Taos, NM – Rhoda Blake, co-founder of New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley, passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 97, following a brief illness.
Born Rhoda Limburg in England in 1918, she was orphaned during World War I and adopted through a London Jewish organization at the age of 3. She spent her formative years with her adoptive family in New York before marrying Ernie Blake, who himself had emigrated from Germany in 1938 to avoid Nazi persecution of German Jews (he was born Ernst Hermann Bloch; during a stint as a Nazi interrogator for the U.S. Army during World War II, it was changed to Blake to sound less Jewish).
During their courtship, Ernie had followed Rhoda to Santa Fe, N.M., where she had been attending art classes. After the war the couple returned to Santa Fe in 1949. Ernie, who learned to ski on the slopes of St. Moritz, Switzerland, ran both what is now Ski Santa Fe in New Mexico and Ski Sunlight in Glenwood Springs, Colo. He traveled between Santa Fe and Glenwood Springs via a Cessna 170 that he piloted himself, and it was from the air that he spotted the promising skiing potential of the high alpine La Cal Basin above the northern desert town of Taos, N.M.
Along with her husband, Rhoda founded Taos Ski Valley in 1955. The pair raised three children in an 11-foot camp trailer during the construction of the resort’s first J-bar lift. Rhoda wasn’t yet much of a skier, but an agreement to ski apart kept their marriage intact. As Ernie traversed the countryside espousing the glories of Taos Ski Valley, Rhoda stayed home to keep the infant ski operation churning. Ernie was a far better marketer than he was a handyman; it was Rhoda who mounted the bindings for Taos’ entire first ski rental fleet.
Ernie Blake passed away in 1989 at the age of 75. In 2013 the Blake family sold Taos, one of the last major family run ski resorts in the U.S., to billionaire conservationist Louis Bacon.
Rhoda Blake, who lived in her home in Arroyo Seco between Taos and the ski mountain until her death, is survived by her three children, including former Taos GM Mickey Blake, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.