The Tahoe “Pre-Season” Begins…Be Careful Out There

The first big storm of the season is now over. For those that claim that those weather guys always over-forecast these storms, you were wrong. Who was the big winner when it came down to precipitation over the last week? According to the Reno office of the National Weather Service, Alpine Meadows checked in with just about the most rainfall within their area. The orographics were just right for squeezing out moisture at Alpine. Those of us that have been skiing Alpine Meadows for years know that is frequently the case.


As predicted, snow levels stayed very high until the tail end of the event. Although a few inches of snow fell around Alpine Meadows, most of that will melt before the next storm. Over on Mount Rose, above the 9,000 foot elevation, it was a different story. The Mount Rose ski resort (on Slide Mountain) checked in with totals ranging from 7-18 inches. The first ski hikers were noted at the top of Northwest webcam by daybreak on Monday, and tracks were filling the mountain by mid-day. There’s a few runs on the mountain that are relatively free of obstacles under the snow. Here’s a quick gallery posted by friends:

One of the smarter choices of the day was to head even higher. There was a nice little piece posted over at Snowbrains yesterday from Travis Ganong. He headed toward the higher elevations of Mount Rose proper and Relay peak, reporting 2 to 3 feet of coverage. That snow was also pretty well tamped down with 100+ mph winds over the event.

There was a point yesterday when I asked myself what I was doing not going out to make some turns and then I remembered. Somewhere around 2008 I started my season with a fractured proximal humerus, after locating a barely covered log near the top of Summit early in the season. Had I followed doctor’s orders, it would have really cut into my early season skiing. It’s also time to quickly remember lessons learned from Annalise Kjolhede’s early season tragedy. Be careful out there people. More snow will come.

Image via
Image via

The next system out there is looking like it has some excellent potential. The latest runs of the GFS are speeding up the timing a bit, with the last model showing things getting going by next Tuesday. Models are showing the potential for a least a few inches of precipitation during the storm. Snow levels are still a big question with the event. Initially, a colder low drops drown off the coast, but there is also a possibility that some subtropical moisture will get picked up, for a wetter solution. We’ll keep an eye on those developments.

Mount Rose is now advertising an October 31st opening date, and we’re hoping that it will be something more than just the Flying Jenny. Conditions permitting, it would be reasonable to expect that Boreal would like to open by the 28th. We’re sure that will definitely depend on how warm or cold this next storm turns out. Skiing and riding season is getting closer and closer!

The League To Save Lake Tahoe Steps Up Their Game


The Placer County Board of Supervisors met last week in Auburn and completed the final approvals on the Martis West project. It’s not even close to the end though, because we expect that local environmental groups will be filing suit shortly. That was to be expected and we applaud Sierra Watch’s efforts. Here’s the complete Sierra Watch press release.

More surprising is that the League to Save Lake Tahoe is stepping up their game. I’ve probably received their newsletter in the mail before and never really given it much thought. But this newsletter contained two articles about development within the region posing a threat to Lake Tahoe. Kudos to the staff at the League to Save Lake Tahoe for taking a stand. The more we stand together, the better chance we have of stopping unchecked development within the North Tahoe region. Here’s two articles from their newsletter:

Near-Tahoe development: looming threat to Tahoe?

Tahoe and traffic. Those two shouldn’t go together.

People visit Tahoe to get away from it all, including traffic, but a typical Tahoe vacation is likely to include time stuck on our congested roads. And scientists have found that excessive car traffic poses a critical threat to Lake Tahoe clarity. Trafiic threatens Lake Tahoe’s health by increasing air pollution that feeds algae. Scientists have also found that the top cause of clarity loss in Lake Tahoe is fine sediment pollution, predominantly coming from cars crushing the road sands used to make winter driving safer.

