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Taos Ski Valley gets a lift, including a new hotel–The Blake

By Thomas Korosec – Special to the American-Statesman

Austinite Peter Rauch vowed he would never buy a second home at a ski area because he didn’t want to limit himself to skiing just one mountain.

Shortly afterward, he recalls, he bought a house in Taos.

“It’s just a great ski area,” he says. “You have a lot of advanced and expert terrain you don’t get at other areas, but there’s enough variety for all levels.” Rauch, 55, says he skies all over the northern New Mexico mountain with his wife and twin 14-year-old daughters. For a recent ski week with a group of ski buddies, he mostly tackled Taos’ famed steeps, which run off several ridgelines or down the front side toward a sign at the base that reads: “Don’t panic! You’re looking at only 1/30th of Taos Ski Valley. We have many easy runs, too.”

While Taos’ breathtaking terrain and no-frills approach has made it legendary among serious skiers and snowboarders, its appeal in the wider ski marketplace was waning when the Blake family – offspring of founder Ernie Blake – decided to sell the resort to New York hedge-fund owner Louis Bacon in a deal that closed in 2014. The Blakes said at the time they didn’t have the capital needed to upgrade and revive the resort.

Annual skier visits, which peaked in 1990s in the 320,000 to 340,000 range, had shrunk to 230,000, no doubt helped by Taos’ reluctance to allow snowboards — the resort finally relented in 2008. A string of light snow years tied to the drought in the West hardly helped. According to OpenSnow, Taos received only 50 percent to 75 percent of its average snowfalls for four winters in a row through 2013-2014. This winter it’s above 125 percent.

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