Ruidoso — a unique mountain community

Ruidoso, New Mexico Photo courtesy Ruidoso Convention and Visitors Bureau
Ruidoso, New Mexico

Ruidoso is a place without pretentions and a unique village. A mountain town at 7,000 feet, it is located on U.S. Highway 70. The population numbers about 8,000, more on weekends in the winter when skiers come to town, and up to twenty-five or thirty thousand on summer weekends during horse racing season.

Sierra Blanca, 12,003 feet (originally known as Baldy), towers above the surrounding country and is home to Ski Apache, owned by the nearby Mescalero Indians. The cool pines and summer showers bid welcome to lowland residents who come to escape the heat, many from Texas. Texas twang and Texas license plates abound on the streets of Ruidoso. The jet planes that are parked at the Sierra Blanca Airport, built in 1986 on the Fort Stanton Mesa, also have Texas as a home base.

Ruidoso’s oldest building is the Old Mill, originally known as Dowlin’s Mill, as that was the name of the settlement. The mill is a famous landmark on Sudderth Drive dating from Civil War days. Other buildings along this six-mile main street are of varied and eclectic architecture, some painted in eye-catching lavenders, yellows, and turquoises or left in rustic wood exteriors.

Another intriguing landmark is the upside down sign of the now defunct Wild Snail Restaurant. It is often used as a point of departure when giving tourists directions to another part of town. Though the restaurant has been gone since the early 1970s, the fact that the sign is still there and in its upside down position attests to the unpretentiousness of the town.

Adjacent to Ruidoso to the east, but a separate community, is Ruidoso Downs. Next door to the Downs is a place called Hollywood. During the Depression of the 1930s, lots for cabins were sold for as little as $59.50. Hollywood has since been swallowed by Ruidoso Downs although it still has a thriving post office. The race track is located in the Downs as is the Museum of the Horse. Nearing completion is a visitors’ center for Billy the Kid Country.

Nearby points of interest include the Inn of the Mountain Gods and the Mescalero Indian Reservation, the historic town of Lincoln, Capitan, home of Smokey the Bear; the Merchant Marine and Military Cemetery at Ft. Stanton, Spencer Theater, White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo Space Center; and Sunspot, home of the largest observatory in the world.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks