bed in 2000 after changing hands more times than a high school cheerleader. Today, the new owners just might have what it takes to keep the place running.
Endless Blue Resort has opened its 900 acres to snowcat skiing only. It's backcountry skiing with frontside amenities- groomed beginner and intermediate trails, ski instruction, mid-mountain dining and base facilities.
Ski Rio was the first resort in the state to welcome snowboarders in 1987, and it was also the first to carve a half-pipe. They had night skiing, snowmaking, and 70,000 skier visits. But despite its history, Ski Rio couldn't make it. Endless Blue, LLC, took ownership of the sizeable resort in 2008. They then decided it was better to sell off the chairlifts rather than try to bring them to code. Mountain Manager Tom Atkins said catskiing was the obvious next step.
"We wouldn't mind generating income with such a great mountain, but since we sold our ski lifts, how else are we going to get people up there?" Atkins told the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle.
They custom fit a snowcat with a caboose to carry up to six riders and started an operation that promises to be the ultimate blend of backcountry and resort skiing. The 20-minute ride to the top of the mountain (11,250 feet) deposits skiers onto runs of all levels with long, 1000-vertical foot drops. Not only do you get to ski untracked after untracked but when you're beat you can cool down on groomed runs, take a lesson or dine mid-mountain. You won't find that at any other snowcat company.
Atkins added his resort is ideal for intermediate skiers who might be intimidated by true backcountry skiing. The price for half- day, five runs, is $150 and a full day, 10 runs, is $250. Reservations are required.
Nordic skiers will appreciate the 50 kilometers of trails around the base.
More information: Call Taos Ski Central, 888-971-6881.