Blake Hotel at Taos Ski Valley is shining start to resort’s revitalization
By Scott Gerdes
Ernie Blake, the late co-founder of Taos Ski Valley, will not witness the rising of his namesake hotel, but there is no doubt he would be impressed.
The Blake at Taos Ski Valley rises six levels and covers 145,000 square feet. It houses 65 guest rooms and 15 suites. It is a $60 million start of a revitalization effort at the village. The hospitality gem, that on the outside reflects Blake’s — a German immigrant — European ski resort vision, stands on the site that previously housed the ski school and equipment rental, ticket office, plus two upper floor apartments, drop-off area and tunnel, post office, lost and found and locker rooms. Construction began with the demolition of that structure on April 13, 2015.
As of September 2016, the hotel was more than just a shell. Beginning at the “Spa Level,” which rests on a stone foundation, are a heated outdoor pool (with bar service and heat lamps placed throughout in the winter) and two hot tubs with access to a river walk below. Inside features include a spa and wellness center with workout equipment and a separate room for yoga and Pilates. And if calming your muscles is calling to you more than exercising them, across the way is the multiroom massage area — including couples’ relaxation and massage rooms — with steam rooms and changing facilities.
Below the Spa Level is a valet garage with space for about 80 vehicles. No need to lug ski equipment and bags up stairs any longer. Valets will take your skis, boots and poles and secure them in a special area for safe keeping. They can be retrieved any time during the day and put away again after a day on the slopes.
The main entrance, or the “Portico,” is located in the garage area and greets guests with a lounge featuring a large gas fireplace. The front desk and a business center are also right inside.
Above the spa level is the “Plaza Level” where you’ll find two more entrances, a wide, water-heated pedestrian walkway, new bridges, fewer stairs and the restaurant “192.” The latter was named for the last three tail numbers of Blake’s Cessna 170 he was flying when he spotted the area while scouting a place for a ski resort in the late 1940s. The restaurant boasts an open kitchen that allows patrons sitting at the bar to watch the cooks in action. There’s also a seating nook with a kiva-style fireplace and a small meeting space in the restaurant. The menu is tapas and flat bread pizzas, plus wine and beer. The Plaza Level also houses “Taos Sports” retail and rental equipment space, and some guest rooms are on this floor.
The fourth and fifth levels have guest rooms and the one- and two-bedroom suites. One of the two-bedroom suites was described as a “signature suite” by Dave Smith, Taos Ski Valley communications manager and tour guide.
“Ernie and Rhoda (Blake’s wife) had an apartment on this very spot,” Smith said.
The “signature suite” has a full kitchen, fireplace, balcony, washer and dryer and, naturally, spectacular views. Speaking of views, from one side of the hotel, guests will enjoy a mountain view and from the other side, a ski resort view.
In peak season during the holidays, the two bedroom suites run $1,500 per night. In comparison, the regular guest room rate in early season is $259 per night. Every room has flat panel TVs, DirecTV and high-speed WiFi.
Energy efficiency was also a major must-have. The property has 40 wells each reaching 500 feet in depth, which are used to heat and cool the building.
Steven Rose, the director of hospitality and general manager, had just one must have on his wish list — water bottle filling stations on every floor.
“What do you suppose makes up the most garbage picked up around here?” he said. “We pick up more plastic water bottles than anything. We will give every guest a free collapsable bottle that can be filled at stations on every floor. It’s something they can take home and it’s about health and sustainability.”
While all of that puts a glimmer in Rose’s eyes, in his mind the most important component of this project has been the collaboration between the architects and design team alongside local artists and art historians. The interior of the property is just as important as the exterior — maybe even more so. With a long history of property management (mostly in Colorado), Rose knew that the cultures of Northern New Mexico — Pueblo, nomadic tribes, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo — needed to be weaved together.
“We wanted to blend the cultural heritage between the Bavarian exterior and New Mexico cultures,” Rose said. “Collaboration was the key. Paying homage to all cultures is key. The process has been amazing.”
Their efforts can be seen in the softened lines and wood features, in the kiva-style fireplaces, the diverse artwork and use of Navajo blankets. One of the design themes is the “Circle of Life” corbels, as are the snowflake tile floors in every guest room bathroom and the tribal rug look of the corridor carpeting.
The furnishings aren’t cookie-cutter either. There’s a mix of different styles throughout the property from WPA-inspired to contemporary. Some furniture has been handmade by local craftspeople. Local pottery and whimsical art are also in the design details.
“This hotel can’t be imitated,” Rose said.
Even with all of the touches and attention to detail, Rose was quick to say he doesn’t think The Blake is “too luxurious.”
“It’s special, but not foo-foo,” he said. “And the treatment of guests … there is an intent of understanding what it means to be soulful and do things with care.”
By the end of October, furniture was set to go into The Blake. The planned grand opening is Feb. 1, 2017.