At the time this Newsletter went to print, two proposed massive projects near Tahoe are in the final stages of environmental review by local government officials: one at Martis Valley West, on a ridge overlooking Lake Tahoe, and the other in Squaw Valley. These projects would draw
thousands of people to Tahoe, but do not fall under the direct oversight of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Because they are located just outside of the Lake Tahoe Basin boundary line, each circumvents the standards that protect the lake. Each would clog the area with traffic and pollute Lake Tahoe.

These projects, aimed at Tahoe visitors and second home owners would degrade the lake by adding pollution from the the traffic equivalent of 2,000 cars each driving 18 miles daily to get to Tahoe destinations.

“The League is concerned that nearby developments that circumvent Tahoe standards will become a new tactic for those looking to make a profit but hesitant to provide environmental benefits to the Lake as required by TRPA,” said Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD, the League’s executive director.

There are solutions to Tahoe’s traffic problems. Thanks to your support, League staff have the resources to advocate at the local, state and federal levels for funding for innovative Lake-friendly transportation solutions. We are working with the Tahoe Transportation District to identify options to improve public transit. Our staff is collaborating with private developers and the business community to ensure redevelopment in Tahoe’s communities makes it easier for people to walk, ride a bike or take the bus.

“We will continue to collaborate with local government agencies, TRPA, advocates and the project proponents when possible to insist developers of out-of-Basin projects provide reasonable solutions to the negative traffic impacts to Tahoe posed by their projects,” said Dr. Collins.

League condemns Placer County approval of Martis Valley West project

Sep 13, 2016
This afternoon, the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the controversial Martis Valley West proposal. The following is a statement by League to Save Lake Tahoe Executive Director Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD:“This is bad news for Lake Tahoe. By approving Martis Valley West, Placer County is consenting to threats to Tahoe for which no solution has been proposed. In their decision, the majority of supervisors ignored the environmental laws California has set up to protect important places like Tahoe. This sets a terrible precedent.

California environmental law is meant to ensure adequate analysis of the negative impacts of proposed development, and requires solutions be implemented to address the impacts that cannot be avoided. No solutions were advanced to address the project’s estimated increases in traffic at Tahoe.

Traffic is one of the most significant sources of pollution threatening the Lake’s clarity. This decision brings us too close to the threshold for car trips in the Tahoe Basin, a figure expressed in vehicle miles traveled. Cumulatively, traffic from the proposals at Martis and Squaw would bring Tahoe within 3 percent of Tahoe’s threshold for vehicle miles traveled.

Future projects located inside the Lake Tahoe Basin may now not be approved because of our nearness to the threshold. This is unfortunate, as Tahoe’s Regional Plan Update would require such in-Basin projects to deliver environmental benefits to Lake Tahoe. Will it become a new norm for area jurisdictions to ignore threats to Tahoe, and pile up development just outside the Lake Tahoe Basin? Organizations such as ours will continue to advocate for Lake-friendly redevelopment and a stronger set of protections for Lake Tahoe.”



Tahoe Sports Hub Expands “Team Night” Into “Team And Pro Deal Week”

Tahoe Sports Hubs Jacque Fix shows the rapidly expanding ski wall in preparation for the Team, Coaches and Professionals sale next week.
Tahoe Sports Hubs Jacques Fix shows the rapidly expanding ski wall in preparation for the Team, Coaches and Professionals sale next week.

It’s not a big secret that skiing is getting to be more and more expensive for families. As my son was growing up on the Alpine Meadows Freestyle Team, it wasn’t unusual for him to shred through 2 or 3 pairs of skis in a season. So knowing where to turn for new ski gear at reasonable pricing was a good thing. We started going to “team night” at the Tahoe Sports Hub sometime around 2004, back when it still known as the Truckee Sports Exchange. The Tahoe Sports Hub is now offering an entire week of deals for ski teams, coaches and industry professionals from October 17th through October 23rd.

