Visitors to New Mexico's eight ski resorts during the 2018-19 snow-laden winter season topped more than a million, a dramatic increase over the prior year. It was …
Visitors to New Mexico's eight ski resorts during the 2018-19 snow-laden winter season topped more than a million, a dramatic increase over the prior year. It was the best record in 21 years, said George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico.
Taos Ski Valley also enjoyed its best season in two decades, according to executive director David Norden.
It was a welcome change, coming off one of the driest winters in a century in 2017-18.
Snow was a big factor in the stellar year. The state's ski areas averaged 185 inches of powder from the first day of the season to the last, Brooks said. Norden said Taos Ski Valley had received about 20 feet of snow total.
Along with the generous snow, development efforts at Taos Ski Valley helped promote New Mexico's skier and snowboarder profile, said Brooks. Over the last couple of years, the resort, owned by hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, has added a high-speed quad chairlift, a lift to its upper mountain at Kachina Peak, a children's center and a gondolita along with renovating two popular dining areas, the Bavarian and the Phoenix.
The resort's 80-room hotel, the Blake, averaged around 80 percent capacity through the season, Norden said.
New air service offered over the winter made a big difference, said Brooks and Norden. An investment made by Taos Ski Valley, town of Taos and other area partners launched the Taos Air charter service between Taos, Austin and Houston. "There's been a lot of buzz about the Taos airline," said Brooks. "It brought attention to the northern part of our state."
Norden said they projected about 45 percent of the seats would be filled on the three-day-a-week flights. Instead, they averaged about 75 percent occupancy during the season. "We've never done this before," Norden noted. "We budgeted conservatively and we far exceeded that. Taos Air was a success not only for us but for Red River and Angel Fire."
Norden said Taos Ski Valley will continue to invest in its snowmaking, summer trails and other offerings. The intent is to diversify what the resort has to offer, just in case nature doesn't provide as much snow in the seasons to come.
"Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the ski industry," Norden said. "Having a hedge is important. The greatest three [challenges] we have are: Diversification of business - people are coming here for their conferences and even weddings in winter. Second is heavy investment in our snowmaking - we're going to put another $600,000 into snowmaking. And third is moving into more activities for summer months like mountain biking. I think it's vital."
Look for more on the impact of the winter season on ski resorts, other businesses and Northern New Mexico's economy in the next edition of The Taos News.
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