The Evolution of Taos Ski Valley

Ernie Blake hiking the Ridge at Taos Ski Valley

After decades of ownership by the Blake family, Taos Ski Valley (TSV) has been purchased by Louis Bacon. This change has left many intensely loyal Taos skiers wondering what is in store for their favorite mountain. While the Taos Ski Valley 2010 Development Plan details future plans there are still unanswered questions. I interviewed Gordon Briner, C.E.O. and Peter Talty, Director of Properties to find out more about the changes in store for Taos Ski Valley.

Gordon Briner began our interview with some background on the relationship between Louis Bacon and Taos Ski Valley and plans for the Kachina Peak lift.

  Gordon Briner: About seven years ago, Louis Bacon bought 1.2 acres in the base area. Peter Talty discussed development with TSV instead of a separate development by Louis Bacon. TSV and Peter Talty / Louis Bacon have been working together for approximately seven years to develop a new base plan.

  Gordon Briner: The Kachina Peak Lift (called "Main Street Lift" in the development plan) is vital to the future development plan at TSV. The Kachina Peak Lift was originally conceived by Ernie Blake over 40 years ago. The development plan at TSV is not a new idea and has evolved over many years.

  SnowCode: What brought Louis Bacon to Taos Ski Valley?
  Gordon Briner: Louis Bacon has owned land in the village of Taos Ski Valley for over 20 years and has a true fondness for TSV.

  SnowCode: Why did Louis Bacon buy a ski area instead of a winery, for example?
  Peter Talty: When Mickey Blake approached Louis Bacon about his interest to purchase Taos Ski Valley, Louis considered this a once in a lifetime opportunity to be associated with a first class ski area and supported by a team of quality professionals.

  SnowCode: What makes TSV different from other ski resorts?
  Gordon Briner: The scale of TSV and it's reputation as a spectacular mountain with terrain for everyone. TSV has fewer skier visits than some resorts which makes for a great skier experience. Guests have an intimate experience, more of a community experience at TSV.

  SnowCode: How will TSV compete with other ski areas in the region and world-wide?
  Gordon Briner: The Taos mountain experience will change, specifically with the Kachina Peak Lift which will provide 3,000 vertical feet of skiing starting above tree line. Glading projects will open up new terrain with the "Wild West" glades. The base area will be significantly upgraded to equal the on-mountain experience. Changes will include the base area physical design, revised shuttle drop-off, reduced number of staircases, improved view corridors to the mountain and an enhanced "European Village" experience.

  SnowCode: Is there a profitability timeline or expectations for TSV?
  Gordon Briner: We have to pay our own way. TSV will be given more tools to make the ski area work and generate more skier visits.

  SnowCode: What does Louis Bacon expect from Taos, financially or otherwise?
  Peter Talty: In 2012 Louis reached an agreement with Colorado Open Lands to place Tercio Ranch into a perpetual conservation easement that followed his early work with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to place Trinchera Ranch under the largest conservation easement donation ever received by FWS as well as the largest in Colorado. Those efforts coupled with the ownership of Taos Ski Valley, provide an opportunity to protect critical habitat in the southern Sangre de Cristos and establish a business model for sustainable development which can be an economic driver for northern New Mexico.

  SnowCode: What are Louis Bacon's plans for TSV?
  Peter Talty: Louis is committed to support the potential that Taos can achieve. Consistent with the recently approved USFS Mountain Development Plan and Village Base Area revitalization, Louis is committed to providing the needed capital required for these improvements.

  SnowCode: Does Climate Change affect the development plans for TSV?
  Gordon Briner: Absolutely. We will continue to use best practices. Snow-making and grooming will become a higher priority.

  SnowCode: Will TSV be a 100% renewable energy powered ski area?
  Gordon Briner: Yes, TSV currently purchases 100% energy offsets with Kit Carson Co-op. Unfortunately, the Taos Ski Valley location isn't conducive to on-site solar or wind energy production.

  SnowCode: Will TSV be developed sustainably?
  Gordon Briner: Yes. We are two months away from specifics regarding LEED certification, etc. TSV is working with Design Workshop, Zehren and Associates on the base area development.

Here at the SnowCode we are encouraged to hear about Louis Bacon's focus on the environment and conservation. We look forward to finding out more about the plans for sustainable development at Taos Ski Valley.

More Info: - Blake Family Enters Into Agreement With Conservationist Who Will Acquire Taos Ski Valley

Forbes - Hedge Fund Giant Louis Bacon's Bold Mission To Save The American West

Taos News - What is a ‘billionaire conservationist’ anyway?

SnowCode - TSV Expansion Approved - Taos Ski Valley Green Initiatives

Trinchera Blanca Foundation

Design Workshop

Zehren and Associates