While it’s generally pretty easy to find deals on used equipment and leftovers from last season at this time of year – finding discounts on the season’s newest gear is just about impossible at this time of year. The Tahoe Sports Hub staff will be collecting orders for new gear through the 23rd so they can place orders on the 24th for new gear. That means that just about any ski or snowboard gear can be ordered from the many brands that the Tahoe Sports Hub offers. Discounts on the new seasons merchandise will vary with brands and particular products. Last year’s leftover gear will also be available immediately at up to 40% off.

Tahoe Sports Hub is proud of the “ski wall” this year. Although it’s currently only about two-thirds of the way stocked for the season, it offers the largest selection ever in Fix’s eight years at the store. The store focuses on the core skier, with an emphasis on skiing the whole mountain, from the parks to the backcountry. Just about all major brands are represented as well as some smaller indies. Fix also noted that manufacturers are also recognizing the Tahoe Sports Hubs role as one of Tahoe’s premier ski shops. The shop will one of only a few shops to be carrying the exclusive Armada “Zero” AR8 ski this year, as well as some exclusive Rossignol skis.

Store owner Rob Cavallo has done a great job of hiring a knowledgable staff at the Hub. While we talked primarily to Jacques today about skis, there’s no doubt that Kenny will get you dialed in with snowboards and Corey with boots…which reminds me, it’s time to buy some new alpine boots for me!

For more information on the Team and Pro Deal Week, call the store at 530-582-4510 or just stop by the store at 10095 West River Street in Truckee. Orders for team and pro pricing must be in by October 23rd.

TSH buyer Jaque Fix spent some time at Mount Hood this August, testing out new skis for the Tahoe Sports Hub lineup.
Buyer Jaques Fix spent some time at Mount Hood this August, testing out new skis for the Tahoe Sports Hub lineup.

Some Rain, Some Snow And Some Other New Things At Alpine Meadows

We already saw the first accumulating snowfall of the season at Alpine Meadows earlier this month. As we inch ever closer to the ski season, we’re thinking more and more about what that next season will bring to Alpine Meadows.

In the short term, the weather in Tahoe is going to start looking a bit more like fall. The first big storm of the season is poised to move in this weekend. It’s not necessarily normal to start the rainy season with a large atmospheric river event, but that seems to be the current forecast. The jet stream should be aimed directly at Tahoe by Friday afternoon and remain in place into next Tuesday.

Total precipitation though Monday 10/17.
Total precipitation though Monday 10/17.

During the first half of the weekend, we’ll be on the warm side of the jet. The Tahoe basin could see upwards of 5 inches of moisture and winds over 100 mph on the ridges. Snow levels are expected to stay above 9,000 feet through Sunday morning. A second wave on Sunday will bring even more rain and possibly snow into Monday and Tuesday. Snow levels with this second wave could drop down toward 8,000 feet or lower.

The predominate precipitation in Tahoe could be snow by next Monday....maybe.
The predominate precipitation in Tahoe could be snow by next Monday….maybe.
New Snowmaking Equipment Low On The Mountain

There’s some new snowmaking improvements on the lower mountain at Alpine Meadows. We already noted this summer that a new water main was being installed under parking lot #4. But the bigger news is the installation of about ten new HDK guns on the runouts at the base of the mountain. The newer guns are much more efficient at pumping out large amounts of snow than the old sled style guns. image image5

Hot Wheels Lift “Upgrade”

It’s not the exact upgrade that anyone was expecting. You’ll still be getting off the lift at the same place and you’ll likely still be riding the lift for a long 13 minutes. What was upgraded was that the mid-station near the Chalet was removed. The old adjustable tower was removed and replaced by a normal full height tower. So the improvement does not necessarily improve the “on the chair” experience. What really changes is the traffic flow beneath the lift. Theoretically, it would no longer be necessary to ribbon off all of that terrain as you exit Yellow run, eliminating that choke point near Yellow chair. It also makes it much easier too access the Chalet from Yellow. That is a great upgrade.


