Ski Rio (Rio Costilla Resort)
Operation Dates: 1982 - 1990, 1995-2000
Area Stats:
* Elevations: Base: 9,500'; Summit: 11,650'; Drop: 2150'
*
Average Snowfall: 260"
*
Facilities: Night Skiing, Snowmaking, 3 Hotels and multiple Condos, Base Lodge,
Restaurants, Rentals, Ski Patrol, Ski School, Child Care
Lifts:
    Alpha: Fixed Poma Triple
    Bravo: Fixed Poma Triple
    Charlie: Fixed Riblet Double
    3 Surfaces (Stadeli)

History: (Updated 1/10 - see below for reopening details)

The Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association initially developed the Rio Costilla Resort
back in 1982.  Construction for the first season included a day lodge, a Poma triple chairlift,
and two Stadeli surface lifts.  The area is located between San Luis, Colorado and Taos, NM,
just below the Colorado state line.  The Costilla valley is sparsely populated and the resort
initially relied on day skiers from Taos and Alamosa, Colorado.  The Rio Costilla Co-Op ran
the resort for the first two seasons before facing financial trouble.  During a friendly
foreclosure, the resort’s ownership changed over to the Poma Group.  Liberty Federal S &L
headed by Michael Furman provided financing for the resort and eventually took control as
Miracle Mountain, Inc.

For the 1984-1985 ski season Rio Costilla installed a new triple chair, the “A” or Alpha lift
(The original lift was renamed "B" or Bravo).  This chair was located to the left of the base
lodge and provided excellent beginner terrain.  Along with the new ski lift, condos and
additional ski runs were constructed.  During the summer of 1985, a used Riblet double chair
was added to the summit of Cinnamon Bear Bowl.  The lift was purchased from Stowe,
Vermont and previously operated as the Mount Mansfield double chair.  The reinstalled
double chairlift brought Rio’s skiable acres to over 910.  By the end of 1985, Ski Rio filed for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the area’s operation was in jeopardy.  Mitch Brown,
the area’s operator, defaulted on a $205,000 loan.

By 1987, Ski Rio was the first resort in New Mexico to welcome snowboarders.   The ski
area created a sponsored free-riding team along with amateur snowboarding events.  With the
snowboarding events, the area purchased a new pipe dragon to make a state-of-the-art half
pipe, New Mexico’s first.

For the 1988-89 season, Ski Rio was operated by RTC Resolution Trust Corporation on
behalf of the FDIC.  During this time, RTC was actively seeking a new owner for the ski
area.  RTC took over Miracle Mountain, Inc and assumed control of Rio’s management
team.  During a RTC/FDIC auction, Rio was sold to Jacque de Bruin from Canada, however,
the deal fell through at closing.  Ski Rio sat idle for the 1990-91 season.  Later, the ski area
sold to a group called Magnolia Mountain, L.P. headed by David Hendricks for 1.125 million
dollars.  Hendricks ran Ski Rio for the 1991-1992 season on a weekend only schedule.  For
the 1992-93 and 1993-1994, the area ran a full schedule.  

Ski Rio had new owners for the 1994-95 season, the Huffine brothers from Texas.  The
group also bought Cuchara Valley Ski Area in southern Colorado in 1995, running the areas
jointly.  The Rio’s first year under the Huffine ownership (1994-95) was dismal, only totaling
only 24 operation days.  However, the 1995-96 season was Ski Rio’s best on record.  Snow
hit northern New Mexico and combined with regular snowmaking operations brought skier
visits to over 70,000.  

Despite Ski Rio’s success during the 1995-96 season, the area quickly went back into
financial trouble.  David Hendricks assumed control of the ski area as Huffine missed
mortgage payments in 1996.  By 1997, the JNC Corporation of Texas headed by John Lau
purchased Rio from Hendricks for 2.9 million dollars.  Operations continued for the 1996-97
season with over one million dollars in improvements.  

During New Years Eve of 1997, guests and employees woke up to fire alarms at the ski
area.  The Silvertree Restaurant, located at the base area was on fire.  Firefighters responded
from nearby townships but the structure was a total loss.  Investigators concluded arson as the
cause, but no arrests were ever made.

For the 1997-98 and 98-99 seasons Ski Rio operated with a full schedule.  In 1999, the
Silvertree Restaurant was rebuilt and marketing towards snowboarders drew sizeable
crowds.  The following season, Ski Rio was faced with poor snow conditions and Cuchara,
the area’s sister resort, shut down.  Rio ended up closing in January despite recent snowfall.  
Their website reported that they were going to reopen for spring break but failed to do so.  
Season passes and accommodations were sold for the 2001-2002 ski season and Rio’s
marketing department was advertising for a full operating schedule.  By October, customers
were disturbed to find that phone lines and the area’s website were down.  A lawsuit was filed
in New Mexico citing that Ski Rio’s owners and manager, Lawrence Smith, took skiers
money without providing any services or refunds.  Eventually, the money was returned and Ski
Rio has not operated since January of 2000.  

