Red River Ski Area’s Linton Judycki continues his father’s legacy
In 2007, 19-year-old Red River native Linton Judycki was hard at work training to make the US Ski Team — all with the love and support of his father Drew, owner of Red River Ski Area. One year later, Drew passed away prematurely, and Linton made the decision to keep his father’s legacy alive, with the support of his uncle Denny.
Denny stepped in as General Manager and President of RRSA for 11 years while Linton learned the business almost from the ground up, serving as Assistant to the General Manager (GM) and the Director of Skier Operations. In 2018, Linton assumed the role of GM and President of the Board of Directors, and, sadly, Denny passed away a year later.
Four years later the now-seasoned owner has matured into his role.
“Obviously growing up here and doing the last 14 years without my dad and the last 4 years without my uncle, I know the ski industry really well,” Linton said, noting a global pandemic added some new challenges in recent years. “Working through COVID and the effects afterwards of having to control large crowds with minimal employees. Fortunately, we have a pretty good group of loyal people on our team. We kept a core group, people in management, plus a group who transfers around [to different jobs in the winters and summers]. It’s a group of people who like to work here, we’re close, we like each other, we work well together… it’s really nice.”
Drew’s guiding principle was simple — great skiing always comes first, which meant expanding snowmaking year after year in response to global warming — and customer demand for better and better conditions. “That’s where we’ve put our efforts,” Drew said in a 2004 interview, “and it’s proven to be the right decision… We consistently have great skiing.”
Linton holds onto that belief. “Most definitely I hang onto the snowmaking philosophy of my dad’s. We constantly are improving our snowmaking and grooming operations.”
This year is no exception: Red River Ski & Summer Area’s website boasts the addition of “over seven new snow guns and upgraded water lines to further expand upon the most powerful snowmaking in the state.”
For the uninitiated, modern snowmaking, when made properly, is as good as natural snow. Thanks to decades of technical and scientific improvements, machine-made snow lasts longer, holds its shape better, is easier to groom, and is more economical to produce. The final step is grooming the snow to make it fluffy and skiable. Red River Ski & Summer Area has that aspect well-covered, too, by constantly upgrading its grooming equipment. This year, the ski area is adding a new PistenBully groomer, which, according to Linton, features “the latest and greatest, when it comes to technology. “
He added that he does depart from his father in key ways. “Dad was old school, not into technology. We’ve upgraded everything from chairlift to snowmaking to ticketing. We use RFIID (radio-frequency identification) cards so now people can ski through a gate that reads their card [to load the lift.]”
The result, Linton said, is now customers don’t have to fish out their lift ticket and a lift operator doesn’t have to check it. “That has been a huge thing. I think our longest lift line was 7 minutes last year. This year is our second year and it’s showing.”
The ski area has also implemented a new e-commerce system, Linton said. “You go to a pickup box with your QR codes and pick up all your tickets for your whole family, so a family can buy their whole entire vacation online.”
This streamlines operations — with pre-booking for everything from lift tickets to rentals, to lessons to evening tubing — the result is shorter waits and fewer lines.
In its 14 years since Drew’s passing, Red River Ski & Summer Area has made numerous improvements: Two new chair lifts, remodeling The Grill at the Lift House, new “moving carpet lifts,” more and better terrain parks, and a spate of new summer activities that include mountain tubing, the Pioneer Flyer seated zipline, and the Hidden Treasures Ropes Course/ Zip Line.
RRSA will also continue Drew’s legacy of fostering new skiers with its multiple-week, on-snow lesson and skiing programs for students in Red River, Questa, and Sierra Blanca in Fort Garland — starting mid-January.
This winter the mountain is also supporting the revival of the Red River Ski Team. “The team kind of fell away,” Linton said. “My generation was kind of the last big group. Now we’ve got enough little kids coming up, so Mark Darby, who was a ski instructor here in the ’80s, was like, “Hey! I want to start a ski team.” Former long-time coach Ed Hampton has helped a bunch. We have scheduled a Fun Race sometime in January for teams in Red River, Santa Fe and Taos.”
Another legacy Linton is already continuing? Putting his own children on skis as soon as they are ready. Drew’s father had him and brother Denny on skis as soon as they could walk. Linton learned to ski at 2-years-old and began racing at 5. Linton’s son Atlas, now 4, was around 10 months when he got on skis, Linton said. “It was pretty cool. He could walk around in his ski boots! We skied all the silver chair last year when he was three.”
Little sister Indy, 18 months, has already “skied a couple of little runs this season.”
In the end, Linton’s life is exactly what his father wanted for himself. In an interview from many years ago, Drew said, “This is the only thing I ever wanted to do – and I’m real fortunate to be able to do it.”
Linton agrees, noting simply, “I love skiing.”