03/04/14 2:44am

Taos ridge

Taos Ridge 2Taos is an enigma–well known and loved by some, unknown to many. It is unique, beautiful and iconic. First, Taos the city and Taos the mountain resort are two entirely different animals. Taos the city is one of the oldest inhabited areas of the nation, a city of beautiful adobe structures that combines small, intimate views with large, breathtaking landscape views that are difficult to describe in words. Taos has a well-deserved reputation as an artist’s mecca, with numerous galleries and artists calling Taos home. It’s also a bit of a hippy hangout, with earth houses on the outskirts of town, a low key, laid back vibe and the pleasant smell of pinion wafting through the air. It’s an easy one and one-half hour drive from Santa Fe, (or two and a half Albuquerque) to the town of Taos. While there are numerous excellent lodging options in town, if you lean toward the luxurious and are always looking for the best spa, El Monte Sagrado is probably your spot.

Taos InnIf you want to be in the heart of town in a historic structure that houses really nice digs and a great bar, check out the Taos Inn.

So, you’ve made the trip, checked in and now are wondering what to do. While there are many options, don’t move too fast. As one long-time New Mexico land owner and friend once told me, “New Mexico is a lot like old Mexico.” While he was referring to the pace of getting anything done, it is equally applicable to the pace of life in general. I, for one, take this as a positive, as it is a welcome change of pace from Dallas.

taos balloonDepending on the season and one’s desires, Taos is about art, culture, adventure, the landscape and quality food and drink. For those that are more active or daring, in the warmer months, biking, rafting, hiking, fishing and hot air ballooning top the charts. And in the winter, the adventurous take the roughly 30 minute drive from town to Taos Ski Valley, which is exactly what I had the pleasure of doing a few weeks ago with my oldest daughter.

Taos Don't panicApproximately 2,500 vertical feet up a narrow canyon lies Taos Ski Valley. Taos is sometimes described as a four letter word for “steep” and the initial impression certainly reinforces that. The main lift rises straight up the mountain and mogul filled Al’s Run stares menacingly down at first timers. Now, somewhat famously, Taos Ski Valley encourages visitors with a sign that says “Don’t Panic!, You’re looking at only 1/30 of Taos Ski Valley. We have many easy runs too!” While Taos does have excellent intermediate terrain and some beginner areas, it’s “steep” moniker is well earned as fully 1/2 of the runs are black or double black and the pucker factor can be high. The most iconic runs are accessed by a hike that may take anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. However, Taos also has one of the best ski schools in the country and if you learn to ski at Taos, you will be able to ski anywhere.

Louis BaconTaos has seen only gradual change over its lifetime. However, the pace of change is likely to increase. Last fall, billionaire conservationist Louis Bacon purchased the ski area from the Blake family, the founding family of Taos. A new masterplan for the base area has been developed and improvements are on the way. One of the first improvements appears to be a new lift that will rise up Kachina Peak, which currently can only be accessed by an hour hike. This follows a trend of opening up new, more advanced lift accessed areas, such as Revelation Bowl at Telluride and Peak 6 at Breckenridge. The plans for the base area will create a more walkable environment that makes better use of the Rio Hondo River. There will almost certainly be additional real estate offered and that’s a good thing as the current options are pretty limited and the small overall scale of the area effectively prohibits over-development. Since I’m always looking at how recreational and resort properties are becoming more sustainable, I certainly hope and expect that the current owner will bring a conservation-oriented theme to Taos.

hotel st bernardOne thing that I hope doesn’t change is the Hotel St. Bernard, located directly next to the main lift. It has been a fixture at Taos since 1960, as has its owner, Jean Mayer. The Hotel St. Bernard offers a very European experience, with 3 excellent meals a day included with the lodging, all served family style among the guests. Many of those guests have been coming for decades, lured by the powerful combination of a great mountain, excellent instruction and first-class hospitality. We were lucky enough to spend our time at the St. Bernard, and it was a magical experience (helped no doubt by the almost 30 inches of recent snow).

Taos is unique; it is not Aspen or Vail. In fact, their tag line used to be the “un-resort resort,” which is fitting. For me, that means a special place that shouldn’t be missed.

Dallas Addison is a Dallas-based lawyer who has helped many clients throughout the country buy, sell, develop and manage all types of  real estate over the years, with a  particular focus on recreational and hospitality-based real estate,  such as golf courses, resorts, ranches, second homes, etc. He is also a founding principal of Preservation Land Company. He is a regulator contributor to SecondShelters.com.

12/17/13 12:25pm

equest_graze_600x900@72dpiRanches, cowboys, horses and cattle are Texas icons—just look at some of our professional sports teams. The Cowboys, Rangers, and Mavericks all harken back to the state’s historic roots. And remember famous “Southfork,” the site of many a double deal in the TV drama Dallas? It’s increasingly surrounded by development (and it’s a whole lot smaller than it seemed on TV).

