Anticipation has been building, but the wait is officially over and the anticipation has been rewarded.
The opening of The Blake hotel at Taos Ski Valley has been on the radar among locals, informed visitors and everyone involved with the development and construction of the long-awaited centerpiece at Northern New Mexico’s premier ski resort. Members of the media were invited for a sneak peek of the 80-room, 145,000-square-foot, $60 million labor of love Jan. 28. The official grand opening was Feb. 1.
The traditional alpine design of the building stands out and blends in at the same time — it is striking without being over the top. It’s once you enter the lobby that you truly get the sense of how deliberate the melding of its namesakes (co-founders Ernie and Rhoda Blake) and Native North American, Hispanic and European cultures went into its interior design. The curation of the artwork, architectural details and furniture is consistent, appropriate and impressive. From old pottery to historic photographs to textiles, the hallways, rooms and gathering spots are like a time capsule. It is truly a celebration of the Taos melting pot and adheres to our common environmentally friendly mindset and that of conservationist owner Louis Bacon, who bought the resort in 2013 (the hotel is Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design — LEED — certified).
There is no mistaking the history lesson held within. And that’s the point, according to owner and founder Jet Zarkadas and associate designer Jennifer Wilson of the Santa Fe firm Los Griegos Studio, who have been working on the project for two years. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) period, in particular, is showcased front and center throughout the property that sits at the base of the mountain on the former site of a building that housed the ski school, equipment rental place, ticket office, post office and locker rooms.
“That’s when cultural influences really came together in the area,” Wilson said of the WPA influence. Collaborating with a design team from Colorado, Los Griegos is responsible for adding the New Mexico flair.
Zarkadas and Wilson said their work, however, isn’t quite finished — more furniture and rugs will be added over time. It’s still a work in progress, they said.
They’ve certainly started on the right foot. Repeated themes include New Mexico pueblo textile designs, such as zigzags, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, blocky furniture and Taos Pueblo. The interior designers did their research and reached out to a number of local artists, craftspeople and historians. The vision didn’t come from afar.
“Thrilled. Absolutely thrilled,” gushed Steven Rose, director of hospitality, about the property and what it symbolizes in the resort’s revitalization plan.
The lobby is accented by a large fireplace and seating area instead of a typically imposing front desk. The reception desk was custom designed by Emily Henry, crafted in Taos and designed in Santa Fe. The trend in the arrival and departure process in the hospitality industry, Rose explained, is becoming more impersonal by the use of kiosks. At The Blake, guests will receive a more personal experience.
“Our arrival process is more like being welcomed to our home,” Rose said.
The tour moved from the lobby to one- and two-bedroom suites featuring unobstructed views of the Río Hondo and the mountains. They are the kind of rooms that prompt one to say, “I could easily live here.” We then moved to a standard guest room and a deluxe room – with a double bed in the former and two queen beds plus a pull-out couch in the latter. All rooms have a Keurig coffee maker, minifridge and a copy of the book “Ski Pioneers.” Snowflake and “Circle of Life” designs appear on pillows, floor tiles and are carved into wood corbels and beams. Painted symbols of nature are found on every room door. It is beautifully consistent and unique.
Rates range from $259 (early season) to $1,499 (two beds/high season) per night, based on double occupancy.
Beyond the rooms
Services offered at The Blake are also inspired. The Spa and Wellness Center décor and array of treatments offered were born from novelist Frank Waters’ writings of Hopi prophecy that accentuate directions, colors and energies. The hand-painted Dado wainscot that wraps around the spa lobby was re-created from a photograph of Dorothy Brett. No cultural/artistic stone was left unturned anywhere on the property.
A ski and boot valet spoils guests with overnight equipment storage and a boot dryer. There is very minimal lugging of skis and poles, as the hotel provides ski-in/ski-out access to Lift 1 and Lift 5.
Serving as very willing testers, the media tour culminated at the 192 at The Blake restaurant, where we were treated to a beckoning spread of gourmet salads, wood-fired pizzas and tapas. Calamari, roasted Brussels sprouts, wine from Spain and a warm, comfortable atmosphere were the icing on the cake. Named after the tail numbers on the Cessna Ernie Blake was flying in when he spotted his dream resort location, the restaurant is open for breakfast for hotel guests only, but is open to the public for lunch, après-ski and dinner.
Later in the afternoon, the day’s events continued with live music outside, free s’mores and a Taos Pueblo blessing followed by early evening fireworks.
The new shining jewel at Taos Ski Valley is open year-round.