‘I see great potential for Taos’
A resort industry veteran has been named the new CEO of Taos Ski Valley (TSV).
David Norden took the reins from Gordon Briner last July. Briner transitioned to COO and oversees TSV’s revenue departments, including helping to plan expanded summer programming.
TSV is classic mountain embarking on a path to revamp itself in order to survive in the modern ski industry. It shouldn’t be surprising that the ski valley’s new ownership has brought in Norden — the man who ushered in a new era at Stowe, Vermont — to take the helm as CEO of TSV. Norden was hired by Stowe owner AIG in 2003 to lead the new development there — the bulk of it known as Spruce Peak.
Alongside his day job with Spruce Peak and then with later projects, Norden also got involved with community causes while in Stowe. He served as chair of the Stowe Land Trust until it was announced he was coming to Taos.
“He’s a real visionary,” said Caitrin Maloney, the trust’s executive director, in a Taos News story by J.R. Logan. “He’s passionate about land conservation and he’s been a mentor to me.”
Like Taos, Maloney added that Stowe is protective of its agricultural heritage and open space. She said Norden was able to weigh the conservationist spirit with the demands of creating a functioning economy.
“I look forward to the challenge of leading the resort into the future,” Norden expressed in a press release. “It is an incredibly exciting time to be here as we celebrate and hold tight to what makes Taos Ski Valley unique, while also introducing substantial improvements and an environmental ethic that will enhance the visitor experience. My family and I are very much looking forward to being part of the Taos community.”
There’s also some overlap between Norden and TSV owner Louis Bacon.
Bacon is a major benefactor of the Audubon Society, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the conservation organization through his charitable foundation. In addition, Bacon was awarded the prestigious Audubon Medal in 2012 “in recognition of his significant and diverse efforts to preserve and protect key natural ecosystems.”
Bacon is often referred to as a “billionaire conservationist” for his efforts to protect landscape-scale swaths of open space. The conservationist mentality has been part of the mantra at TSV since Bacon bought it. The resort consistently emphasizes sustainable practices as an integral part of the redevelopment.
Norden will oversee all existing TSV resort operations including The Blake, a new slope-side hotel, which is slated to open early 2017.
“Taos Ski Valley is evolving into a multi-season resort destination, and as such the executive responsibilities are expanding,” said TSV board member Peter Talty. “David brings superb industry expertise to the ski valley, which will be critical as we prepare for the launch of The Blake Hotel this winter and expand our on-mountain opportunities.”
Norden began his career in the ski industry working for the consulting firm SE Group. He was previously the vice president of Spruce Peak Realty of the AIG Global Real Estate Investment Corp. and a project manager at Hines Resorts.
Starting in the mid-2000s, Stowe’s owners poured hundreds of millions of dollars into an on- and off-mountain makeover meant to make the resort more attractive to visitors lured by better amenities elsewhere.
For the last nine years, Norden worked as the founder and president of Owls Head Partners, an international resort development management company. He provided planning and development services for numerous resort communities, including projects at TSV.
“I am thrilled to join the famed Taos Ski Valley, a destination that is celebrated for its extraordinary ski terrain, distinctive personality and cultural mystique,” Norden stated.
Being that Vermont and New Mexico are completely different terrains and come from different cultural heritages, Norden stressed to The Taos News that change at Taos doesn’t necessarily mean it will lose its character.
“I see great potential for Taos, but I don’t see it becoming a mega-resort. I don’t see Taos becoming a glitzy resort,” Norden said.
Instead, he thinks Taos can play off its strong suits — namely its reputation as a welcoming, laid-back resort with great terrain — by adding some modern comforts. “People talk about Taos like everybody is family,” Norden said. “We don’t want to lose that.”
The most obvious enhancement is The Blake at Taos Ski Valley. Other key improvements include:
•Significantly better mobile phone coverage in the valley and on the mountain
•Expanded glades in the Wild West area, and on Ernie’s Run and the North American run
•Additional snowmaking for improved early season conditions
•A variety of new ski school options at the Ernie Blake Snowsports School including telemark, steeps and bumps, racing specialty clinics and women-only
— Staff report