TAOS SKI VALLEY READY FOR NEW MILLENIUM
By: E.J. Webber | June 28, 2015
Billionaire Conservationist Louis Bacon brings new life to one-of-a-kind ski area of northern New Mexico.
It must have come as quite a surprise in 2013 for people in Taos and Taos Ski Valley that there was to be a change in ownership for the first time since the Blake family, and its founder Ernie and Rhoda Blake, began the Taos Ski Valley (TSV) operation in 1954. When hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon bought the northern New Mexico location from them, it must have surprised many in the ski world as well.
At the time, the town was quaint and a place that for decades always drew the same dedicated ski families. Bacon’s vision saw the value of a facelift for the area - as well as a new ski lift - the iconic Kachina Peak lift that rises today for the first time allowing skiers to travel vertically 1,100 feet in five minutes to a top elevation of 12,450 feet. The lift-served vertical drop now is more than 3,000 vertical feet. That is “radical” indeed and Bacon made it happen.
Ernie Blake always favored a chair lift to the top of Kachina Peak and dreamed of a European style spectacular resort above tree line with all the amenities for lovers of snow sports. The new lift and the infusion of Bacon capital into other projects will allow skiers and boarders coming from lower altitudes to enjoy the total mountain. It is easy to see that TSV will become one of the most exceptional in bounds ski areas in America.
“I have owned property in Taos Ski Valley for over 20 years. The area is stunningly beautiful, as well as culturally and historically rich. As for the skiing, I think it provides some of the most varied terrain in the country, and it has easy access to steep off-piste chutes and tree runs.” The take-away from that comment by Bacon, is that he is a true-blue skier and because of his planned improvements and conservationist track record, Taos Ski Valley is a place to be reckoned with and a serious game-changer in the recreation world.
Sources have reported that the economic analysis by Vermont based Doug Kennedy Advisors, says current planning and projections show $351 million will be spent on construction at the Ski Valley from now until 2024. That figure includes $43.9 million for public improvements, $23.5 million in recreation facilities, $238.8 million in real estate improvements done by the resort, and another $45 million in real estate completed by other parties.
A proposed tax district – a joint effort by the resort and the village of TSV - a district that would not increase taxes, but instead would divert future tax revenue to pay for public works and infrastructure improvements, are considered essential to support an overall expansion plan. Gordon Briner, CEO of Taos Ski Valley, Inc. said, “The tax district would help speed up redevelopment. A master plan including a lot of proposed projects between the village and the resort is now possible with the sale to Bacon. Things are happening now that we’ve been hoping would take place for years.”
The facelift not only stops at the resort and village. Bacon has been working with the local community to have the airport become a more elite jetport and has put forward three major objectives for Taos Ski Valley: to revitalize the core village, to retain the historic appeal of the iconic ski valley, and to earn a return on the effort. “Any two of these are somewhat straightforward,” says Bacon. “The challenge is accomplishing all three.”
There isn’t anyone better than Louis Bacon to undertake an investment and infusion of new life – the future of the valley depends on both change and preservation in order to keep its charm as one great village; a man who has appreciated TSV and the great outdoors for many years, will make it happen.