TAOS – Bernard “Dadou” Mayer followed his brother, Jean Mayer, from the French Alps to the United States to take up a job at the Taos Ski Valley in 1958.
Taos Ski Valley founder Ernie Blake fired Mayer almost immediately from his promised ski instructor job, but then rehired the young ski racer, who had gone to work at a Red River ski resort.
For the next 50 years, the Mayer brothers were fixtures in the Ski Valley, where Dadou Mayer built and ran his own business, the original Edelweiss Hotel. Later, he spent the warmer months in Hawaii, where he operated a small coffee plantation called Dadou’s Dolphins.
After a long illness, Dadou Mayer died in his sleep on August 16 at his home in Hawaii, his daughter Sonja Mayer Schreiber said. She described her father as “full of life, full of friendships and full of stories. He was a lover of all that is good and precious, a healer.
Jean Mayer, who, with the help of his family and several other ski valley legends, built the Saint-Bernard hotel and was the technical director of the Taos ski school, died in October 2020 .
Besides Mayer Schreiber, Dadou Mayer is survived by his daughters, Suzanne Iris Mayer and Christine “Tiki” Mayer Morel; and his son, Christian Paul Mayer.
Dado Mayer eventually married Ilse Mayer, who landed in Taos Ski Valley in 1961, moving there after a chance meeting with Ernie Blake while in Switzerland buying a chair lift.
“He said he was looking for European ski instructors with an accent,” laughs Ilse Mayer. “A few months later, I was in San Francisco, and I sent him a postcard to see if the offer was still valid. He responded immediately and said, ‘Yes,
The Austrian skier, who intended to pursue a career in chemistry, met Dadou Mayer shortly after arriving in the ski valley. The couple married in 1962.
“After the first winter, we decided to build the Edelweiss,” she said, which the couple then owned and operated for the next 35 years, a partnership that outlasted their “25 wonderful years. ” of marriage.
A few years after it was sold in the mid-1990s, the Edelweiss Hotel burned down in a fire.
Ilse Mayer also noted that Dadou Mayer created the first Taos ski racing team.
“He was also a point guard for NASTAR,” she said. “He was unbeatable at the time.
Mayer Schreiber said that when his father arrived in 1958, the Ski Valley was a place of raw beauty – and without amenities.
“It was a different time,” she said, adding that her late grandparents, Charles and Nicole Mayer, were “so proud” of her parents’ attendance. “They started Ski Valley from scratch. There were no buildings up there, no road to get there, no electricity or radio – everything was from scratch. They built the first buildings.
“They created a hotel, with a swimming pool and an ice rink – 50 years ago,” said Mayer Schreiber. “It’s so difficult to give people an image, but it was difficult to do anything at that time. It’s really something incredible, what they have created.
Taos Ski Valley Inc. Vice President and Taos Ski Valley Advisor Chris Stagg counted
48 years of friendship with Dadou Mayer, with whom he had also worked.
“Sometimes we skied a lot together, and sometimes we worked a lot together,” he said. “Both were fun but especially to ski with Dadou. Dadou was very creative with his skiing. He was always trying something new with his technique and with the things he did with his students. He took it seriously, but he also wanted the instructors, students and guests to have fun.
Stagg said the sport “wasn’t as organized in the 50s and 60s as it is today, so you really relied on people who had talent and vision and who were able to teach technique to people. That’s what Jean and Dadou did. They prided themselves on knowing the higher levels of skiing and they were able to translate that to mere mortals. And that allowed Taos to stay competitive against the other stations.
The Mayer brothers didn’t just bring the skiing expertise of the French Alps – they brought a class of cuisine and hospitality that set Taos Ski Valley apart from other American ski areas in the 1960s.
“It was very chic, very European; it was a very special atmosphere,” said Mayer Schreiber. “The Edelweiss was a beloved little hotel, and guests would dine at the Saint-Bernard. Guests would come for a week of skiing, and it was a wonderful setup. Even growing up, I remember. It was a truly personal experience.
Ralph Barhydt took ski lessons with Dadou and developed a close relationship with the two Mayer brothers in the 1970s.
“We have always stayed at the Edelweiss, which was only a small establishment run by Dadou and his wife Ilsa, and we have always eaten at
St. Bernard,” Barhydt said. “Except for breakfast; Dadou liked to prepare breakfast. I remember that at noon, we would go skiing to the Saint-Bernard, go there to have a beef bourguignon and a glass of red wine, then we would go skiing again. I had never eaten like that while skiing.
Louis Bacon bought Taos Ski Valley Inc. from Ernie Blake in 2014 and bought Hotel St. Bernard last year.
Stagg said he would miss Dadou Mayer’s bubbly but stable personality.
“What I enjoyed most with Dadou was his humor,” Stagg said. “He always had a twinkle in his eye. Half the time he was testing you or joking with you, but he was never mean. He always kept you on your toes.
Ernie Blake and Dadou Mayer had a somewhat legendary working relationship, the beginnings of which Dadou Mayer described in Rick Richards’ 1992 book, Ski Pioneers: Ernie Blake, His Friends, and the Creation of Taos Ski Valley.
After Blake (initially unimpressed with Mayer’s skills as a skier) relegated him to grooming, Mayer told Richards, “It didn’t really go over well with the arrogant little Frenchman coming from the French National School of Education at Club Med in Switzerland. . I thought I should get what I was promised. I just told him, ‘No, Mr. Blake, I’m not going up and packing snow.’ ”
Before long, however, Mayer returned to Taos Ski Valley and secured his promised ski instructor job, which he held for most of the remaining decades of his life.
“Dadou said my father fired him more than anyone else. He claimed to hold the record for the most dismissals,” said Mickey Blake, Ernie Blake’s son and former TSV chairman. “It wasn’t malicious. There were several competitors. »
Mickey Blake said that Dadou Mayer represented the last of the old school ski valley alpine skiers who were responsible for popularizing alpine skiing in America.
“His passing is the end of an era,” Mickey Blake said. “He and his brother were very good runners; he was absolutely a superb ski instructor. And for many years, Dadou was the best skier in the valley.
This story first appeared in Taos Newsa sister publication of Santa Fe’s New Mexican.
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