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Courtesy Photos Happy Red River and Santa Fe racers celebrate following the first-ever Fun Race for the Red River Ski Team, Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Red River Ski Area Chalet. Left to Right: JT Radcliff, Kingston Gist-Trujillo, Journey Burnett, Jasper Noll, Jade Madewell, Caleb Noll, Hannah Noll, Kaylie Kinsman, Gideon Hampton, Ryleigh Pockrandt. All racers were with the Red River Ski Team, except the Nolls who race with Santa Fe. Front (sitting) Carson Kinsman of the Santa Fe Ski Team

A Homecoming Brings A Brand-New Ski Team For Red River

Courtesy Photo: Red River Ski Team Coach Mark Darby

Mark Darby honed his skiing skills at Red River Ski Area — and he wanted to make sure every child growing up in Red River had the same opportunity. A former professional ski racer and Endurance auto racer, Darby says he was itching to get back to the town he loved.

That was step one. Step two was getting involved with the ski team.

“I came back in October and the first thing I asked about was the racing team,” Darby says. “Ed Hampton told me we hadn’t had a team since 2008.”

Hampton, who is the pastor at Faith Mountain Fellowship Church, as well as a longtime ski instructor and professional ski racer himself, had coached the team for eight seasons before calling it quits at the end of the 2007-2008 season. He suggested Darby talk to Red River Ski & Summer Area Owner/GM Linton Judycki.

“I got the race director job and the ski team racing job,” Darby says, adding, “I also work two days a week with the ski school.”

“I’m very excited Mark has found his way back to New Mexico and is helping restart a little bit of ski racing in the area,” Judycki says. “As a kid, the ski team was the best part of skiing. Having fun with friends while learning how to ski better… hard to beat that!”

An Oklahoma native, Darby came to skiing as did so many Red River visitors: “I had skied my whole life, but only like a week a year.” When his parents purchased the Copper King Lodge and his father went to work for the town Marshal’s office in 1978, it was life changing. “I came up over Christmas break from college in 1979 and never went back.”

Soon after Darby was fully-certified as a ski instructor and even worked as an associate coach for the Red River Ski Team in the early ‘80s. “…parents of my kids now remember me because they were on the ski team when I was coaching,” he notes.

Under Hampton’s and others’ tutelage, Darby excelled at ski racing and competed on the Southwest Pro Tour, the Peugeot and Audi Cups, and the popular local Doodah Race Series. It was while ski racing that Darby got seriously hurt in a ski accident and ended up at a spinal center in Atlanta. “I was in a wheelchair for almost four years.”

In that time, he fell in love, got married, had two children, and fell into his career as an endurance racer, most recently working as a test driver at Oracle Red Bull Racing.

Red River stayed in Darby’s heart, and he finally found his way back. Asked why, he incredulously answers, “Are you kidding me? There’s no comparison. There really isn’t. I’m not the kind of person who wants to make a lot of money. I like the Mayberry life.”

As for ski racing? Darby notes, “I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to ski. I didn’t ski for 22 years after the accident. I got back here and within three days it was like I hadn’t been off of them.”

Darby met with parents Nov. 17, 2022, and “The very next Saturday I started taking the kids out. I think only two kids on the team had even run gates before. First off, you get them all carving on the mountain. That’s how we spent the first month and a half — hip angulation, knee angulation… Your turn’s done when you get to the gate. Right now, I’ve got 14 kids ages ranging from 4 to 14 and about 9 of those are proficient in the gates.

“When Ed had it, they were state champions for three years. He even had people from Amarillo coming up.”

Darby coaches the less-experienced kids on Mondays and Fridays and adds, “I’ve been taking the fast kids out on Saturday. I’ve had two different Santa Fe parents ask me about the team. Red River Ski Area’s one of the few places in New Mexico where they’ll let you run gates.

“It’s all about having fun when they’re this little. If they stop having fun, they’re done.”

Darby describes one child who was perpetually locked in a wedge. He worked with the child, associate coach Ronnie Pockrandt worked with him… Finally, Darby says, “I worked with him all day one day.”

He had the budding racer ski one on one leg switching legs. “Within two runs on the Bump he was skiing parallel. His confidence… it was like he was on top of world.”

Support the team at the newly revived Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser featuring Brett’s Bistro’s famous 3-meat spaghetti, Wednesday, March 1, 6 pm, at the Red River Ski Area chalet.

Local Racers Excel

At First-Ever Fun Race
The newly revived Red River Ski Team competed in their very first fun race Saturday, Feb. 11, competing against youth from Santa Fe, Sipapu, Albuquerque, and Angel Fire.

“Ryleigh Pockrandt not only won the 6 and under class, but she finished 10th overall in all age classes,” Coach Mark Darby said. “Half the people at the top were going ‘Oh my god! That girl is flying! Rick at The Boot Guru decided to sponsor Little Ryleigh with new race skis and boots after seeing her performance! Nobody can keep up with her. And Atlas Judycki… He’s my other little superstar in the making.”

Drew Judycki Fun Race Final Results

Saturday, February 11, 2023
Ages 6-7:

1st-Ryleigh Pockrandt
2nd-Jasper Noll
3rd-Xandra Madewell
Ages 8-9:
1st-Caleb Noll
2nd-Enoch Madewell
3rd-Ezra Coss, RR
Ages 10-11:
1st-Nate Perlak
2nd-JT Radcliff, RR
Ages 10-11:
1st-Kaylie Kinsman
2nd-Journey Burnett
3rd-Hannah Noll
4th-Jade Madewell
Ages 12-15:

1st-Carson Kinsman
2nd-Gideon Hampton
3rd-Kingston Gist-Trujillo
Ages 12-15:

1st-Ava Renner
1st-James Bell
2nd-Gary Moreno-Ulibarri
3rd-Ava Renner