By the time she got to the scenic overlook where boyfriend Mike was waiting, a spot wiped clean on a fallen tree, Kimberly Pursley was frustrated, she was tired, and she was perhaps a little miffed at Mike for taking her on such a long trek her first day on skis.
Mike handed Kimberly a couple bottles of wine, then while she was distracted pouring the wine, he reached into his backpack for the ring. “I hauled Kimberly out there and proposed to her.”
At this Kim laughs and adds, “I fell in a snow bank on the way up.… I earned that engagement ring, let me tell you!”
The duo were students at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, when Mike decided it was time to introduce Kimberly to a place he’d grown to love. Back when the family lived in Denver, Mike had learned to downhill ski at age 3 and spent quite a bit of time on the slopes at Loveland before they moved to San Antonio, Texas, when he was 6.
“My family discovered Red River in the mid-’80s when I was in high school. We would come up during mid-winter break and we kind of fell in love with this place because it is halfway between San Antonio and Denver where we still have family.”
Thanks to a knee injury one winter, Mike says he discovered Nordic skiing at Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski & Snowshoe Area just outside Red River. Later, when he fell in love, he says, “I wanted to share Enchanted Forest with Kimberly.”
So he proposed, she accepted, then, like so many young men, he went to work. Fast forward a few years: Mike has been working as a financial planning supervisor, Kim as a schoolteacher. They have two children and, after 7 years at that job, Mike has finally brought his new family up for a vacation in January 2004.
By his own admission, Mike says, “I was making great money” — enough that he was planning an early retirement, dreaming he might one day get to live in the mountains. (In addition to spending as much time as possible on the slopes, Mike had also spent a summer working at Philmont Scout Ranch outside Cimarron.)
‘If you don’t take the job, I’ll kill you …’
“I was just asking what it took to be a ski patrol and Fred Tibbetts (ski patrol director at Red River Ski Area) offered me a job. I said I’d have to ask the boss and Kimberly said, ‘If you don’t take the job, I’ll kill you because you’re killing yourself.’”
Fast forward a few more years: Mike works as a ski patrol winters and as backcountry manager at Philmont summers. Kimberly teaches at Red River Valley Charter School. “I’ve taught 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th grades.”
Last year, thanks to a special program offered to Red River students, Kimberly and children Aubrey, 12, and William, 8, got to cross country ski at Enchanted Forest at least once a week.
“I fell in love with cross country skiing,” Kimberly says. “For me the difference between cross country and downhill is you don’t have to have that expert level to enjoy it — that and snowshoeing. The beauty doesn’t go by too fast!”
For William, though, speed is exactly the point. “It’s really fun and I like that big place (“Face Flop Drop” Aubrey interjects) where you can go really, really fast and I like the ski tracks. I like to go really fast on the tracks.”
Big sis Aubrey calls cross-country skiing “very enjoyable. I like the exercise and especially going downhill fast. I like getting out on the trails because you can explore new trails you’ve never been before.”
Because of his job, Mike spends most days on the downhill slopes, but on days off he’ll often hit the trails with his family. “Cross country skiing is much more contemplative. You get a stronger connection to nature and you have that sense of solitude.”
Note: This is a reprint of an article by Ellen Miller-Goins that appeared in the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle’s 2008 Winter Land & Home magazine. Mike Ritterhouse was General Manager at Enchanted Forest for many years, Kimberly is now the director at Red River Valley Charter School, daughter Aubrey is married and has given Mike and Kimberly their first grandchild, Grayson, and son William lives and works in Colorado Springs.