'Rhoda the Riveter'

Taos Ski Valley Founders Day tours and talk

By Virginia L. Clark
Posted 3/4/20

Rhoda Blake (1918-2015), first lady and ski pioneer of Taos Ski Valley, is the star of Founders Day this Saturday (March 7), when her children Mickey, Wendy and Peter Blake gather together to remember this iconic force of nature who practically built the ski valley from the ground up.

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'Rhoda the Riveter'

Taos Ski Valley Founders Day tours and talk

Posted

Rhoda Blake (1918-2015), first lady and ski pioneer of Taos Ski Valley, is the star of Founders Day this Saturday (March 7), when her children Mickey, Wendy and Peter Blake gather together to remember this iconic force of nature who practically built the ski valley from the ground up.

"We called her Rhoda the Riveter," son Mickey Blake said by phone last week about his "handy" mom. Unbeknownst to most people, during World War II, Rhoda was a mechanic at the Alameda Naval Air Station in northern California where real-life Rosie the Riveter worked. Rhoda's technical talent made TSV possible, according to her kids and other ski pioneers.

Formerly celebrated as Ernie Blake Birthday weekend, "Founders Day better reflects the historical accuracy of how our resort came into being," said Anee Ward, TSV Preview Center ambassador and cultural liaison, who runs the popular Speaker Series at the ski resort. "Rhoda's story comes up in pieces here and there but we thought it was time for her moment in the sun and this would be a good time to do that."

This Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m., upstairs in the Martini Tree room located over Rhoda's Restaurant and Tenderfoot Katie's Cafeteria, Wendy, Mickey and Peter will gather to remember the amazing contributions of their mother to the evolution of Taos Ski Valley resort.

"There would be no TSV without her," daughter Wendy Stagg says about Rhoda. "Ernie was a marketing genius but could barely change a light bulb much less mount skis, build buildings, etc."

Rhoda is widely known for her integrity and can-do attitude. Walter Widmer, a Swiss ex-pat and one TSV's "ski pioneers," is quoted in the 1992 book by the same name (about the making of Taos Ski Valley by Rick Richards), who said "Anything that had to be fixed, painted or put together, it was Rhoda."

"She had just as strong a personality as Ernie," son Peter said of his mom. "She was just more reserved."

Peter remembers they ran the lifts, sold the tickets, rented skis, fitted boots, taught skiing, cooked, served the meals, washed up and kept the lodge fires burning. Skiers would buy tickets at the Blake's home, the Hondo Lodge, which was also the patrol shed, and ski and ticket sales shop. Customers raised a flag at the Hondo, and the first person down the mountain on a powder day had to stop and sell lift tickets.

More memories will be shared Saturday with folks about the early days of Taos Ski Valley, both during free Founders Day ski tours (see sidebar) and about Rhoda at the Martini Tree. Admission is free, but this event will fill up, so RSVP anee.ward@skitaos.com.

"The Speaker Series plays a vital role at Taos Ski Valley," Ward said in an email. "As we move into the future, it is important to understand where we come from. Twenty times a year the Speaker Series Program shares the stories of community, passion, risk-taking, visionary thinking and creativity by featuring the organization and individuals that make Taos 'Taos.' This Speaker Series will illuminate the family, the skills, the commitment and the friendships that founded our resort. Come join us on Founders Day and learn about the early days from the perspective of the Blake Family, as Mickey, Wendy and Peter share a story that is uniquely their own."

For information, call TSV at (575) 776-2291 or Ward's cell at (575) 741-0703

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