Recently, I visited several quaint ski villages without encountering a single snowflake. Summer and fall are spectacular seasons to discover the charms of ski resorts. Of course the charms don’t disappear in the winter. I love to sit snug in front of a roaring fire with a steamy drink in hand watching the skiers bustle around me. But how much skiing am I going to find when I move to the Southwest? Ski Apache, in the mountain village of Ruidoso, New Mexico, is one such opportunity.
Let’s Go Learn Things about skiing in the desert….
Ski Apache: Southernmost ski resort in the US?
Ski Apache, the Southernmost ski resort in the US is known for favorable winter weather and great ski cruising terrain. It is the only ski resort in New Mexico run by a Native American Tribe, Mescalero Apache. With 55 runs, 11 lifts, a unique gondola system, and views of White Sands it is a perfect ski getaway. Ski Apache is 15 miles west of Ruidoso straight up into the Sierra Blanca peaks.
Learn more…Ski Apache calls itself the Southernmost Ski Resort in the U.S. However, this title is also claimed by Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, AZ. Sky Island Scenic Byway
Ruidoso, NM is the largest community in Lincoln County New Mexico. It is 1 hour north of White Sands, NM, 3 hours south of Santa Fe, NM and 8 hours west of Dallas, TX. The small town is surrounded by the Mescalero reservation and the sacred Sierra Blanca mountains.
Spring, summer, winter, fall; anytime of year, Ruidoso is a spot to kick back and relax. Neighboring Texans have kept this chill paradise their little secret. They come to escape the heat of a Texas summer and the flat drab landscape of their winters. Ruidoso,NM is packed with family friendly adventures, infamous history, boutique shopping and local artisans.
Lodging in Ruidoso, NM
Rio Ruidoso flows through town and shares the name, Ruidoso, which means noisy river in Spanish. During my visit in late fall, they experienced significant rain and the river lived up to its moniker.
Ruidoso offers traditional chain hotels such as Best Western Plus and Days Inn. You can find any size of rental cabin in the woods, along the river or clinging to the hills. The Inn of the Mountain Gods is a sprawling resort and casino owned by the Mescalero tribe. There are historic roadside motels such as the Sitzmark Chalet Inn. If you want to make new best friends, see my post about the Sitzmark Chalet experience here.
I was hosted one night by the Mountain Air Cabins at the very end of Upper Canyon road. The Upper Canyon is one of Ruidoso’s most scenic and historic areas. Located in the southwest corner, the area is replete with rental cabins located near the river. Wildlife is abundant in this area of Ruidoso, including bear, elk, and deer. The Upper Canyon has spectacular fall foliage with golden aspens, oaks and cottonwood trees.
Dining and drinking in Ruidoso, NM
Dining in New Mexico is about beef and chiles. Of course drinking for me is about craft beer. I found a perfect pairing at the Rio Grande Grill and Tap. Hatch chile alfredo and a glass of Sierra Blanca’s Pecan Amber were just the ticket.
Shopping in Ruidoso, NM
I am not a shopper, but I do love to explore local artisan galleries. New Mexico is a haven for artists. As I wandered through the galleries of Ruidoso, I imagined so many things on my new walls in Tucson. Western art has truly captured my heart.
Ruidoso Outdoor Adventures
We have talked about skiing at the Southernmost ski resort in the US, but what about the rest of the year? Although shoulder season can offer some great deals, you do have to be careful about some activities closing. For me in late October, I missed the adrenaline-junkie activities of mountain biking, trail rides and ziplining. But I will return for all of those in the spring! Any season is great for hiking so I headed out to nearby Grindstone Lake.
Lincoln County History
My trip this time was all about history, Ruidoso and surrounding Lincoln County is the place to find it. They call themselves Billy the Kid Country and proudly claim to be home of Smokey the Bear. Historic Fort Stanton had unbelievable stories and the Hubbard Western Museum shared insight into the images and myths of the Wild West.
Billy the Kid Scenic Byway in New Mexico
This 84 mile loop will take you through amazing vistas on your way to visiting many of the historic sites and museums of Lincoln County and Billy the Kid country.
Billy the Kid earned his reputation in the Lincoln County Wars. As settlers moved into the region, Fort Stanton became a bustling trading and supply post for the region. From 1878-1881 rivaling cattle barons literally “warred” over lucrative government contracts and economic dominance of the region. Billy the Kid ( William Bonney) was a hired gun for rancher John Tunstall. Events escalated out of control with the murder of John Tunstall in 1878. Billy the Kid was finally brought to heel and killed by Pat Garrett in 1881. Want to learn more…visit the Billy the Kid Visitor Center.
Fort Stanton was built in 1855 to garrison the dragoons of soldiers fighting the Mescalero tribes. Over the course of the Fort’s checkered past it housed U.S. soldiers, Confederate soldiers, Buffalo Soldiers, German POW soldiers, Mescalero refugees, and convalescing soldiers with TB.
Many of the 53 buildings are open to explore with fascinating displays of the various uses of the Fort. The small museum and gift shop is open 10-4 but the grounds are always open. Once a month there is a Living History event and Fort Stanton Live is an annual re-enactment the second weekend of July.
Even if you are not history buffs, the setting of Fort Stanton is spectacular.
The Fort was built along the Bonito River running through the picturesque Capitan Mountains with the Sacramento Mountains – and views of the beautiful peak of Sierra Blanca (remember the southernmost ski resort in the US).
Hubbard Museum of the American West in nearby Ruidoso Downs, NM
The Hubbard Museum of the American West is an impressive collection of cowboy, gunfighter, rancher, and Native American artifacts. I found the “Images of the West” exhibit especially compelling. This exhibit focused on the romanticized West.
Most people’s idea of the West is greatly shrouded in folklore due to romanticization. Throughout history, the American West has been romanticized in many ways. Romanticized versions of the West have appeared in art, literature, dime novels, movies, television, and Wild West Shows.
Discover Ruidoso, NM for yourself
Whether you are looking for a cozy spot to hibernate or a heart-pumping adventure, Ruidoso, New Mexico should be on your bucket list. Ruidoso is a gem in the American West.