Andy Wertheim: Paige Meadows

Photo by Andy Wertheim

Photo by Andy Wertheim

Hello Friends,

It is pretty warm outside today and the weekend temperatures are forecast to be even warmer.  I think the humidity is what is making it feel warm as the actual temperatures are less than 80 degrees.  I was dripping sweat mid-afternoon on my first ride through Page Meadows.

We rode from my office to Tahoe City on the bike trail and then up to Paige Meadows from the end of Rawhide Drive.  The meadows were outstanding today.  They have green and filled with flowers.  Camas Lily and Meadow Penstemon filled the meadows.  There is still snow clinging to the slopes, especially below Twin Peaks which makes for a beautiful backdrop.  The trails through the meadows are mostly dry, but there are a few wet muddy sections that are short.  I always get off my bike and walk through these wet sections.

Once we were through the meadows we rode up and over to Alpine Meadows.  The trails are in pretty good condition, although the ride down to Snow Crest is rough as always.  It is definitely worth riding or walking through Paige Meadows this time of year.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Andy Wertheim: Donner Summit History

Hello Friends,

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 7.37.05 PMI have been reading a book I picked up at the Donner Summit Historical Society Museum recently.  Walking Through Donner Summit History is the name of the book which was written by Bill Oudegeest, who is a resident of the summit area and obviously a history buff.  There’s a few fun facts that have come to my attention that I will pass along.

Mt. Judah, which is part of Sugar Bowl, was named after Theodore Judah in 1939.  Judah was the person responsible for engineering the transcontinental train route over Donner Summit.  It was his idea to design and build the railroad through the Sierra.  He began his efforts in the early 1850’s, but died before the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.

Another rocky peak between Donner Summit and Squaw Valley along the Pacific Crest Trail is named Tinker’s Knob.  This was named after James Tinker’s nose.  James Tinker owned the Summit Soda Springs Hotel, also known as Tinker’s Station in 1874.  It was located where the current Soda Springs Ski Area parking lot exists.

Evidently, many well to do San Francisco families traveled to Soda Springs and this hotel to take advantage of the healing powers of the soda water in the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s.

Schallenberger  Ridge which is easily viewed from Donner Summit or Truckee was named after Moses Schallenberger who was a 17 year old member of the Stephens Party.  The Stephens Party was the first wagon trail to cross the Sierra.  Six of their 11 wagons crossed over the Sierra in 1844.  The rest were left at Donner Lake to be retrieved the next spring.  3 men were left to care for the wagons, but they later decided to leave go on foot over the mountains.

An artists rendering of the Donner Party camp at  "Truckee Lake", now known as Donner Lake.

An artists rendering of the Donner Party camp at “Truckee Lake”, now known as Donner Lake.

One member, Moses Schallenberger, was unable to continue after reaching the Summit Valley an area near Soda Springs.  He went back and remained at Donner Lake for the winter in a small cabin the group had built prior to leaving.  The Donner Party used this cabin when they became stuck at Donner Lake (named after the Donner Party) in late 1846.  Stephens Peak, a small peak to the left of Rainbow Bridge when looking down from Donner Summit, is  named after Elisha Stephens who was the leader of the first wagon train to reach California over the Sierra in 1844.

The book describes the lives of thousands  Chinese who made up most of the workforce that constructed the railroad over the summit.  There are chapters about the native Americans that left their art work on low sloping granite slabs all over the Sierra including the area on and around Donner Summit.

There are stories about the Ice Companies that sprung up on and near Donner Summit after the railroad was completed.  Ice was harvested from lakes and man made ponds in Truckee and on the summit stored in large insulated buildings for up to 3 years and shipped to the east and west in rail cars.  This was a much less expensive and faster way to ship ice.  Previously ice was loaded on ships in the east.  It was a long trip around the tip of South America for ice to get to our west coast.  I am fascinated by the transportation of tons and tons of equipment, and material by wagon from Colfax to the summit and Truckee where it was needed to drill through granite for the tunnels that still exist today.  Locomotives were hauled by wagons over the Emigrant Trail (Roller Pass route) or down the Lincoln Highway (a dirt road from Donner Summit to Donner Lake that was clogged with wagon traffic).

There is a lot of history to learn about our Sierra surroundings.

The sky is clear and the air warmer this morning.  Perhaps the clouds, thunder, and rain were have been experiencing for the past week or more is moving away for a few days.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

To purchase Walking Through Donner Summit History,

1. go tor our website’s store page or just click the link on our front page.

2. send a check for $25 (includes shipping/handling) to DSHS P.O. 1 Norden, CA 95724
3. Go to the Soda Springs General Store
4. Go to the Donner Summit Historical Society at the blinking light in Soda Springs.

