Taos Ski Valley: On Owners and Conservation

By Savannah Stephens

Many of us here at J-term took more than one class. Of course, right now you’re thinking, “TWO CLASSES? In 10 days? How is this possible?!” Well, my friends, enter one of SMU’s greatest classes: Mountain Sports.

Yes, not only have I been traversing ’round Taos checking out super cool non-profits, but I have also skied in Taos Ski Valley. And yes, you have permission to be jealous.

In Taos Ski Valley (TSV) I talked to great ski instructors about the recent TSV headlines. In a surprising change of ownership, TSV has been bought by Louis Bacon, a man with many descriptors– billionaire, recluse, outdoorsman, and perhaps most important to Taos, conservationist. But, Bacon still has a lot to prove to skeptical Taoseños (Taos locals). Are his conservation chops up to their standards? At least Mr. Bacon looks the part.

Louis Bacon, new owner of the Taos Ski Valley

Louis Bacon, new owner of the Taos Ski Valley. Photo credit: Forbes.com

Bacon’s recent purchase is significant to Taoseños, particularly with regard to his conservation of the much revered mountain region. According to a New York Times article, “[TSV] has been in family hands since Ernie Blake opened it in 1954. Mr. Blake, a German immigrant who served on George S. Patton’s intelligence staff during the World War II, was inducted into the United States Ski Hall of Fame in 1987, two years before he died.” With the memory of Mr. Blake still highly respected, it will be important to continue his vision of conservation and sustainable building methods.

Many on the mountain see this purchase as a new start for the valley. In fact, locals are optimistic about the new ski lift, planned for completion this summer. It stands to connect many to new terrain only currently accessible by a 30-minute hike.

Organizations like Renewable Taos, whose mission is to make the Taos area sustainable by 2020, have a vested interest in enveloping small hamlets like the ski valley into their cause as well. Luckily, the valley is already on board.  TSV endorses Sustainable Slopes – The Environmental Charter for Ski Areas that is intended to raise the collective environmental performance of the ski industry. TSV currently ranks midway among western USA ski resorts in measures of environmental and sustainability factors including renewable energy.  Renewable Taos and others are urging TSV to incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency into its future development plans towards a higher ranking in years to come.

This hope has potential. Bacon has a substantial record for environmentally responsible projects. According to the Taos News:

“The man bought a 175,000 acre ranch just north of the Colorado border, then took on two wholesale power suppliers who proposed to build a transmission line across the property. Bacon waged a public relations war against the plan (a war he says costs him millions), and defeated the proposal. To seal the deal, he donated a conservation easement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making it nearly impossible to develop any part of the property.”

Recently, Bacon organized a Bipartisan PAC with a former Colorado Senator, Ken Salazar, aimed at preservation, leading many to believe Bacon will carry on this tradition to TSV.

Bacon obviously has much to do, but he has asked for patience and time to strike the balance between the quaintness enjoy with the TSV and the improvements planned, according to the Taos News. For the locals and for Bacon, it will be interesting to see what that balance eventually becomes.

As for me, I can’t wait to see how the mountain changes because I will definitely be back. And, I would be remiss without a shutout to my instructors, Todd, Randy, and Terry Sue for a great time. And, perhaps more importantly, getting me off the mountain in one piece. And, for showing me amazing views like this. Its no wonder so many are so passionate about conservation at the Taos Ski Valley.

Taos Ski Valley, at the top of the mountain.

Taos Ski Valley, at the top of the mountain.

Kachina Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.

Kachina Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.

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About savvystephens

A history major trying to find out what the lessons of life are.
This entry was posted in Environmental Communication, SMU in Taos and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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