Lau’s JNC Corporation fell into financial trouble related to the “dot com” crash of 2000.  
Faced with decisions from other investments, JNC decided to close their ski operations.  Ski
Rio sat idle until spring of 2003.  JNC missed mortgage payments spanning over two years to
David Hendricks' group, Magnolia Mountain.  Based on their breach of contract, Hendricks
proceeded with a foreclosure.  Once Magnolia Mountain assumed the property, Hendricks
sold Ski Rio to a Washington state investor in August of 2003.  That same month, JNC filed a
lawsuit claiming they still retained ownership of Rio.  Litigation in that lawsuit began during the
fall of 2003 and concluded in 2009 when the court found for Magnolia Mountain.  In January
of 2008, Rio had a new owner, Endless Blue LLC.  This company is a holding of Cimax
Invest, Inc from Naples, FL and is headquartered in the Czech Republic.  From the sale, the
new owners assumed all property, chairlifts, buildings, and existing water rights on the Ski Rio
property.  

Since the sale of Ski Rio to Endless Blue LLC, the new owners are working to clean up the
ski area and remove unusable facilities.  During June of 2009, the Alpha and Bravo triple
chairlifts were removed.  Alpha was sold to Berkshire East Ski Area in Massachusetts, while
Bravo went to Calabogie Peaks, Canada.  Rio’s platter lift was sold to Mohawk Mountain,
Connecticut.  While, the “C” lift remains, it is scheduled to be removed and scrapped at a later
date.

Note: Ski Rio is not operating for the 2012-13 season.

Thanks to Tom A. and David H. for contributing to this article.

Directions:
* From Taos:
    40 miles north on Hwy. 522
    8 miles east on State Road 196

* From Red River:
    14 miles west on Hwy. 38
    20 miles north on Hwy. 522
    8 miles east on State Road 196

* From Colorado Springs, CO
    I-25 to Walsenburg exit
    West on Hwy. 160 to Ft. Garland
    South on Hwy. CO 159 (turns into NM 522) to Costilla, NM
    8 miles east on State Road 196
Trail Maps:
1982-1983
1983-84
1985-86
1998-99
2001
Overlooking the
Cinnamon Bear Bowl
atop Ski Rio.
Looking at the B Lift
from the parking lot.
Area Pictures:
If you live by this area or have any
pictures to share, please email us!
* Pictures during the late 1990's:
* Pictures from 2006-08:
* The Base Area & Hotels
From left to right: the entrance road, ski school, and ticket counter.
Ski Rio's main day lodge was torn down in 2006 because of ground settlement and foundation problems.
The Silvertree Lodge, Pinatas Bar and the heated outdoor pool.
* Alpha Trails and Lift:
The Alpha lift provides beginner terrain and would be the access lift to the new "E" chair expansion.
* "E" Expansion Area:
Work began on this expansion in 2000, but was never completed.
* Bravo Trails and Lift:
The mid-mountain lodge and the summit of Bravo
* Charlie Trails and Lift:
Overviews of the upper bowl area.
The Charlie area offers everything from groomed type trails to glades.
More pictures of Charlie.
* The Surface Lifts:
Rio's various surface lifts
Have you ever skied at this area?  If so,
contact us with your memories!

Memories:
"I took my family and friends to Ski Rio twice in 1987-88. We loved it. Small, cozy, uncrowded, easy to ski, beautiful and close to home. As others
have said, it was a real treat for a family gathering. If it could open up and stay open, I would be there every year...it would have made a great
summer resort as well. I too checked every year for several years to see if it would open. I finally stopped a few years back."
-Joyce F.

"I learned to snowboard at Ski Rio, thanks to Doron Fletcher. He's right about the snow - there wasn't much, but it was gorgeous, great for
beginners, quiet, and no long lines. I'm afraid I didn't get past "beginner," but Ski Rio was the ideal place to learn snowboarding."
-Prix G.

"Well, what can I say that others haven't already. I found Ski Rio back in 1998 or 99 (can't remember the first year) but went back every year until it
closed. At least one time every year!  Every year I still check and see if they are going to open. I hope one of these coming seasons Rio will open
again. It's sad to see these years where NM gets wonderful snow and RIO can't open to take advantage.

That's really all I have to say about that. For now...I guess I just have to use Santa Fe, Taos, Red River, Angel Fire, Durango and Wolf Creek for the
short weekend trips."
-Terry A.

"Years ago my family and I discovered Ski Rio. We rented a beautiful house on the side of the mountain. It was so convenient with ski in/ski out and
was so quaint and quiet. Since the place has closed, we have been many other places to ski. We still go back to that year in Rio as being the BEST
vacation we have ever had. We are all older now and want to go back skiing all together again. Every year we check to see if Rio has re-opened and
are disappointed every time. We wish more than anything that one day, our wonderful "secret hideaway" will be open so we can experience what we
did years ago."
-Michelle P.