5. Go to the Donner Memorial State Park’s Visitors’ Center.

Wirth Delivers His Latest Proclamation

Caption this? Photo via IMDB

Caption this? Photo via IMDB

Last week the Placer County Local Agency Formation Commission finally released the Preliminary Draft of the Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis for the incorporation of Olympic Valley. A local group of concerned citizens and residents, known as Incorporate Olympic Valley, has been working on bringing the incorporation to a public vote over the last 2 years. If you’ve been reading over that time, you’re well aware that Squaw Valley Real Estate, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings and CEO Andy Wirth are scared to death about letting locals assert control over what happens in Olympic Valley.

We received our copy of the Preliminary Draft CFA from Placer County last Thursday and were surprised that the independent contractor responsible for the study, RSG, had indeed arrived at a preliminary conclusion that the town may not be fiscally viable. Surely that raised a lot of questions in my mind, as the fiscal viability seemed like a slam dunk. But as much as I have watched the process over that last two years, I am certainly not any sort of expert at government finance. We decided that it would be best to wait until either Incorporate Olympic Valley (IOV or the pro-incorporation group) or the Save Olympic Valley (SOV or the anti-incorporation group) fired the first shot.

As it turns out, neither of them fired first. On Friday, a press release arrived from Squaw Valley|Alpine Meadows with a statement from CEO Andy Wirth. As we have noted here before, Wirth’s statements were neither pretty nor entirely accurate. We can’t even say it was a true press release, as the entire release consisted of just two “sound bites” from Wirth regarding the preliminary draft CFA. The sound bites were entirely out of context and were not surrounded by any useful information about why Squaw Valley or CEO Andy Wirth even cared about the incorporation effort. It seems as if Wirth was only focused on a mad dash to be the first one to say anything, rather than actually delivering a thoughtful message. This release comes across no better than the last release that slammed Sierra Watch’s Tom Mooers, and others we’ve seen in the past. Who is screening these e-mails before they get sent? See a copy of Wirth’s release.

We weren’t the only ones that noted the unprofessional and incomplete  press release. The rapidly growing Death Of The Pressbox blog analyzed Wirth’s statement in their latest post Saturday, titled “Andy Wirth kicks off the summer by sharting all over Olympic Valley community”. While the content is acerbic and not at all kid-friendly, it gets right to the point.

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Subtlety is not one of Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth’s strong suits. Add writing a cohesive sound bite and good timing to that list. – Death Of The Pressbox

If you’re a fan of Andy Wirth, you’re not going to like that piece. But the message it delivers is important. Not only is the message from Andy skewed and inflammatory, but the logic used by Wirth in denouncing the incorporation effort is also flawed. DOTPB notes that if the town of Olympic Valley cannot possibly be viable based on one source of income, Squaw Valley, how can Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, lead by Wirth, be willing the risk the billions of dollars from KSL Capital investors on an oversized Disneyesque monstrosity, that Wirth himself suggests could lead to the failure of the town.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that the Preliminary Draft Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis is just that, both “preliminary” and  a “draft”. Both of those words suggest that the CFA is a live document that will change over time. In fact, the revenue neutrality negotiations, one of the biggest factors of the equation, haven’t even begun yet. There are many questions regarding the CFA, starting with the very last minute change that lead the CFA being handled by RSG instead of Citygate, the firm initially selected to conduct the analysis.

The key issue here is, who we can trust with the future of Squaw Valley and the surrounding communities of North Lake Tahoe? This is just the latest in a string of deceitful and anti-community behavior by first time CEO  Wirth and Squaw Valley. Let’s look at the history:

• Wirth has attacked members of the community that oppose Squaw Valley’s plans or favor the incorporation of Olympic Valley

• Squaw Valley and Wirth have not kept promises made in 2011 to protect the separate identities and characters of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

• Wirth secretly (or not so secretly!) made efforts to gain the support of local non-profit organizations to vouch for his credibility

• Wirth also made efforts to gain support from local athletes that would support the Village At Squaw Valley project or personally vouch for Wirth’s credibility. While evidence of that support is pathetically transparent, it’s important that several athletes refused to “sign on” to the efforts.

• Squaw Valley has contributed nearly $500,000 to Save Olympic Valley campaign to fight the incorporation effort and thwart local control of the community.

Ultimately, the battle over the incorporation in Olympic Valley is not done yet. Spock has not yet appeared with his tricorder to announce “It’s dead, Jim”, and we don’t believe that Andy Wirth is a credible source to make that proclamation either. We look forward to hearing from the Incorporate Olympic Valley group soon.

No matter how you stand on the incorporation of Olympic Valley, one message is clear, we cannot trust that KSL Capital, Squaw Valley or CEO Andy Wirth are the right people to be making decisions about the future of the North Lake Tahoe area.

