The S&L Ski Resort

WHEN TWIN BROTHERS PHILLIP AND Donald Huffines went shopping in the government land bazaar, they chanced upon a jewel with a troubled past-a ski resort about an hour north of Taos. N.M., called Ski Rio. First created in 1983 on 12,700-foot Latir Peak, a stone’s throw from the Colorado border, Ski Rio had been owned by various partnerships until it was purchased by a New Mexico savings and loan in 1986. When the S&L went bust in 1988, the ski resort was operated by the Dallas office of the FDIC until it closed in 1990.

Enter the Huffines brothers, Dallas residents and sons of J.L. Huffines, Jr., who owns Chevrolet dealerships here. In May 1995, they and Houston investor David Hendricks bought Ski Rio for less than 20 cents on the dollar, with ambitious plans for a Southwestern -themed, master-planned resort on the order of Crested Butte-a “high-quality atmosphere at an affordable price,” says Phillip Huffines.

In addition to hotels and condos, the $350 million resort will have 1,110 sites for vacation homes. This Thanksgiving, the Huffines began marketing lots for as low as $24,000 and up to $125,000for “ski-in, ski-out” home sites. Houses will sell for more than $200,000.

The partners plan to build an adobe-style village with a new hotel, retail shops, chapel, and town center, During the snow season, Ski Rio will offer not only downhill skiing, but tours on snow mobiles, cross-country skiing, and nature hikes, In the summer, activities will include horseback riding, river rafting, and trout fishing. Dallas native Michael Martin Murphey, well-known for his 70s hit “Wildfire, ” will drop in for concerts and cowboy poetry readings.

Will the Huffines succeed where others have failed? Phillip Huffines thinks so. “We feel the timing is right,” he says. “The economy is doing well. The baby boom is maturing; they are starting to look at second homes.” And for Dallasites, Ski Rio is just a 12-hour drive in the Suburban.

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