Jeff “Mugzy” Mugleston started as a ski instructor at Taos Ski Valley in 1985 and has been there every season since. He worked his way up over 28 years to become manager of the resort’s renowned snow sports school, and like many longtime employees, he’s proud that the mountain is one of the few that has remained a family operation.
So when Mickey Blake — son of Ski Valley founder Ernie Blake — announced at a lunch gathering of employees Wednesday (Dec. 11) that the family was selling the resort, Mugleston suddenly lost his appetite.
“I was shocked,” Mugleston said moments after hearing the news.
That shock was coupled with a sense of cautious optimism among many veteran Taos Ski Valley employees who’ve watched as other resorts across the West have expanded their terrain and seen skier numbers increase in the last decade while Taos has slowly seen its numbers slide.
The Blakes have long acknowledged that improvements are needed, but they say they haven’t had the capital to make them. Mugleston said he’s been told for 15 years that his crumbling office will be replaced, but it’s always there at the start of the next season.
Several employees said the sudden jolt of a new owner with deep pockets could revitalize the resort. Still, the resort’s identity has always been largely tied to the Blakes’ roots, and there were some worries that selling out would change the familial dynamic that has fostered employee loyalty for decades.
Dick Kinkade, a 35-year employee at Taos Ski Valley, says working for and becoming friends with the Blakes is a big part of why he still loves his job. Still, Kinkade was “optimistic” about what Bacon could bring to the resort.
Peter Talty, who was at Wednesday’s meeting as a representative of buyer Louis Bacon, told employees the Blakes are leaving a legacy that will be impossible to shadow.
“We view this as a responsibility of stewardship to continue that legacy forward,” Talty said.
He asked employees to give him and Bacon the time to prove it.