January 27, 2023

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How Some Skiers Are Taking Back the Mountains

2 min read

But by 2014, Taos Ski Valley was a faded jewel. The New Mexico resort had lost approximately 40 percent of its skiers since its heyday in the early 1990s. Financier and conservationist Louis Bacon bought the ski area in 2014, and chief executive officer David Norden arrived two years later. Mr. Norden took a novel approach to revitalizing the ski area. He ventured: Could sustainability save skiing?

In 2017, Taos became the first and only ski area to be certified as a B Corporation for its environmental and social performance, joining the ranks of other socially responsible companies like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s. Mr. Norden’s gamble had an immediate payback: The B Corp announcement resulted in the largest single day of ticket-sales revenue in the ski area’s history.

This year, Taos Ski Valley became the second North American ski area to become carbon neutral (the first was Wild Mountain in Minnesota), beating its original 2030 target by eight years.

“Our vision,” said Mr. Norden, “is better, not bigger.”

The ski area now operates on 100 percent daytime solar energy, its new luxury hotel runs on geothermal power, the ski area is buying a fleet of electric snowmobiles, and it will be the first ski area in North America to operate an electric snowcat this winter.

Earlier this year, the ski resort became a charter signatory to the Nature Conservancy’s Rio Grande Water Fund, which is restoring 600,000 acres of forest in northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado to reduce wildfire risk and ensure clean water for a million people. An added bonus is that forest improvement also makes for great glade skiing.

Mr. Norden said that the ski area learns about “true sustainability” from the Taos Pueblo. The resort is funding a program for 25 children from Taos Pueblo to ski for free, including lift tickets, clothing, food, equipment and lessons.

Cheryl Romero, an Indigenous member of Taos Pueblo and a human resources manager at the ski resort, said the environmental commitment and engagement with the community is “really walking the walk.”

David Goodman

2022-12-03 08:00:14

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