Obituary: Rhoda Blake

RhodaFromGrandDames copySMApril 8, 1918 -November 3, 2015

“The First Lady of Taos Ski Valley” and Ski Pioneer, Rhoda Blake died November 3 after a brief illness.

Born Doris Rosenberg in London on April 8, 1918, she was adopted by Herbert and Irma Limburg of New York City when she was three. She attended the Dalton School, Bryn Mawr College, and learned how much a Park Avenue environment was detrimental to her personality and yearned for a way to escape it. She and Ernst Bloch did manage the great escape.

They met on a ski trip to Vermont. The married in 1942 and almost got divorced during their Sun Valley honeymoon. “Ernest was a much, much better skier than I and an impatient one.”

Rhoda encouraged Ernest to follow his dream about starting his own ski area. “She was more than a catalyst. Pops would not have defied convention by founding a ski resort, but her feeling was if that’s what you want to do, then let’s do it,” says Wendy. Rhoda always said their roles were reversed because he did the PR and letter writing while she mounted bindings on rental skis, ran the ski and rental shops, and pitched in on ski school and ski patrol duties. But what she loved most was designing ski runs. She liked that even more after she replaced surveyor’s tape with spray paint to mark the trees. What she disliked was the housekeeping chores at the Hondo Lodge and cooking for the construction crews.

All of it was a far cry from her highly cultured upbringing, but it suited her so much better than Park Avenue, especially in the crazy, higgledy piggledy early days, in 1955, the Rocky Mountain ski business needed women like her. “Women unafraid of risk, hard work and hard lives in the hinterland. Roma McCoy of California, Edna Dercum of Colorado and Rhoda Blake of New Mexico were such women. They knew skiing before it became convenient—when it was freer and wilder. When it was from the heart. They helped make it that way, bringing grace and spirit to the mountain ventures of their husbands. Their pioneering lives illuminate the early spirit of skiing.” SKI article by Susan Vreeland, December 1989.

Besides her skiing legacy, feistiness, humor, stamina, healthy lungs (really!), she will be remembered for her children, Mickey (Ann), Peter, daughter, Wendy Stagg (Chris), thirteen grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

To celebrate Rhoda, think of her on your next perfect ski day, plan a clever practical joke, dare to break the speed limit, be kind to animals, toast her with a gin Martini, or blow a smoke ring heavenward.”