TSV is ready to hit the skies as skiers get ready to hit the slopes. In partnership with the town of Taos, Taos Ski Valley welcomes its first flight of Taos Air to the Taos Regional Airport. Starting December 20, flights to and from Dallas' Love Field Airport and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will begin whisking skiers and tourists into the area.
"It's a great way to showcase what we have," said Taos Mayor Dan Barrone. "We have to be creative in generating revenue in our community."
The 30-seat Dornier 328 jet will fly customers to the ski valley and back to their destination for $399. Ohio-based company Ultimate Jetcharters, described on their website as the "corporate shuttle leader," will operate the flights and handle ticket sales.
According to Barrone, the town has partnered with the ski valley in the venture in the hopes of increasing tourism and gross receipts tax, a sales tax, in the town of Taos and surrounding areas. While the sales tax from the ticket prices does not go to the town of Taos or Taos County, Barrone said that is something the town is hoping to fix in the future.
"This is not designed only for guests of Taos Ski Valley," said Taos Ski Valley CEO David Norden. "It really is for the entire region to benefit."
As part of the airline services, guests coming into Taos via the regional airport would have a free shuttle directly to Taos Ski Valley's Blake hotel. Once there, guests will have an opportunity to reserve rental skis and snowboards for their winter recreation.
According to Norden, the price for airfare starts at $399 and could increase at the peak time of the ski season. No local discounts are on the horizon.
The idea for a Taos Ski Valley jet has been something that has been discussed in the past, according to Barrone. The town has spent the last few years prepping the airport with various measures to bring it up to modern standards. In 2017, the town completed the crosswinds runway to help alleviate air traffic from Taos Pueblo and provide a new runway for larger planes. In addition the town has also purchased a new de-icer for larger planes.
The town's airport improvements are the fulfillment of a 30-year, $24 million process, according to town officials.
Barrone hopes this partnership will bring in more tourists and travelers to the Taos area and more gross receipts tax revenue. Of the town's total GRT revenue, Barrone said roughly 40 percent comes from tourism. Gross receipts pays for various amenities across Taos, such as road and park improvements as well as upgrades to the Taos Youth and Family Center.
"If you don't generate revenue in the community, we can't have these things," Barrone said.
While the town has no way to ensure ski valley guests make it into town to contribute to the GRT, Barrone said the North Central Regional Transit District will be adding more blue bus routes to and from the ski area.
Currently, the 341 TSV Green Line Route, which takes passengers to and from Taos Ski Valley for free, does not operate past 6:30 p.m. Barrone said that will be changing for this ski season to bring some of the skiing visitors into town.
"This is a significant move for the NCRTD," Barrone said in a press release, "as it represents the first time the district has offered nighttime service. We look forward to support from the community to make this an ongoing service."
The new route will launch Dec. 15 and will run until March 23, 2019. The night route will start at 6:10 p.m. and run two round trips to Taos Ski Valley until 10:10 p.m.
Flights for Taos Air will make the loop between Texas and Taos only during the ski season. Flights are currently being booked and will continue through March 2019. Flights will run Thursday through Sunday or "observed holiday Mondays" and will make a total of six round trips per week. The nearly two-hour flight will be privately booked and is not available as a nonstop flight from any other airport other than Austin and Dallas Love. Norden said the schedule may change after this season.
"Phones are ringing and we are booking flights," Norden said.
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