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The People Behind the Resort - Taos Ski Valley

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5 min read

The ski resort landscape has changed drastically over the past few decades. From growing mega resorts to a consolidating ownership structure, the debate of whether quick growth is good for the industry and culture or not is hotter than ever. There are, however, resorts sticking to their roots and preserving a strong identity to their brand and ski culture as a whole. One such resort is Taos Ski Valley.

For us here at Spyder, our relationship with Taos has provided us with the fortunate opportunity to get out and ski some of the best terrain in the U.S. We touched base with two outstanding individuals from Taos Ski Valley to get their take on just why Taos is unique.

Name:
Chris Stagg
 
Title:                                    
VP of Taos Ski Valley
 
Length of Employment:
46 years
 
How did you end up working here? What was the driving factor to start working here?
I moved West to ski when I attended University at the University of NM. Following graduation, I moved to Taos to be a Ski Instructor for a season. After that year I went to NZ to teach at Coronet Peak in Queenstown then back to Taos in the Fall. One thing led to another and 46 years later I am still here.

Why do guests find Taos to be different than other mountains do you think?

Taos is intimate in a way that other resorts are not. It is relatively small by Western standards but it skis big. I have skied Taos for 100 days or more every year for more than 40 years and I never get bored. The climate here is one of the best in the world for skiing. The mountain has a spirit and character that captures your attention. Locals here go out of their way to show new comers around. In addition, the community of Taos is thousands of years old and was settled way before there was skiing so it has a very special history and culture that draws people to it.
 
Do you have any secret life hacks you bring to your everyday job?
No hacks… but I do try and look around every day and appreciate how special this place is and how lucky I am to have made a life here. When you have an office with a window that looks down on a chair lift you should take advantage of that and spend as much time enjoying the mountain as possible.
 
What makes Taos special to you? 
It is a unique place and I am lucky to have been part of it for all these years. When I left home in 1969 to make my way in the West I never could have envisioned that I would become so intimately connected to a place like Taos.  
 
Are there any upcoming plans with Taos you can share that you are excited about?
One of the most exciting parts of my job is that I get to have a part in the fulfillment of plans that we have been working on for 20 years or more. With the new ownership and investment, we are able to make the enhancements that we wanted to do but could not do before. The new Blake Hotel opened 2 years ago in February and it has been a great success. This Spring we are beginning the next phase of the Core Village development with the construction of the Blake Residences which will include more plaza space and a skating rink in winter and a performance area in the summer.  
 
What is the iconic event at Taos guests should know about for next season?
Taos runs events year-round and many are really exciting, like the Freeride comp in March, but my favorite is the Winter Wine Festival at the beginning of February. It showcases some of the best wines in the world and the fantastic cuisine of Taos (and it always seems to bring good snow with it.) 
 
What was the best day you had working or just at the mountain in general this past year?
This was a good snow year and we had good skiing from start to finish. One of my jobs it to be a mountain guide for guests and sometimes you get to the right place at the right time and have the chance to share a special run in just the right conditions. I had that experience a couple of times this winter. 
 
 
 
Name:
Emily Manfredi
 
Title:
Retail Buyer
 
Length of Employment:
8 years

Why do guests find Taos to be different than other mountains do you think?

First and foremost, it is the terrain. We are unlike other places and there is hardly ever a lift line. Then when you get up there you find all these little nooks and crannies to play around on. I had a few friends visit last weekend and they had been out all morning and I found a few little zones with them and one of my friends was like, ‘this is a totally different mountain’. As soon as you get off of the main trails you find all of these little powder pockets. I think it is the terrain that pulls people back here. I also hear quite often in the shop that it is us that brings people back and that we are a staff that cares and share a welcoming vibe to everyone who comes here. It is home for all of us. That is why the whole b-corp ethos works so well around here.
 
What makes Taos special to you?
The vibe. Professionally I feel really excited to be here during so much fun change. It is like I found a pocket of growth in an otherwise consolidating industry. Taos Ski Valley is still independent, and it feels that way, which is incredible.
 
Are there any upcoming plans with Taos you can share that you are excited about?
We are adding additional retail doors. Summer operations, adding new mountain bike trails, we are also adding a via ferrata course. We are looking to create a whole new scene on the backside during the summer. Our owner gave us the directive years ago that he didn’t want us to partake in anything passive, if you are out here then you are out here. We are never going to put something in like a mountain roller coaster where you can just sit down, we want our guests to engage in their surroundings and be active while you are here.
 
What is the iconic event at Taos guests should know about for next season?
The freeride comp. You can just get off of chair 8 and watch these guys come down this phenomenal run. It is crazy to see what these guys can do. End of February every year. I have a goal to join the masters when I get that old.
 
What was the best day you had working or just at the mountain in general this past year?
One of the best days this season was when we were flipping the store over for winter. We had the plan and we didn’t have enough staff yet and a couple of the crew and I decided to stay late and get it done. We cranked on the music at 5 and started to really get going at 7pm and then out of nowhere the restaurant next door came over and brought us food and then all the rental cashiers and rental boot techs came by and started helping out of nowhere and the store got flipped in 2 nights because everyone pitched in and kept us going.
 
Ernie Blake, A.K.A. ‘The Janitor’, founded the resort with his wife in 1954. At the time it was a mining camp. Fast forward to the 70’s and someone made him a hat that said janitor on it. The reason being was he used to always answer the phone with, ‘hello janitor speaking’ in a thick German accent. It is the ethos that we all do everything around here that really stuck with us. I love when people buy those janitor hats in the shop and I love when I’m out and about and see people wearing them.
 
There really is something about this place. It is in your soul, I know that sounds cheesy, but it is true. I kept coming back to what I wanted to do for work after school and it really came down to the me knowing I wanted to snowboard more than 100 days a year. When you walk in the door and the locker room is full of people that have worked here for 20, 30, 40 years you realize there is something about this place that has staying power.

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