"My family and I happened on Ski Rio about 5 years ago and the first year we skied there was FANTASTIC! We enjoyed the laid back atmosphere
and hometown feeling we had. No lines! No hurried rush feeling just ski leisurely and enjoy nature. We could tell there were some problems with the
upkeep and management but all in all we enjoyed our time so much. We have been extremely disappointed in the last few years that it has not opened
but keep praying that the new owners will get it all together so we can come enjoy our little secret get-away again.

When we come through that area we always make a drive up through the town of Costilla and up to the resort just to dream and wish and pray for
the next season. I do wish that there was better communication with the opening or non-opening of the resort. Conflicting reports are pretty
confusing. From the Norman family in Amarillo we pray we'll be skiing in Rio again this season 2002-2003. God Bless."
-Tom N.

"I have to say that I am really disappointed in this place. Like every other resort, it has potential, but the business side of Ski Rio has yet to get it
together. There are good things to say about it... The mountain is perfect for intermediate skiers and families. The annual snowfall amount is
advertised to be the second best in NM with 260" (right behind Taos). The ride to the upper mountain has what is probably the best lift view in the
state. There are never any lines. I could go on...

The problem is management. Communication with the customers has been all but halted for the last year and a half while the resort changed hands for
about the fifth time in its 17 year existence. You cannot build a relationship with customers if you fire your staff to close down in bad snow years and
you never let skiers know what the heck is going on. This naturally follows into the next area of problem which is the need for some serious capital
improvement to make sure the mountain (or at least a small portion of it) is always skiable.

I don't fault the NM areas when they have bad snow years, but I do expect to put on some skis and try the ice when I have reservations. There is the
need for snowmaking and grooming equipment. They advertise 33% coverage for blowing snow, but in Christmas '99 they were having trouble
opening 1 trail with a 7" base. Dangerous. I am not even sure they have the water rights, and if they don't, they should close down. In the southern
Rockies, making snow is a way of life. The elevation is great, and since it is on the western side of the front range, it does get some dumps.

The good things about Rio could be really special if they could do some investment and a little marketing to stay in business. I hope the new owner
has some sense and can turn it into what it should be. With some help, this mountain could be the premier alternative to Taos Ski Valley."
-Chad C.

"Ski Rio is obviously having some ownership problems, but as a long-time ski "bum", this is one of the best places I have ever skied. It is a family
resort and not on the "beaten trail", which makes it very desirable if it can get the right people to run it. It is a wonderful summer as well as winter
resort. At this point my family is very frustrated with Ski Rio because we have had so many good times there but the business aspects are causing it to
fail. The "locals" are great, but they need to find the right people to run the place! Or give it back to nature, BUT MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!"
-Debbie K.

"My family and I have skied Ski Rio twice within the last few years and found it to be a enjoyable experience. Within the third day most of the ski
attendants knew our names and helped keep an eye on our children. It's a little sleepy place up there in the mountains, that a lot of us that have been
there want to keep it a secret."
-Sam J.

"I have been snowboarding and skiing Ski Rio for the last 10 years and I will always call it "home". The chair lifts are a little slow, but it is definitely
made up for by having no lines. There is not that much snow, but when there is it is great. It is good for beginners and for experts starting from a
chairlift just for "greens" and another that leads into cliff jumps. I recommend checking out the snow report before planning a trip but if you do decide
to go check out the Depot Bed and Breakfast for lodging."
-Doron F.

"Wonderful memories were made at this resort back in the 90's. Staying in the suite near the lift was absolutely gorgeous. And I remember Helen
Lecero as being the friendliest person we met there. We traveled there before and after the restaurant fire. But like many others we gave up when the
resort started being closed each year. We started going north to Colorado and then on to Big Sky Montana. But since having an injury at Ski Cooper
in Colorado I have since quit skiing and just go to West Yellowstone for weeks of snowmobiling now.  Thanks for the great memories, of which will
always be cherished..."
-Mary Y.

"I skied at Ski Rio in '88, '89, & '90, and I was never disappointed. I was part of the ski club at the boarding school that I attended, and Ski Rio,
AngelFire, & Red River were always on our itineraries.

I recently returned to NM, and I was saddened to learn that Ski Rio is no longer open. In the 2004-2005 season, NM received one of the 3 best
snow years in recorded history for the state, and I would have liked nothing better than to enjoy it at Ski Rio.  Hopefully, someday it will reopen."
-Nathan R.

