Millers reflect on Red River, skiing, and life

By Michael Ritterhouse Staff writer

By Michael Ritterhouse Staff writer

RED RIVER – John and Judy Miller moved to Red River with three small children and another on the way in 1963 to live here year round. John’s father and uncles had bought 128 acres in the upper valley in 1935 and John and Judy Miller wanted to live in the area.  

John and Judy, and their youngest child Linda and Judy Richardson, descendant of Bowen Dulaney and his wife Dorothy (née Miller) were invited to share their memories of living in Red River for the last 51 years with the members of the Red River Historical Society on Thursday (Aug 28). Judy Miller said that their son, John Jr., was busy with a new school year as a professor at the University of Houston, their daughter Mary was working at the Taos Senior Center and their other daughter, Ellen Miller-Goins (General Manager/Editor of the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle), was held up at the newspaper finishing up the end of the month business.

The Millers spent the next hour and a half reminiscing about raising their kids, visiting with vacationing family, working, and running several well known businesses in the area.

When the family first moved to the area, John worked as the office manager at Red River Ski Area and within a couple of years moved on to work as a pit-planning engineer at the molybdenum mine between Red River and Questa.  John had studied geology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he had also met his future wife Judy.  Due to his claustrophobia and the impending end of pit mining operations John opened Powder Puff Mountain, a ski area in and around where the Woodlands now stands.  John and Judy started the ski area with Gary and Fran Starbuck in 1970 and ran it until 1979 when it was purchased by Red River Ski Area.  

Around the end of their ownership of Powder Puff, the Millers started cross-country ski tours, eventually opening the shop Millers Crossing.  The shop was named when a customer of the cross-country ski tours addressed a letter to Judy with the misnomer “Millers Crossing” not realizing the company was called Miller’s Cross-Country Ski Tours, said Judy.

Sensing a growing market and knowing of an area near Bobcat Pass that was flat, scenic, and criss-crossed by old logging roads, John applied for a special use permit to open a ski area in June of 1985 and received approval in October. A quick approval that is unusual in the normally very intentional US Forest Service.  The area John and Judy opened in 1985 is the Enchanted Forest Ski Area and is now owned and operated by their daughter Ellen and her husband Geoff Goins.

John and Judy Miller were inducted into the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame for their contributions to skiing through Powder Puff and Enchanted Forest.

John also reminisced about his time in local politics. Miller was a member of the charter town council in Red River later becoming mayor.

During John’s tenure the first Memorial Day motorcycle rally occurred. John recalled that it was due to a advertisement in a biker magazine. During the festivities there was a lot of drag racing, wheelies, and “mooning.” The town requested back up support since there were only two law enforcement officers in town. The biker crowd moved down to Questa to maintain their celebrations. After the crowd of bikers had “hit-on” the local patrons wives and girl friends the “locals” organized a group of men in pick-up beds with shotguns. Many of the motorcyclists were reported to be members of Sons of Silence out of Colorado. Since they were headed back to Colorado the bikers came through Red River and requested an escort to the state line.

As a result of the first Memorial Day experience the town began to hire off-duty officers from Farmington. Red River also started enforcing four way stops at each intersection during the extended weekends. These solutions have caused the event to be calmer and more well received with a positive impact on the participants, residents, and businesses in town, as well as out of town vendors.

Currently, John and Judy are still involved and active. Both are well known in the summer for their flower identification walks and in the autumn for sharing their knowledge of local mushrooms. John cuts his own wood still and Judy plans to cross-country ski and snowshoe this coming winter. When demand is high enough she will still lead an occasional ladies day at EFXC.