Taos Welcomes Snowboarders

Taos Ski Valley to welcome snowboarders as of March 19 to the once ski-only, exclusive resort to re-establish itself as family-friendly.


The first ski lift in Taos Ski Valley was erected in 1956 by founder Ernie Blake, 16 Taos Pueblo villagers and a mule. Since then, this family-owned and operated resort has become one of the country’s preeminent skiing destinations. Powder mongers ski Taos because of its pristine seclusion, but with an added perk: it is 100 percent snowboard-free. That is, until March 19, when the resort opens to snowboarders for the first time.

Recapturing the Family Market 

Despite Taos’ family-based beginnings, its snowboarder exclusion has bred accusations of having a not-so-family-friendly attitude. Snowboarding—a sport that has actually been around for more than 40 years—is a favorite among kids and teens. The exclusion of boarders is driving families away from Taos, as more and more youth are switching to snowboarding. Now that Taos is welcoming boarders, only three resorts remain snowboard-free: Utah’s Alta Ski Area and Deer Valley and Vermont’s Mad River Glen.

Taos’ shift reflects the same changes in recent years at other elite resorts—such as Aspen Mountain and Park City Mountain Resort—which have opened their slopes to snowboarders in response to dwindling visitor numbers. According to the National Ski Areas Association, there were nearly 4,000 fewer visitors to resorts in the 2006/07 season than the 2005/06 season. A shaky economy, rising lift-ticket costs and warmer weather that has cut short recent seasons have burdened the ski industry.

Taos’ shift to an all-inclusive, one-love resort was a long time in coming, according to Blake’s children and grandchildren—who still run the resort—understood that they were denying a huge snowboarding population that not only hurt business, but also hurt its image. “Opening to snowboarding,” the site explains, “allows us to refocus on being a family-oriented mountain.”

Mixed Feelings 

Of course, not everyone is feeling the love. The Web site’s public comment sections are split fairly even, with boarders excited to finally shred Taos’ slopes, and traditionalist skiers denouncing the shift as an abomination. One angry skier commented, “Too bad. It was nice while it lasted. Welcome boarders and thanks in advance for scraping the snow off the hill.” But there are also skiers who welcome the change, and recognize it as a smart business decision.

The most immediate changes to the Taos Ski Valley are already in the works. The resort is expanding its rental department to accommodate snowboard gear, adding snowboard instructors to its school and working with vendors to open base area snowboard shops. Expansion costs are estimated at $35 million. Lift ticket prices and related discounts will remain the same.

Still, the season’s close will mark the end of an era at Taos. Some die-hard skiers may leave with the influx of boarders. A new clientele could alter the landscape of the mountain and the Taos community. But the Taos Ski Valley will still be one of the sweetest ski—or board—spots in the West.

Destinations: Taos Ski Valley

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Skiing, Snowboarding

User Comments

Update: Snowboarding was banned from the mountain entirely until the 2008-2009 ski season, meaning, they allowed snowboarding in Taos again: Source:

Taos is nice .... but they often have a fairly low snow base and it's a bit hard to get to. I'll stick with Kirkwood....

Traffic increase? Wow, Toas is adding snowboarding? I wonder if that'll make it more crowded...but kind of a good draw for people who want to try snowboarding for the first time with their classes

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