Taos Ski Valley purchaser Louis Bacon is founder and CEO of Moore Capital Management, a hedge fund company.

He is an avid conservationist, having donated conservation easements on more than 100,000 acres in Colorado to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to Forbes magazine website, Bacon is number 371 of the 400 richest people in America, with a net worth of $1.4 billion as of September 2013.

Bacon said he got his start in investing with a $25,000 inheritance from his mother, who died when he was young.

Originally from North Carolina, he has a Bachelor of Arts in science from Middlebury College in Vermont, and an Master of Business Administration from Columbia University.

He said he learned to ski when he was a student at Middlebury College. He had a season pass at Mad River Glen in Vermont. Bacon said he especially likes Taos Ski Valley, because it reminds him of Mad River.

His first foray into conservation projects was when he gave the development rights of an island off the coast of New York to the Nature Conservancy.

He said that at that point he realized how important it was for communities to “have open space for sanity.”

In 2007, he purchased the Trinchera Ranch in southeastern Colorado from the Forbes family for $175 million. Forbes magazine said that was the largest residential sale in the U.S. up to that time.

Forbes magazine said that after purchasing the Trinchera, he found that Tri-State Generation and Transmission and Xcel Energy planned to build a power line across the pristine land of the ranch. He caused the energy companies to back down from their plans.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service now holds a conservation easement on the Trinchera Ranch.

Bacon first bought property at Taos Ski Valley in 1996. His land is contiguous to the U.S. Forest Service boundary near the El Funko ski run, above the Bavarian restaurant.

He also owns property to the north of the lift ticket offices at TSV, formerly belonging to Tony Bryan and the Thunderbird Chalet.

He said he began working with Mickey Blake on the village master plan. “It was he who asked us to see if we were interested in taking over the reins of the ski area. At first I was dismissive.”

But Bacon said that TSV reminded him of Mad River Glen. “I realized that we could do it, that we were already invested in the base area.”

He said he realizes it is a “burden” to run a ski area. Bacon has not invested in any other similar ventures. “This is kind of a first, not a business I was hankering toward.”

Bacon said he realizes Taos is a special place.

He plans to make improvements to the area, but changes will start slowly, with Blake being a “senior member of the team.” Bacon will lean on Blake for advice about “local sympathies.”

Plans are not to over commercialize TSV. He said the challenge will be to safeguard “special things” at the ski area: “It will be a balancing act.”

He said he hopes a new lift to the top of Kachina Peak “will make it easier for those older legs to make it.” Bacon is in his mid 50s.

Bacon said that climate change concerns him, although he is hoping that Taos will benefit from more cold, snowy winters similar to this one.

Having “loved spending time in and around the area,” he hopes to make TSV an economic driver for the region.

“TSV is an iconic ski area both because of its expansive mountain terrain and the first-class team of management,” he said.

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N_NewMexican
N_NewMexican

Great for the family. I hear all the time that things at TSV are aged and old, so this gives the ski area some cash to be able to make improvements that so many people want. This will impact the whole area, not just TSV. If we can bring in more people to ski in Taos, the area economy is improved. Other ski areas around TSV will see a boost too as people try the various areas around us.

When I was young, we used to ski up in Colorado, and although we would stay at one resort in Copper Mountain, we would always ski at least one day in Breckenridge, Keystone, and A-basin. If we could create an environment like that here, everyone in the area would see a benefit.

Of course there are always those that never want to see change, but those aren't the people tasked with improving a beautiful area with minimal cash.

Good job on the negotiations and we all look forward to seeing those improvements. All we can ask is that you don't forget us locals as the area grows.

fueradetaos
fueradetaos

There will always be apprehension when a local institution like Taos Ski Valley changes ownership. There are no other institutions or monuments in Taos of greater significance that could change hands due to their unique status.

I will be hopeful and look for positive changes from this transaction. Even with new ownership there will be unprecedented challenges for Taos Ski Valley. The success of this new enterprise, like so many other things in Taos, will depend like never before on developments beyond Taos County. National economic trends and, more importantly, state-level decisions and efforts will be more critical than ever before to Taos Ski Valley.

On the national front, skiing—though I have no statistics before me to make this observation—will face many challenges. This is a cash-intensive sport which gets more expensive to practice each year. Skiing is hardly alone. Hobbies with a high initial investment and high transactional costs to carry-out will face greater challenges in the future in this country. RVs, motorcycling, off-roading, golfing, foreign travel, snowmobiling, and skiing: these are some of the activities that a cash-strapped population will find harder to enjoy than in generations past. Perhaps for these reasons it is a positive step that Taos Ski Valley may now find greater financial resources to continue. These greater financial resources may be needed just to maintain the status quo in what will be a more exclusive sport in the future.

The economic headwinds that Taos Ski Valley will face, even with its new ownership, will require appropriate economic marketing efforts at the state level. New Mexico lacks energetic economic promotion at the state level. New Mexico seems more cut off from, rather than more integrated to, the rest of the country each year. Albuquerque stands to lose valuable flights with Southwest’s impending move out of the Sunport as a mini-hub. New Mexico is at risk to lose its valuable Amtrak link. Taos has worse ground transportation links to destinations in and out of the state than it did 30-40 years ago. The 120 mile drive to Albuquerque has begun to dissuade even die-hard, native-born New Mexicans from making frequent trips home; getting up at 6:00 am the next day to go to TSV more fatiguing still.

The list of challenges for promotion and growth of Taos Ski Valley are long. There are no significant marketing efforts for the state on a national level. This is unfortunate since the resort is well-known world-wide. If anything Taos Ski Valley carries a greater share of the burden of promoting New Mexico than it ever has before. Santa Fe and the Town of Taos also share this disproportionate burden.

I hope that this change of ownership at Taos Ski Valley succeeds on the intents of the new ownership. I also hope that this significant change for one of the state’s most significant assets focuses minds at the state and local level that New Mexico has grown more isolated in some ways. It is now that the state needs to promote itself and find ways to gain more tourist-related investments. Taos could be better positioned than before, as travel to places like Europe has undoubtedly become cost prohibitive for many Americans. Mexico, despite unprecedented public safety challenges in the past 6-7 years, has demonstrated its ability to gain tourism in the recent past. New Mexico seems to continue to lose ground where it should be gaining.

Taos Ski Valley will need supporting tourist amenities, and logistical facilitation for tourist arrivals. At present things seem to be moving in the opposite directions. Opportunities and challenges lie ahead for Taos Ski Valley, Taos County, and for the state of New Mexico. Let us hope for the right moves to unfold in the coming years.

PB
PB

A lift to the top of Kachina Peak....so much for keeping the special things special at TSV.

Linda Bence
Linda Bence

Bear in mind that the sale of the ski valley and proposed upgrades including a new hotel will do nothing to improve the business conditions in the downtown of Taos. town.

Tourists who come to ski want to be near the action. They want to be first on the lifts and last down in the afternoon but they may wish to extend their lunch break to include a small break or rest. That is easy if one's lodging is in the valley but not if one is downtown. The shopping conditions won't change. Those who ski won't find stores in the town open when they arrive very late in the afternoon. This sale makes it even more important to make changes in the merchandising and perhaps hours in the town. No doubt the new hotel will also include new opportunities for merchandising, as well as dining, further limiting the need to go to the downtown.