There are still BIG ranches out there, such as the King Ranch, 6666 (the Four Sixes) and the YO Ranch (currently for sale for $81 million), but ranching and cattle are generally not the core business any more. More and more, ranches are purchased and owned for 3 reasons: (1) recreation, (2) energy development and (3) investment (which often means wait until it can be carved up and developed for higher prices).

While there is a powerful connection with the land, Texas has also historically led the nation in the amount of raw land converted to development property. This rampant expansion is continually changing our landscape. And let’s face it; much of what is developed and constructed does not have the most lasting value. Kind of seems like the same type of development gets repeated about every 5-10 miles no matter which direction you’re headed.

What does this all mean? Some areas have taken action to protect their heritage. In Austin, thousands of acres have been placed in conservation easements to protect open space, view sheds, wildlife, and water resources. The trend is also taking hold with some of our western neighbors. Recently, the Walls Street Journal reported that Scottsdale just purchased an additional 2,365 acres to add to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, bringing it to 30,000 acres and making it the largest municipality-owned urban park in the U.S. While, in North Texas, the “drill, baby, drill” slogan has been adapted to “build, baby, build.”

However, at Cross Pines Ranch in East Texas (near Mineola and about 30 minutes from Tyler), over 1,800 acres have been permanently protected from future development by a conservation easement. This is beautiful and pristine property that had been planned for a 400-lot, high-end second home sporting community, complete with, among other things, a Tom Fazio golf course, riding stables, and skeet and sporting clays courses. While that would have made a stunning and high-quality development, the owners ultimately determined that they wanted to preserve the land in as close to its natural state as possible, while allowing a very limited amount of development.

2011 record bass

The result is a conservation-oriented sporting ranch, owned by no more than 40 families. Each owner has a 5-acre building site upon which to build a home and ownership in the remaining 1,800 acres of the ranch, which includes a clubhouse, equestrian barn, skeet and trap range, miles of hiking and biking trails and over 200 acres of lakes, professionally managed for largemouth bass and complete with boats at the ready. The fishing is spectacular. In fact, the world famous fly fisherman Lefty Kreh visited Cross Pines this fall and was so impressed that he’s discussed returning to use Cross Pines for his next video.

There is also a full-time ranch manager that takes care of the ranch (and its owners!) as well as a full-time equestrian manager, who will have horses saddled and ready for owners and who is always ready to lead a trail ride. The concept is really “plug and play,” where owners can show up and just enjoy their favorite activities, without all the hassle involved if they had to take care of it all. Since the ranch is about the size of Highland Park with virtually no fences, there’s plenty of room to spread out and play.

On the conservation side, in addition to the conservation easement that reduced the number of sites from 400 to 40, the owners implemented restrictions on building size, materials, tree removal and landscaping to preserve view corridors and encourage resource conservation. They are currently working on the re-introduction of native grasses as well as a significant ongoing reforestation program. These efforts earned Cross Pines Ranch a spot as one of the 4 finalists in this year’s Green Project of the Year-Non LEED category at the Green Gala & Awards put on by the North Texas United States Green Building Council. While the victor was the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (where the event was held), Cross Pines was certainly in good company.

Cross Pines June 2006 502

Is Cross Pines a model for future development? Due to its unique nature, it’s probably only suited for certain exceptional recreational properties. However, the real emphasis should be on integrating a focus on conservation, preservation and the environment into all of our developments. As discussed above, Dallas is not known for its environmental ethos. Maybe we should start changing that. Why? If you read my Aspen report, I coined a term “selfish sustainability.”

Think about it. We’re a magnet for jobs for many reasons, but we must continue to make choices to position ourselves and our area strategically for the long term. Resource use, resource conservation, land conservation, etc., is important to many people, particularly the “creative classes” that increasingly drive our economies. It’s all about making the right next choice. As I said before, if it makes economic sense today, helps protect and enhance businesses (or an area) long-term and helps protect the environment, that sure seems like a win-win-win. Cross Pines is a model for that kind of thinking.

Full Disclosure: I have been involved in the conceptualization and creation of Cross Pines Ranch from its beginning. We’ve always said that it’s all about the land, and we’re continually delighted when families see and enjoy this incredible landscape that has been protected in perpetuity.

Lake 4 boathouse_600x900@72dpi

 

Dallas Addison is a Dallas-based lawyer who has helped many clients throughout the country buy, sell, develop and manage all types of  real estate over the years, with a  particular focus on recreational and hospitality-based real estate,  such as golf courses, resorts, ranches, second homes, etc. He is also a founding principal of Preservation Land Company. He is a regulator contributor to SecondShelters.com.

11/20/13 12:00am

AspenA week or so ago, our contributor Dallas Addison, an attorney and vacation home property developer/consultant, gave us the Aspen report and said that vacation home communities are getting greener, more sustainable, because they have to to stay in business.

I called BS; how, I asked Dallas, can you even tell me that a ski company is green except when the snow is all melted on the slopes? EasyL the resorts know they HAVE to become more sustainable IF they are to stay in business…

SS: OK Dallas, a ski company uses water and sometimes makes snow — how do they even start to be sustainable?

D.A: Great question and I’m fairly certain that Aspen would be the first to acknowledge that they are in a resource intensive business. But, they are not going to shut that business down, so the question is how do they become more sustainable? Aspen is doing that through a number of initiatives in addition to using their brand to help spread the word about sustainability. Their website does a good job of highlighting their environmental efforts.

SS: Can these resorts use alternative energy sources?

D.A: Absolutely, and that is happening. Sticking with Aspen, they’ve invested in a solar array at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, developed a micro-hydroelectric plant at Snowmass and partnered with a coal mine to capture and utilize methane gas that is normally vented into the atmosphere during the mining process. On the coal mine project, the methane is much more worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and through this process, the methane is cleaned and used. It provides enough energy to power all 4 Aspen resort mountains on an annual basis.

SS: What are the three biggest changes you are seeing in terms of conservation efforts at these swanky resorts?

1. Communications to guests. Resorts are increasingly communicating the importance of sustainability to their guests.

2. Energy efficiency. This is generally considered the low hanging fruit. Projects that conserve energy (think changing light bulbs as one of the most basic and effective) are generally the easiest to pencil out and explain to others in the corporate hierarchy.

3. Building efficiency. Related to #2, but more directed at new construction, resorts are increasingly changing their building practices to construct more efficient buildings. They often try to attain certain objective standards, such as LEED certification by the US Green Building Council.

Dallas Addison is a Dallas-based lawyer who has helped many clients throughout the country buy, sell, develop and manage all types of  real estate over the years, with a  particular focus on recreational and hospitality-based real estate,  such as golf courses, resorts, ranches, second homes, etc. He is also a founding principal of Preservation Land Company. He is a regulator contributor to SecondShelters.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/31/13 11:32pm

Aspenby Dallas Addison

It’s that time of year, temperatures are falling in Dallas, snow is falling in the mountains of Colorado. Halloween is behind us and our thoughts turn to a ski getaway. Whether you prefer two boards, one (or for that matter, hot chocolate and hot toddies in the lodge), Aspen is one of those special spots that simply delivers the goods for North Texans. Known as a bellwether in the second home industry, it’s a well-known playground for the rich and famous. Aspen even has it’s own private jet company, Sentient Jet, now the official Private Jet Provider of Aspen/Snowmass, with cardholder benefits. If holiday bustle is your gig, book during Christmas and New Year’s, hope for great early season snow and enjoy the spectacle. At other times, the crowds are more manageable and the skiing and boarding are almost always outstanding.

Aspen is actually four mountains—Aspen Mountain (also called Ajax), Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk and collectively, they provide something for everyone.

While Aspen is known for its steeps,  caviar and champagne lifestyle — seriously, there is even an on-mountain Veuve Clicquot pop-up bar!—- it also has some serious environmental chops as well. Think Austin in the mountains and you won’t be too far off.

Don’t roll your eyes, I know what you are thinking. Aspen IS glam and glitz, but manages to maintain a strong commitment to the environment without compromising the experience. To put it another way, the analogy is more hybrid autos: Aspen is like Porsche’s new 918, rip-snorting, hybrid supercar, NOT a Prius.

So, how and why does Aspen stay so green?

Aspen 2While Aspen’s conservation efforts certainly have a benevolent side, they are also acutely self-interested. Let’s face it, if temperatures keep rising, mountain resorts as we know them will likely be radically changed for the worse, with many being forced to close. That will have a huge impact on the industry and also on second or vacation homes. Aspen realizes that its own sustainability starts with “how do we sustain our business”? On top of that, according to Auden Schendler, the Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, many of their projects, especially those related to efficiency, generate substantial financial returns. Finally, Auden points out that if businesses aren’t taking action to address sustainability issues, they’re behind, because their competitors are. So, this is not touchy-feely environmentalism, but an approach that is firmly grounded in good business principals.

Maybe we could call this “selfish sustainability,” a twenty-tens version of the 80’s creed “greed is good.” Selfish sustainability is my own term and certainly is not tied to Aspen in any way. But, if it makes economic sense today, helps protect and enhance a business long-term and helps protect all of us from unwanted harm, that sure seems like a win-win-win that makes sense wherever a business is located.

If you want to know the specifics about Aspen’s efforts, check out www.aspensnowmass.com/en/we-are-different. However, I’d strongly recommend a personal “inspection.” The lifts at Snowmass and Ajax start spinning November 28th!

Hope to see you at the Veuve Clicquot pop-up bar!

Next up . . . Conservation Ranches.

Dallas Addison is a Dallas-based lawyer who has helped many clients throughout the country buy, sell, develop and manage all types of  real estate over the years, with a  particular focus on recreational and hospitality-based real estate,  such as golf courses, resorts, ranches, second homes, etc. He is also a founding principal of Preservation Land Company. He is a regulator contributor to SecondShelters.com.