Taos Ski Valley, boasts some of the steepest, most challenging slopes in the Rockies. Its crown jewel, Kachina Peak stands tall at 12,481’ high and spans miles across from ridge to ridge, feathering into diverse trails of chutes, drops, rock-bands and bowls. It is both heart-pounding and breathtaking.
Discovered and built in 1955 by a Swiss-German named Ernie Blake, Taos is a cultural amalgamation of German, French, Austrian and Swiss, yet it is nestled in the heart of New Mexico amidst the Native American culture marked by red clay pueblos. A seeming throw back to the 1950s, it’s hard to imagine that Taos is home to world class skiing.
I arrived in Taos just hours before a storm dumped over 48 inches of snow in just 4 days, with four more feet expected by storm’s end. As a skier, there is really only one word to describe such conditions and as cliché as it sounds, the skiing was EPIC – waist deep powder every day in an endless amount of untracked terrain.
But extremes can be very telling and such extreme weather conditions drew back the curtain and exposed the wizard. During a week that brought the most historic snowfall in 50 years, the resort struggled to operate – lifts opened late each day, if they opened at all. Parking lots spilled over as cars trickled down beyond the base of the mountain. And one third of all slopes remained closed due to avalanche control. Something was truly amiss.
But going back to my original question of what does the one of the largest hedge funds in New York City and a backwater ski resort in New Mexico have in common? The answer is Bacon – no not breakfast meat. I am referring to Louis Bacon founder and CEO of and Moore Capital Management and new owner of Taos Ski Valley.
No matter where you are in Taos, everyone is talking about Louis Bacon. But although everyone is talking, conflicting stories tell me that no one really knows anything – it’s all very nebulous and Bacon has become somewhat of a mythical creature like Sasquatch or Chupacabra.
There is a lot of speculation about Bacon’s plans for expansion. Bacon is a known conservationist and many say that he will keep the resort as it is – natural and free from commercialization and over-development. I say conservationist-shnonservationalist, Bacon is a capitalist and guys like him are hard wired to make money.
Evidence of Bacon’s progress can already be seen with the construction of the new chairlift to Kachina Peak – which historically required a 45 minute hike along the Highline Ridge. It surprised me that a lift to Kachina has never been built before now, but it seems that the Blake family couldn’t fit the $3 million dollar bill. That’s when they decided to sell the resort to Bacon.
While at Taos, it was apparent to me that the mountain had no money. The entire operation seemed to run on a shoe string, meeting only the minimum requirements needed to keep the mountain open. I would even venture to guess that the resort was probably close to insolvency before Bacon stepped in. A capital infusion is exactly what this mountain needs.
Through further research, I was able to find more details on what Bacon’s plans are for expansion of Taos. It will cost Bacon $350 million to implement those plans and he will look to split that bill with his investors. But in the end Bacon’s vision is to turn Taos Ski Valley into a smaller version of Vail with its infamous Vail Village and untouchable real estate. So knowing what I know about Bacon and seeing the potential of what Taos can become, there is really only one more question for me to ask and it is: Where do I sign?