Apparently People Are Still Skiing Out There

Mount Rose is looking more white on May 24 than it has looked all winter. Photo via Reno NOAA office

Mount Rose is looking more white on May 24 than it has looked all winter. Photo via Reno NOAA office

Today marks the official closing day at Mammoth, and as I wake up and realize that I am not there, it brings a bit of sadness. It’s been nearly a month since I have been on skis, and it’s not for a lack of invitations. I’ve been getting the usual texts and calls wondering if I will be at Mammoth, or hiking and skiing at one of the higher elevation places around Tahoe like Mount Rose or Carson Pass. Last weekend, while commuting to my summer job, I passed carloads of hikers with skis and snowboards strapped to their backs. It certainly made me wonder again what is really important in life.

Photo via

Photo by Miles Clark via

Miles over at has been providing a solid feed of mini-powder day miracles down at Mammoth. Mammoth was initially planning on closing three weeks ago due to the low tide conditions. But those storms that have brought rain to Truckee have kept the snow falling at Mammoth, at least at Chair 23.

My friend, and summer ski mentor, Stev, invited me to hike and ski The Nipple near Carson Pass yesterday. Instead I mowed the lawn. What a mistake that was! Here’s what I missed:





It’s going to be a long summer for my “year round skier” friends. Although I broke my ski streak last October, I am just beginning to realize that I need to go find some snow to make my May turns soon!

Andy Wertheim: Easy Hike In Truckee

Hello Friends,

I found myself in Truckee between appointments yesterday and decided to run out to the Sagehen Creek Trail for a quick walk.  This easy 5 mile round trip trail that follows Sagehen Creek to Stampede Reservoir.  The hike is relatively level and easy to follow.  Parking is in a small dirt area just passed the north end of a bridge that spans Sagehen Creek.  This is approximately 6.8 miles north of the intersection of Hwy. 89 and Hwy. 80.

Even though we have been having afternoon rains and snow the past week or so, including now (it is raining at the moment), the trail was dry.  Flowers are blooming along the path, trees and bushes are sprouting new growth, water is flowing higher than I would have guessed, and birds were sings there spring songs.  I took a few pictures of flowers along the way and attempted to identify them.  The photos are attached.  I walked briskly and noted a round trip time of 1.5 hours.  It is a walk one can do in between thunder storms.

This weekend does not look like it will be warm and sunny, but who knows what will really happen given our crazy weather patterns this year.

Most likely I will try and spend some time running an open house at River Run (condos along the Truckee River at the corner of Alpine Meadows Road and Hwy. 89) on Saturday.  Come by if you are around and say hello.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Village At Squaw Valley Project: Renderings, New Opinions & A Workshop

Much of Squaw Valley would be filled with buildings near 100 ft tall if SVRE plans are approved.

Much of Squaw Valley would be filled with buildings near 100 ft tall if SVRE plans are approved.

My e-mail inbox and Facebook feed keep filling with more and more information regarding the Village at Squaw Valley project. It’s way more information than most people can digest. Last week, we reported on the release of the draft environmental impact report, which in itself totals more than 2,000 pages of reading. I’ll be honest in saying that I have not yet read more of that material since posting. Here’s a summary of the latest developments:

Placer County Releases Architectural Renderings Of The Village Project

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Placer County Senior Planner Alex Fisch announced this week that Placer County has added the architectural renderings for the Village project on the county page that has been dedicated to the latest Specific Plan. The renderings are intended to give us a conceptual look at most of the buildings that will be included within the project. In short, the building look unremarkable. They look like every ski “village” you have ever seen. The same drawings could reflect the architecture of Northstar, Whistler, or Mammoth. It’s difficult to truly estimate what those building would look like relative to the existing buildings and surrounding area, as few of the renderings are in situ. We’re anxious for some tech savvy person to present an accurate mockup of what what we can expect if Placer County approves the plan.

Sierra Watch Releases An Initial Response To The Specific Plan & dEIR
Image courtesy of Keep Squaw True

Image courtesy of Keep Squaw True/Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch has done a preliminary press release reiterating its concerns regarding the Village project. Although the project has been scaled down from what KSL Capital first proposed in 2011, the project still would be the largest project ever seen in the Sierra. The release highlights a list of concerns very similar to those we shared last week (and over the last 3 years), they note that they have “lined up a team of experts in planning, hydrology, wildlife biology, land use law, and even herpetology to analyze the Draft EIR and its findings.”

“We will engage the best experts in our review of the Draft EIR,” said Isaac Silverman, Staff Attorney for Sierra Watch.  “Squaw Valley deserves no less.”

Here’s the entire text of the Sierra Watch Press Release.

Friends Of Squaw Valley Will Offer An EIR Response Workshop On May 24th

The Friends of Squaw Valley will conduct a public workshop regarding the Village project dEIR on Sunday, May 24th. The goal of the workshop is how to write a response and express your concerns regarding the impacts of Squaw Valley Real Estate’s proposed Village at Squaw Valley. It’s important that people put Placer County on notice that the concerns surrounding the proposed development are real and that the need to protect Squaw Valley and the surrounding area is important to all of us. The workshop will be held on the 24th at 4 pm at the Squaw Valley Public Services District in the community meeting room, located on the west end of the fire station.