3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations

Three destinations that offer skiers and boarders some seriously unique activities on the side.


For Those Looking For a Throwback Ranch Town

Red River, New Mexico, has flown under the radar for several years, but it has a devoted and growing fan base that appreciates Red River’s rustic, ranch-style charm. Originally the stomping ground for Apaches, Red River (then known as River City), drew prospectors and fur traders to its mountainous steps. Shortly after, several German families moved in.

3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations

Have a unique experience (and hit the slopes) in Red River, New Mexico

The town ended up with an interesting mix of German mountain chalet and old-western mining-style buildings. When the mines dried up, the prospectors left but the settlers stayed, favoring the town’s 8,750 feet altitude and its average 188 inches of snowfall.

3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations

Red River, New Mexico

Red River’s Mardi Gras celebration is for you if you have an adventurous heart and a love for all things Mardi Gras, minus the New Orleans humidity.

3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations

A mix of German and Western, this town is nothing if not unique

Each year, this sleepy little old western mining town is awakened by their own 20s-style version of Mardi Gras, called Mardi Gras in the Mountains. For 5 days and nights each winter, both locals and tourists party the nights away to live music in 20s flapper costumes or purple, gold, and green masquerade-style masks. Day and night, while on the ski hill or out to dinner, the thing to do is to drape as many metallic plastic beads around your neck as you can manage.

I made a cute little video of Mardi Gras in the mountains, from day to night:

The festival offers Cajun Creole cuisine specials, costume parties and a short, but amusing parade (with a mix of Mardi Gras and 1920’s prohibition-themed floats), complete with bead and candy tossing. Be sure to pack your best masquerade ball gown for your chance to be crowned queen at the gala costume ball.

3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations

The Red River Mardi Gras parade is short but amusing

On the first night of the festival, we watched as the locals gather outside Motherload Saloon and put scraps of paper with their worries written on them into the mouth of a huge paper mache “Loup-Garou” wolf. Vaguely reminiscent of Burning Man, the ‘wolf’ is then set on fire and everybody cheers as they watch it — and their worries — burn to dust. They then go inside and dance (and drink) the night away.

3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations

The burning of the Loup-Garou wolf

If you’re looking for real animals, you’ll be happy in Red River, as there are plenty of very friendly deer, elk, and wild horses roaming around (but please don’t feed them, as it makes them stop foraging the woods for real food and become malnourished).

3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations

My hubby petting the deer in the town square

Red River is a great place to get ski lessons, as there are about 40% green slopes on the mountain, lessons and lift tickets are inexpensive, and the instructors are top-notch. I got lessons with Adam, and in three days graduated from 100% beginner to being able to handle myself on a snowboard. Next stop: black diamonds!!

3 Unique & Lesser-Known American Ski Destinations

The view from a bunny hill, where I spent most of my time

Tips: To get around town during your stay, be sure to get a rental car because there aren’t any taxis, and Red River is hours from the airport. We stayed at the Auslander because it’s the closest accommodations to the mountain (it’s right at the base), although we soon realized that the whole town it only about a five-minute walk from the ski lift!

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Avatar of Hilary Rowland

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 249 Comments

  1. Avatar of Kayla Carlson

    Kayla Carlson

    I’m in the mood for hotsprings. The south of McCall is a wonder! It wasn’t crowded when we went here and it was like we had the place for ourselves. It was quite an experience. The place was also clean and the service as great. I would definitely go back to this place if given the chance.

  2. Avatar of Elle Edwards

    I hate destinations that are too crowded. Thanks for sharing this because my husband and I love to ski.

  3. Avatar of Kamy Johnston

    The colors in these destinations are marvelous. It’s all a mix of pastels and rainbows. Taking pictures here would really be picturesque for a photographer like me.

  4. Avatar of Eleanor Brooker

    I highly recommend Tamarack Resort. My family nd I really enjoyed our stay there. The place is more than perfect!

  5. Avatar of Anita Moshkelgosha

    Oh, Mount Shasta is breathtaking. That has to be my favorite of all these destinations. I could tell just by the name that it really has other-wordly things that it can offer. I also love the lavender field that you can see near the foot of the mountain. I also like that it has snow all year round so I don’t have to worry about going there at the wrong time. You know how bookings get, they’re unpredictable. Thanks for the suggestions, they were all helpful!

  6. Avatar of Erma Sparks

    Erma Sparks

    I would do anything just to be in at least one of these places right now. It’s so beautiful.

  7. Avatar of Jackie Chavez

    Jackie Chavez

    Wow, these are definitely unique destinations for skiing. Thanks so much Urbanette!

  8. Avatar of Doreen Carlson

    Doreen Carlson

    Night skiing sounds so good! I bet it’s twice as cold though!

    • Avatar of Angelina


      We’ve tried this and it was actually nice. Less people too.

  9. Avatar of Chelsea COSSEY

    Chelsea COSSEY

    Blue Boar in looks the best. I love cabin-like accommodations. This looks very luxurious as well! Not exactly a fun of skiing but I love the sleigh riding and stuff. Christmas is near and this could be the perfect spot for the family to just hang out and spend Christmas together. Zermatt also looks really good. I’m going to choose between these two. They’re both perfect in their own way. Gotta love destinations like this. Very unique and the same time very worthy of relaxation.

  10. Avatar of Rosemarie Gibbs

    Rosemarie Gibbs

    When we travel, we usually time our travels with certain festivities in the area. It’s fun to immerse yourself in other cultures.

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