Two Gazex Avalanche Exploders Installed

As we reported earlier this summer, Alpine Meadows installed two new Gazex exploders this summer. The installations are now looking complete. The pictures here are not the best, having been taken from a distance, but it does give a better idea of exact locations. The idea with the two exploders is to allow the initial avalanche control work to be done remotely, thereby reducing the need to have patrollers stay at the Summit top station overnight during storm events. Theoretically this could lead to quicker openings as well. We shall see.

One new Gazex exploder is located on High Yellow Face.
One new Gazex exploder is located on High Yellow Face.
The second new Gazex exploder is located on South Peril above the cat road.
The second new Gazex exploder is located on South Peril above the cat road.

It Takes A Village…


It takes a village…but not the kind of village that has been proposed by Squaw Valley and KSL Capital. The kind of village we’re talking about is the kind that stands together to fight off the giant. In this case, the giant is a multi-headed beast that includes Squaw Valley, KSL Capital and Placer County. It’s a battle that has been going on what seems like years, causing many people to say “we can’t win.” We can’t take that attitude or we will all end up with a supersized faux alpine village that includes Andy’s wet dream. We’ll be living with the 25 to 30 years of construction in Squaw Valley, the increased traffic on local roads, the increased air pollution within the Tahoe basin and the decrease in clarity of Lake Tahoe.

Ever since the Placer County Planning commission approved the Village at Squaw Valley plan back in August, the angst has been building. Besides the Squaw Valley employees that were paid to sit in their white shirts at the Planning Commission meeting, it’s pretty difficult to find people who are in favor of the project, save for a few assorted local architects and contractors that likely benefit from the proposal.

When the Placer County supervisors chose to approve the equally controversial Martis Valley West project at their September meeting, the public frustration with Placer County grew even more. Both projects will bring severe environmental and quality of life issues to those living in or visiting the North Lake Tahoe region. There’s been a storm of editorial pieces published locally over the last month as a result of the public frustration with a lack of local control Here’s a sampling:

We definitely encourage you to read a bunch of those letters and take them as a call to action. If something is going to change in a positive way, we need to stand up together and say something. Because if we say nothing or assume that we can’t change anything, we all stand to lose. The biggest takeaway from last week’s Keep Squaw True town hall meeting is that we need to engage as many people as we can in the process, and we can’t wait to do that. Here’s some ideas:

The Placer County Board of Supervisors
Supervisors (L to R): Holmes, Duran, Weygandt, Montgomery and Uhler
Supervisors (L to R): Holmes, Duran, Weygandt, Montgomery and Uhler

The next step in the decision-making process for the Village At Squaw Valley Redevelopment proposal will be its consideration by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. If the Martis Valley West decision was any sort of indication, all bets are that we will see another 4-1 approval, with only District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery saying no to the Village project. We’re not even sure that her vote is a given. The Sierra Watch staff is estimating that this meeting should be held sometime around the November 15th time frame, but that is not official yet. Is it important that the room be overfilled with people to just say no to the project? Probably so, but what matters more is taking the time to contact Placer County supervisors ahead of time and sharing your opinions before the meeting.

The next actual known date for a Tahoe meeting of the BOS is on October 25th. One would assume that they will finalize the vote on the Martis Valley West plan at that time. We would assume that if you have concerns about the Village project, you probably share similar concerns about the Martis Valley West project.

Keep Squaw True – Sierra Watch

13700159_1180674165332173_6785418291340638902_nIt’s really no secret that the Keep Squaw True movement is sponsored by our friends at Sierra Watch. Sierra Watch has been around since 2000, when it was formed by a group of Martis Valley residents to advocate for protection of the Sierra. In addition to being involved in the long negotiations to protect the Martis Valley – Sierra Watch has also worked to curb overdevelopment on Donner Summit, and at the proposed Dyer Mountain development in Lassen County. In the last few years, they have channeled most of their energy to standing up to the irresponsible development proposal at Squaw Valley.

