Billionaire financier Louis Bacon bought Taos Ski Valley, a family-owned New Mexico ski resort founded by a Jew who fled Nazi Germany. Until its sale earlier this month, Taos was one of the last large family-owned ski mountains in America.
The ski area was established in the mid-1950s by Ernie Blake, who emigrated from Germany in 1938. Born Ernst Hermann Bloch, he changed his name during World War II, when he worked as a US Army intelligence officer interrogating top Nazi officials.
Before fleeing Europe, Blake served as a Swiss Air Force pilot and was reportedly excluded from the 1936 German Olympic ice hockey team because of his Jewish background. After moving to America, Blake worked in Saks Fifth Avenue.
Beginning with the first Taos lift in 1956, Blake and his family worked to transform a forested area of the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains into a ski resort with 110 trails serviced by 13 lifts. The area, which rises to around 12,500 feet, averages about 300 inches of snow in the winter.
Bacon, the buyer, is the founder of Moore Capital Management, a hedge fund. Bacon owns thousands of acres of land in Colorado, Long Island and the Bahamas, and last year he helped protect 167,000 acres of ranch land in Colorado by donating conservation easements to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, according to The New York Times. His is worth an estimated at $1.4 billion, according to Forbes.
The announcement regarding Taos did not disclose the amount of sale.
Despite its size and quality skiing, Taos’ base area is far less developed than most similar-sized American ski resorts. The Blake family reportedly did not have the cash to make the necessary improvements.
“The family got together and had this big heart-to-heart about how as a ski operation we will never be able to make these improvements without risking the company,” Blake’s granddaughter, Adrianna Blake, said, according to the Times.
“Every day we see the potential of this place, and every day we get the report of where we are financially,” Adrianna told The Taos News. “We know we would have never had enough money to pull of the big picture of what we wanted.”
Blake died in 1989, but many of his family members still work on the mountain. Four ski trails are named after the German officers who tried to assassinate Hitler in July 1944, and a slope called Al’s Run is named for a Jewish doctor friend of Blake’s who supported the development of Taos and so loved skiing that he kept going even after a heart condition forced him to take to the slopes with an oxygen tank strapped to his back.