The annual Ski Ranch Rodeo is lively fun for the whole family. Photograph courtesy of Red River Ski & Summer Area.
A TEXAS TRANSPLANT TO RED RIVER, Sloan Covington escaped a desk job to adopt the mountain town’s slow pace and big-fun attitude. The owner of Red River Angler & Sport operates a tackle shop and guides fly-fishing trips and other outdoor adventures. A skier since age three, the 34-year-old works on the ski patrol of Red River Ski & Summer Area. The family-owned ski area, which has operated for more than 60 years, keeps up a down-home atmosphere with events that get everyone hooting, hollering, and having a good time. Covington and two teammates placed third in the inaugural Ski Ranch Rodeo in February 2020. Though it was postponed for this season, the event may return in 2021–22.
Red River Ski & Summer Area is so closely tied with the town. The chairlifts go from Main Street to the top of the mountain. It’s really dang fun. There are some parts that will really pucker you up and some really mellow sections to learn on. If you show up midweek in January, you’re likely to have the whole mountain to yourself.
Red River’s an old mining town with plenty of grit and connection to horses and rodeoing. Our town attracts a lot of visitors from Texas, so the Ski Ranch Rodeo had some serious ranchers, ropers, and bronc riders who were competing like hell. There were also some families just having a good time.
I competed with some local buddies who are far better skiers and rodeo competitors than I am. In the event, the first of the three skiers pushed out of a ski gate, triggering a timer. They had to chase and rope a dummy steer made out of a metal barrel with horns on skis. Once he crossed the mark, the second skier had to ski to a mock calf, pick up a branding iron, brand the center circle of the calf, and put the iron back in the bucket.
I was the last skier, and it was up to me to make up as much time as possible. I had to go through ski gates to the dummy bronc—another barrel on skis—put my hands on its butt, bunny-hop onto it, grab it around the neck, and go like hell, all while keeping my skis up so they didn’t get tangled. It was the wildest, most bizarre thing I’ve ever done, but it was a hoot! This event was so in line with everything Red River is as a town.
—As told to Ashley M. Biggers