The Keep Squaw True campaign has done an admirable job of engaging locals and visitors to learn about the potential impacts of the proposed Village project. Thousands of people have signed the petitions circulated by the KST folk. It’s hard to go anywhere in the Tahoe basin without seeing a “Keep Squaw True” bumper sticker, tee shirt or hat. Unfortunately, it will take more than putting on a bumper sticker on your car to send a message to Squaw Valley, KSL Capital and Placer County. We encourage you to contact the campaign to see how you can help.

Ultimately, Sierra Watch will likely be a part of the final round in the decision over the Village project. If the project is approved by the Board of Supervisors, it’s pretty much a sure bet that it will end up in court, and it will be Sierra Watch’s legal team that will be addressing the many legal flaws during the environmental review process for the Village project. Sierra Watch deserves all of our support.

Click here to find out more about Sierra Watch.
Click here to find out more about Sierra Watch.
The League To Save Lake Tahoe

1450393846You know those ubiquitous stickers that have been seen literally all over the world, the ones that say “Keep Tahoe Blue”. The League To Save Lake Tahoe has reportedly produced more than a million of those stickers since the 1980’s. But that’s not all they do – they are the oldest Tahoe-focused conservation group in existence, having formed in 1957. There’s absolutely no doubt that all of Lake Tahoe would be a very different place without the League’s efforts. The “1980 Plan”, released in 1964 by the Lake Tahoe Regional Council, called for freeways and major highways to ring Lake Tahoe, with bridge to cross over the entrance to Emerald Bay. Apparently KSL Capital was not the first to the plate with a bad plan for Tahoe.


The League To Save Lake Tahoe is a relative newcomer to the discussion on the proposed Village at Squaw Valley project. It was a pleasure to see Shannon Eckmeyer, Policy Analyst for the League at the KST Town Hall meeting last week. As a member of the 4 person panel making presentations that night, Ms. Eckmeyer’s concerns focused on the increased vehicle miles travelled within the Tahoe basin as a result of both the Village project and the Martis West project. You would have to be a dimwit to believe that visitors coming to either Squaw or to Martis West would not end up driving to the lake. The vehicle emissions that are tied to those extra vehicle miles travelled within the basin will contribute to air pollution and a decrease in clarity of Lake Tahoe.

According to Eckmeyer, in very rounded numbers, the Tahoe Regional Planning agency goal is to keep vehicle miles travelled in the basin to under 2,000,000 miles per year. Current estimates of VMT in recent years is somewhere around 92% of that number. The Village and Martis West projects alone could increase that percentage to somewhere around 97%. If you listen to the developers, in each case they will argue that their projects will reduce VMT, as if those visitors would never travel into the basin.

We encourage you to contact the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to share your concerns about the Village at Squaw Valley and Martis Valley West projects. Although both projects are located just outside of the Tahoe basin, their impacts will be felt all around Lake Tahoe and the northern Sierra Nevada.

California State Attorney General Kamala Harris

kamala-harrisThe California State Attorney General’s Office has filed comments on both the Village at Squaw Valley project and the Martis Valley West project. In both cases, the concerns were similar in that the Environmental Impact Reports that were prepared for Placer County failed to adequately address the impacts of the projects to Lake Tahoe.

The traffic issues have two components – (1) level of service impacts to specific roadway sections within the basin; and (2) increases in vehicle miles travelled and daily vehicle trips within the basin, which in turn have impacts on air and water quality and may limit the ability of environmentally beneficial redevelopment projects in the basin to go forward. The EIR has not adequately analyzed or mitigated these impacts. – Deputy AG Nicole Rinke for Kamala Harris

The Attorney General’s complete letter to Placer County officials regarding the Village project is here for your review. What’s remarkable is that the Placer County Planning Commission chose to ignore the Attorney General’s opinion in approving the Village project in August. The Placer County Board of Supervisors did the same in approving the Martis Valley project last month.

