CARLSBAD — A new airline will soon be taking North County residents to the slopes.
Taos Airlines will begin service Jan. 9, 2020, to ferry passengers on a 30-seat, twin-engine jet to one of the top ski resorts in the county, the Taos Ski Valley. Three nonstop, roundtrip flights are scheduled to fly on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays as service will run through the end of March, according to Joe Zvada, director of aviation for Taos Airlines.
He said the airline is aware of the recent failures by two other airlines over the past two years, as California Pacific Airlines and Cal Jet by Elite Airlines both flew sparingly and with controversy, leaving a bad taste for customers. However, Zvada said, Taos Airlines’ model is more direct and focused on those looking for a weekend getaway.
“We see Southern California as a great extension for Taos,” Zvada said. “We chose Carlsbad for a number of reasons, and we like its location … like its facilities and think it matches well with the experience both on the jet and the resort in Taos.”
Last year the airline and resort banded to tackle its first markets in Dallas and Austin, Texas. He said it was a huge success, and is continuing this year, but the both parties wanted to expand.
So, they turned west to Southern California and fixated on McClellan-Palomar Airport as the ideal airport for its services. David Norden, chief operating officer of Taos Ski Valley, said each company analyzed market research, specifically within the skiing and snowboarding industry, and found many positives.
One of those is the Ikon Pass, which is the second most popular skiing and snowboarding pass in Southern California. The pass, which has two levels, features 12 or 14 mountains in California, Colorado, West Virginia, Utah and Canada.
Taos, though, along with at least two dozen other resorts across the globe, is also part of the part of the access for the Ikon passes. While most skiers and boarders in the region may hit the slopes at Big Bear, Mammoth, Squaw Valley or June Mountain, Norden said this new venture now gives them easy access to another high-quality mountain.
The flight, he added, is about two hours and transportation from the Taos Airport is included with the airline ticket. Tickets will run about between $170 to $250 each way.
“We see this as an opportunity to get folks from Southern California to the Rockies in the easiest possible way,” Norden said. “It just seems like nobody has figured out how to create a convenient and easy way to get to and from the slopes. We think we’ve done it.”
He cited the success in Texas as reason for optimism in Carlsbad, even though the ski resort and airline are aware of the trouble previous carriers, such as California Pacific Airlines and Cal Jet, had sustaining operations.
Still, Norden said the ease of McClellan-Palomar Airport, rather than San Diego International Airport, a short flight, free baggage on the plane and transportation to and from the resort provide a seamless experience for travelers.
“It resonated so well in Texas we decided to expand,” he said. “The reason we went to Southern California, is we already have a pretty good population of people that visit Taos. We think there is a little bit of a spiritual connection between San Diego and Taos, between the mountains and the ocean, but also we are now on the Ikon Pass.”
Additionally, the pass is another feature both companies hope to capitalize on, as it gives those skiers and snowboarders another mountain to visit, in addition to those in California, Norden said.
“Once people get on the plane and experience what Taos is all about, word-of-mouth will spread,” he added.
Taos Ski Valley opened in 1955, features 100 runs with a 3,000-vertical-foot drop with a 9,000-foot base, averaging 300 inches per year, Norden said. Also, the resort is undergoing a major “revitalization” project, he said, which includes new ski lifts, snow-making equipment and hotel.
As for the flights, the schedule will also include a holiday option for Martin Luther King, Jr. and President’s Day, so the Sunday flights will move to those Mondays, Zvada said. The flights are a public charter, while the schedule was created to align with the more popular check-in and check-out days for hotels and car rentals, should the latter be an option, he added.
“We feel what we’re building is a completely different offering than what has been tried in Carlsbad in the past, especially recently,” Zvada said. “The experience on the flight is different than what was offered in the past. This is more of a VIP experience.”