‘Better not bigger’: Why Taos Ski Valley now
By Cindy Brown
At exhilarating, breath-taking Taos Ski Valley, skiers and boarders can experience legendary terrain, a mix of deep cultural roots and also get up the mountain … fast.
When guests return to Taos Ski Valley this winter, they will find some major renovations that have changed the resort for the better. Building on three years of updates and new construction, this summer, a new high-speed quad lift was installed at the base area and penthouses were added to The Blake. Up higher in the Kachina Basin, the Phoenix Grill and The Bavarian Restaurant both received a major overhaul. On the Plaza, Rhoda’s got a facelift, too, as did the Whistlestop Café at the base of Lift No. 6 (close to Lift No. 2).
These improvements complement recent changes, such as the creation of a new state-of-the-art Children’s Center. Other welcome improvements include renovated restrooms, new lockers and more snow-making equipment.
The changes help burnish the reputation of TSV as a place that respects its roots and at the same time is moving forward with updated technology. TSV has a well-deserved reputation as a steep mountain with some thrilling runs, but it is also enhancing the experience for new skiers with additions like that of a “gondolita” to connect the beginner’s area with the base. As a bonus, there’s a new Donut Shack at the top of the gondolita.
More skiers and boarders are likely to make the trip to Taos this year because for the first time, the Ikon Pass includes Taos Ski Valley.
This summer, the old Lift 1 was dismantled by helicopter creating quite the spectacle at the base area. For a full day, the helicopter removed the old infrastructure. The next day, the helicopter carried buckets of concrete to pour footers for the new lift towers.
“It’s a little sad to see the last towers pulled out. Chair 1 had been there since 1989,” said Daniel Aguilar, who has worked for the resort for more than 30 years and was watching the process. “We are ready for the new wave. We are all excited about this new detachable chair that is going to serve our guests well.”
He explains that with the new lift, when a chair comes to the top or bottom terminal, it detaches from the cable, so loading and unloading is slower. When skiers are loaded, the chair attaches to the cable and begins moving at much higher speed. “That is what most of our neighboring ski areas in Colorado have gone to. I don’t think it is the last detachable lift we are going to see in Taos, but is definitely the first,” said Aguilar. “This will help keep things moving, reducing the already short lift lines even more.”
The new lift will get skiers up the mountain faster and higher than before. “The new high-speed quad will not only allow guests to make it up Lift 1 in under five minutes, but it also goes farther up the mountain than the old Lift 1. The top terminal is in the same location that the old Lift 5 terminal, which will provide a great flow for people of all ability levels to get onto the mountain with a variety of terrain options available to them,” says Dash Hegeman, Taos Ski Valley marketing manager.
Following 30 years of a $24 million development plan for the Taos Regional Airport, the town of Taos announced in October that the airport begins flight service to and from Dallas-Love Field and Austin-Bergstrom International Airports.
Taos Air will begin flying customers Dec. 20, just in time for the 2018-19 ski season. One of the partners in getting the air services, Taos Ski Valley, purchased a 30-seat passenger Dornier 328 jet and has also entered into a management agreement with Ultimate Jet Charters to fly the plane in and out of Taos for the one hour, 48-minute flights.
Taos Ski Valley will offer complimentary ground shuttle rides to and from The Blake at Taos Ski Valley for those using Taos Air.
Flights will continue from December 2018 to March of 2019 and will leave once a day to and from each destination every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday or holiday Monday. Taos Air is comparably priced to traditional commercial airlines. Tickets can be purchased through skitaos.com/taos-air or by calling 833-359-8267 (FLYTAOS).
The Ikon Pass offers an impressive list of 36 resorts in the U.S. and Canada. For the first time, Taos Ski Valley is among the Rocky Mountain destinations and joins resorts, such as Aspen-Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park and Copper Mountain in Colorado. “We are honored to be a partner on the Ikon Pass,” says Hegeman. “The Ikon Pass is made up of an incredible selection of mountains, and we feel that Taos adds an independent and culturally unique experience that its passholders will gravitate to. We are the first and, to date, the only B Corp ski resort (a measurement of the company’s social and environmental performance) and this ethos we feel will bring people to Taos.”
Up the hill there are changes happening, too. The Bavarian Restaurant that was acquired by Taos Ski Valley in 2014 has undergone a substantial renovation. “The Bavarian is such a unique gem, and we are thrilled that it is part of what Taos Ski Valley has to offer,” says Hegeman. The renovations will provide additional seating capacity as well as some more efficiency in the kitchen space. The larger deck will make for an even better outdoor dining experience in all seasons.
The Phoenix is also getting a complete overhaul so that it is a destination during the winter and summer, taking advantage of the mountain views. The goal is to create a space that can host weddings and banquets in the summertime as well as serving hungry people during the ski season.
All the upgrades to Taos Ski Valley are done in a way that respects the long history of the resort since it was established by Ernie and Rhoda Blake in 1954. While adding to the local economy, the resort is also focused on reducing its environmental impact, improving the recycling program and reducing food waste. Over the summer, Taos Ski Valley worked with U.S. Forest Service and Nature Conservancy to develop more sustainable forest and river ecosystems.
“Taos Ski Valley is undergoing a very impressive renovation endeavor. The projects that are taking place right now are massive and plentiful, but we want people to know that our goal is truly to become better, not bigger. We have a very special, independent ski resort and those are becoming fewer and fewer by the year. We are lucky that our ownership is committed to the vision that Ernie Blake had for this resort and is willing to invest in the infrastructure that is needed to maximize the potential of Taos Ski Valley. It’s a very exciting time for Taos Ski Valley, the village and the town of Taos,” summarizes Hegeman.
For more information
Opening day is Nov. 22, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Find out more about what’s happening at skitaos.com. More information on the Ikon pass can be found at ikonpass.com.