We think it’s important to let the Attorney General’s office know that we need their help in protecting the future of Lake Tahoe. The contact information is very difficult to find on the official state site, but it is neatly laid out in the header of the Attorney General’s letter.

The Movement To Incorporate North Lake Tahoe

Less than one year after the smack down of the Olympic Valley incorporation movement by Squaw Valley and the Placer County Local Agency Formation Commission, a new effort at incorporation is budding. Squaw Valley Ski Holdings donated nearly $900,000 to the “Save Olympic Valley” campaign during the 4 year battle for local control, ensuring that the fate of the Village project would be decided by Placer County supervisors that live in western Placer County.  As the battle progressed, it became more and more clear that Placer County itself was very reluctant to give up the cash cow that is Squaw Valley.


It’s clear now that several communities will need to come together to form something larger than the town of Olympic Valley. We’ve heard people suggest the town of “North Lake Tahoe” or a new county that is compromised of that portion of Placer County that is east of the Sierra crest. A Facebook page has been created to discuss the possibilities, but at this point someone will need to step up to start the movement. It’s doubtful that those that led the movement in Olympic Valley will be wanting to jump right back into the fray.

It wouldn’t be your standard incorporation effort. It will takes years of effort and likely support from state and federal government officials to protect Lake Tahoe from Placer County. It truly needs to happen. We’ll be here to support that effort.

The battle over the Village At Squaw Valley and the Martis Valley West projects are far from over. Although both cases are likely to end up in court, it’s important that all of our opinions become a part of the administrative record. We’ll keep you posted on the actual date of the Board of Supervisors meeting. We hope you write some letters and make some phone calls while you are waiting.

Andy Wertheim: Hike To Peter Grubb Hut

Photo by Andy Wertheim
Photo by Andy Wertheim

Hello Friends,

This weekend we walked from the Hwy. 80 rest area just east of the Boreal Ski Area off ramp atop Donner Summit to the Peter Grubb Hut.  This is a section of the Pacific Crest Trail north of Hwy. 80.  The hike is about 7 miles round trip.  This trail begins from the east end of the rest stop parking area.  I do not remember seeing a sign indicating the PCT or any other trail where the path begins, but it seemed obvious to me where the trail began.  At first you are heading east which is the wrong direction, but soon you will come to an intersection indicating the direction for the PCT.  The trail heads east toward Summit Lake, but you will be turning left following the path that heads toward Warren Lake before turning left again on the PCT.  For awhile the trail seems to parallel Hwy. 80 but soon it moves away from the highway.  Granite slabs and boulders greeted us as we walked through a pine and fir forest that provides good shade for much of the hike.  This is not a steep trail which makes for relatively easy walking.  Views of Castle Peak are off to your right while views of the Sierra Crest to the south open the higher up one climbs.  It is not long before you reach a saddle and sign indicating Round Valley which is the direction the PCT continues to the north and Castle Peak off to your east.  Climbing to Castle Peak (attached photo) offers great views in all directions.  Be warned that it is not a long pump to the top, but a steep one.  We headed down to the beautiful meadows in Round Valley and the Peter Grubb Hut.  The fall colors were a happy site, but this is also an incredible hike in the spring for those that enjoy wildflowers.

By the way, it snow a little late yesterday afternoon.  A couple of pictures are attached of the snow on my deck.

The Peter Grubb Hut is a popular place for hikers and backcountry skiers to overnight.  It is owned and maintained by the Sierra Club.  I wondered who Peter Grubb was as this was something I had never thought of before.  Evidently he was the son of a well healed San Francisco family who loved the mountains and was a member of the Sierra Club.  He was born in 1919, but only lived to become 18 years old.  He died of some type of illness while spending a month traveling in Europe with a friend in 1937.  The hut was obviously named after the young Peter Grubb.  Here is a link to additional information about Peter Grubb.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim