Changes are a-happenin’
By Andy Dennison
New owners often make a splash right away, and the new hotel, The Blake at Taos Ski Valley, fills that bill quite adequately.
But hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, who bought Taos Ski Valley in 2013, knew that there was much more to be done in order to bring the resort into the 21st century. True, he invested some $60 million in the hotel, but he also committed much of his $395 million capital investment in other areas beyond the spotlight of The Blake.
Anyone who ventured up the Ski Valley Road during the past two summers knows that things are a-happenin’ at the old ski area. Traffic delays, heavy equipment traffic, lots of diggin’ and fillin’ and piles of materials signal that Bacon is serious about his new ski and snowboard resort.
So when you find WiFi on more parts of mountain, notice that the lifts don’t stop as much as before, or get clear phone reception, tip your helmet to all the work that has been done in the past couple of summers with more to come.
In the ground
All that trenching and paving on State Road 150 has brought modern communications to Taos Ski Valley. Fiber optic lines now run all the way to the backside of the Phoenix area, vastly improving reception for cell phone, internet and telecom systems.
“Previously, there were eight — yes, only eight — land lines at the ski valley,” said Communications Manager Dave Smith. “Now, there are 46. And the fiber optic has capacity for much, much more than that.”
WiFi can now be found at more and more locations around the mountain, and plans are for total coverage soon. As for phone service, plans include new cell towers at the base of Lift No. 4 and top of Lift No. 7A.
“It’s important that we accommodate social media on the mountain,” said Smith. “People really want to take a selfie and send it out instantly to their friends. That gives Taos Ski Valley more exposure, which is always good.”
Also brought up from town were higher-capacity electric lines. Buried underground, the new lines will replace the overhead power lines that wind up the access road. Both will provide reliable power to the village and the lifts, and reduce fire potential from downed power lines.
And, natural gas has reached the base area. Hookups will begin shortly to individual buildings so that, eventually, the regular deliveries by propane trucks will become a thing of the past.
On the mountain
Crews continue to upgrade snowmaking capabilities all over the mountain. As they trenched the Rubezahl return trail for fiber optic, they also reworked the pressurized line that brings water to the snowmaking nozzles on the back side. Other line improvements have been made on both front and back, said Smith.
Chainsaws howled most of this summer as crews put more space into some of the resort’s tightest glades. Opened a couple of seasons ago, Wild West on the western border above Lift No. 8 got thinned. On the front side, both North American and Ernie’s will be wider open this season as these steep, forested runs lost some trees. Also in the woods, crews took to widening portions of Longhorn.
“Not only does this work make skiing and riding in there more pleasurable, it also helps make a healthier forest and reduces fire danger,” said Smith.
For several years, trail managers have been expanding the use of winched snowcats for grooming the steeper slopes. So, this coming year, expect fewer bumps as winch cats will spend more time on Kachina’s Main Street (with sufficient snow depth), and continue to smooth out Hunsiker Bowl, Moe’s and the bottom portion of West Basin.
“All these projects are aimed at improving the experience that our guests have at Taos Ski Valley,” said Smith. “And, stay tuned; There’s much more in the works for the coming seasons.”