"I first skied Rio the second year it was open, they had a promotion if you showed your Texas Drivers license you could ski free the first day and half
price the rest of the stay, (lift tickets where only $12.00).  At that time there was no place to stay and the road leading to the resort was just a dirt
road across a muddy pasture if you did not have four wheel drive you could not reach the ski area.  Once we made it to the top we fell in love with
the mountain, the snow was great, runs wide and never a wait. It was the best family adventure ever..It was worth the commute from Questa, Red
River, and Taos.  We watched it grow from a single ski lodge to all the condos, cabins and eating places. It was a great ski in and out resort.  We ski
Rio several times each year and in between owners, closing and poor operating conditions...It's very sad that it has not been open in years, I
understand there lot's of politics involved. Here's hoping that a great Ski resort can rise again."
-Troy from Ft Worth

"Ski Rio was one of the best ski resorts that I have skied.  The first time was with a church group and the other times was with my family. It was the
best it's to bad that some one can't keep this place going . Ski Rio is one of the best kept secret ski resorts , maybe that is why it goes broke all the
time.
-Chuck P.

"I got to ski Rio back in 1998. A buddy and I caught a terrific snow day, where at least 15" had fallen and really enjoyed ourselves. We stayed at the
lodge the night before and had surf and turf (steak and trout) at the restaurant. I have my SKI RIO pin on my ski hat and a SKI RIO poster tacked
up in my garage. I fly over the area frequently on trips from KC to LA and have always enjoyed NM. I had the snowmobile trip of my life while
looking over the area when they were trying to sell real estate. I wish I'd have bought the whole thing. SKI RIO is cool and I hope it can find a way
to reopen someday. It's beautiful."
-Dan from KC.  

"We found Ski Rio in about 94 or 95. The 1st time we went, my husband couldn't get away so just my 16 yr old son and myself went. It was
AMAZING. We could ski from top to bottom without seeing anyone. We were there on weekdays. We stayed at one of the lodges, but we could
still walk down to the lifts with no problem.  Have pictures of the lifts and not a soul in another chair. We went back every year till they closed. I also
check every year to see if it has reopened. Keeping our fingers crossed still...!"
Brenda

"My wife and I found Ski Rio in 1996 and made the drive from Albuquerque several times.  We fell in love with the place so much we actually put a
down payment on property there.  We found a parcel on the trail called Smart Money.  Unfortunately we had to relocate out of state and were able
to get our money back.  In hindsight that was probably for the best.  I wonder what happened to all the people that bought into property there?  Now
were back in New Mexico and it's a shame Ski Rio is still down and out."
-Ian and Robyn

"I remember taking the back roads up to ski this resort from our ranch which is located on the backside and North of ski Rio.  I had an uncle who
was a general contractor building the cabins high up on the mountain for the owners at that time.  I remember it being the perfect ski resort, not
crowded and easy to ski.  Also remember the Texans and their bright snow suits while the locals were in sweats and Levi's the snow was so dry.
Being raised in the area and still having a lot of family there, I was sorry to hear that it  has gone through so much trouble over the years and is not
open."
-Ken

"I skied at Rio during the winter 1988. I remember it especially since it was the first time I had my son on skis. He didn't actually ski but sorta
scooted around. Rio was a great place for families and we had a great time their with our friends and family. Sorry to see it isn't open now."
-Don E.

I grew up in Northern New Mexico, and went skiing in Costilla a couple times a year for about 5 years, late middle school and all high school.  
Learining on Sipapu and skiing Taos regularly, Rio was by
far, my most favorite.  I wish it were open now, so my family could see how wonderful a ski area it is!!!
-Bennie

"We stumbled upon Ski Rio in the mid '90s, while living in Raton, and it was fabulous. I remember one specific day trip with another couple. My ex
and my friend took off from the top of the mountain down the expert runs. My friend's husband and I took off the other direction (I was NOT an
expert skier!). Very shortly after getting off the lift, we split up, as he wanted to ski some trees and said we'd meet up a short way down.  I tell you....
I did not encounter another human being all the way down the mountain.  It was incredible!!! If the resort ever got it together and opened again, I'd
definitely be back."
-Laura
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All Rights Reserved.
Bravo services all levels of terrain and was Ski Rio's first chairlift.
Pictures of lower portions of Bravo
The loading station for the Charlie Lift
1995-96
Rio from Hwy 196
The upper bowl
from "A"
Trails off of "C"
The Ski Rio billboard
on Hwy 522
The rental & sports shop, ski area offices and property management building.
The just past the ski area's road closure, ski patrol and maintenance buildings.
Summit Ski Patrol Building
Summit Tow lift
The drive terminal for "C"
Paradise Hotel
Condos
* Pictures from 2009:
Fall colors at Rio
Rio without Lifts A & B; The Rental Shop/Management Office/Ski
School Buildings are being torn down.
Pictures from the old Ski Rio website.
The Bravo Lift
The Base Lodge
Rental Building
The original Silvertree Restaurant
Paradise Hotel