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The Lost Sierra Hoedown: A Fourth Year Of Fun Ahead

The skies over the Johnsville Ski Bowl were lit up with energy at the 2015 Lost Sierra Hoedown.

The skies over the Johnsville Ski Bowl were lit up with energy at the 2015 Lost Sierra Hoedown.

The 4th Annual Lost Sierra Hoedown is now just two months away. While there are bigger and flashier festivals around Northern California, the Hoedown offers an experience that is something different. The event began in 2013 as a senior project of Sierra Nevada College students with two goals in mind: supporting the historic Johnsville Ski Bowl and bringing sustainability to music festivals. In it’s fourth year, those values are still there.

The Lost Sierra Hoedown offers 4 days of music, camping and camaraderie. The lineup for this year includes a little bit of everything. Although the roots of the festival are based in Americana, with no shortage of banjoes and mandolins – there’s a little bit of everything sprinkled in. The Stone Foxes join the headliners this year, bringing a bit of straight rock and roll flavor to the event. The wildly popular Rabbit Wilde will also be returning for a rare northern California appearance. The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit will also be back to provide some rowdy fun after a summer hiatus. There’s just too many good things happening in the lineup to mention them all!

The event is held right at the Johnsville Ski Bowl, near the town of Graeagle, about one hour north of Truckee. The ski area is the home of the nation’s first ski races. Local miners created their own “snowshoes”, up to 11 feet long, and secret mixtures of waxes and pine tar “dope” to increase the odds of winning those early races. Those same miners reportedly also created the first know ski lift, by utilizing the ore carts that were already in place for mining operations. The Plumas Ski Club continues to hold several longboard races a year at the Ski Bowl.

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One thing that separates the Lost Sierra Hoedown from other festivals is that there is just one ticket that covers everything. That ticket covers four days of music, onsite camping, parking and admission for kids 12 years and under. It also includes an awesome ceramic pint glass from Earth-In Canteen, eliminating the use of plastic cups at the event. One day tickets for the event are not available. In order to protect the venue, ticket sales are limited to only 500 tickets, and those will definitely sell out as full 4 day tickets. That in itself changes the nature of the festival, bring a strong sense of community and camaraderie. Amongst that community you will find many Alpine Meadows people.

Ticket prices for this year’s festival have risen significantly. This year’s tickets are priced at $160 for the 4 day ticket. That’s a bit of a jump over previous years. Event organizers have had to deal with reality though. In the first couple of years, everybody was willing to donate time or materials to support the new event. But as the event has continued into it’s fourth year, the expenses keep building. Permit fees alone for the event have more than doubled over time – as have expenses for the simple things like sanitation and security. The reality is that similar 4 day festivals in the region will cost anywhere from $250 to 500 for a 4 day ticket when you factor in extra costs for camping and parking. The Lost Sierra Hoedown continues to be a true bargain.

The Lost Sierra Hoedown has sold out every year for the last three years and this year will be no different. Ticket sales are beginning to move fast, so we encourage you to commit soon and not be “that guy” having a freak out at the gate because no tickets are available. There’s also still some volunteer spots available to earn your ticket to the event. As always, we look forward to seeing our Alpine Meadows friends for an amazing autumnal equinox weekend.

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Sierra Watch Releases “Keep Squaw True” Short Film

It’s been about six years since KSL Capital purchased Squaw Valley promising a “renaissance.” Since then, many people have discovered that those plans included a lot of things that many believe that Squaw Valley and the North Lake Tahoe region do not need:

  • A 90,000 square foot 96’ tall indoor waterpark with waterslides, indoor waterskiing, fake rivers, arcades, and a 30 lane bowling complex
  • 1,493 new bedrooms spread among a series of highrise condo hotels (many of which would be nearly 100’ tall) surrounding the existing village
  • 21 timeshare mansions on undeveloped land in the mouth of Shirley Canyon

One year later, KSL Capital, via Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, purchased Alpine Meadows. With that has come the dream of connecting the two resorts, resulting in the proposal for the unpopular Base To Base gondola. The gondola would traverse through a section of the Granite Chief Wilderness. It would also change the Alpine Meadows experience forever.

Although Squaw Valley Ski Holdings was successful in spending $850,000 to crush the Olympic Valley incorporation movement, they have not crushed the spirit of the community. There’s been growing opposition to the Village at Squaw Valley plan. More than 350 people made comments during the Environmental Impact Report process that opposed the plan or asked for significant reductions in the plan. The local Municipal Advisory Committee also recommended that Placer county deny the plan in May.

The Placer County Planning Commission will be considering the proposal on August 11th. The time and location the meeting has still not been set. Our friends at Sierra Watch released a short film this week that captures the true spirit of their “Keep Squaw True” movement. We hope it inspires a large number of you to get involved and let Placer County know that this is something we don’t want or need for Squaw Valley, or the entire North Lake Tahoe Region.

Squaw Valley Village: What’s Next?

Image via Eventbrite.com

Image via Eventbrite.com

Like others around North Lake Tahoe we’ve noted a 5000% increase in the appearance of yoga pants around the area, and that can only mean one thing. Wanderlust is back in town. Personally yoga is not my thing, as I am easily distracted by squirrels. But Wanderlust does represent something that Squaw Valley does right. It fills the village at a time of year where it might otherwise be empty. At the same time, a lot of those visitors also choose to get out and enjoy the real Lake Tahoe. As the yoga and music festival is spread over several days, there is no peak traffic crunch that paralyzes the area. It’s really a win-win for everyone.

We wish everything at Squaw Valley worked that way. We know it doesn’t. Although it’s been a bit quiet over the last couple of months, the proposed Village at Squaw Valley project is still looming. It’s one of several proposals for North lake Tahoe that would have far reaching impacts, forever. The Environmental Impact Report for the project identified more than 20 “significant and unavoidable” impacts from the proposal. Public commentary on the project runs about 200 to 1, with the majority of people looking for major reductions or a complete rejection of the plan. Those that have publicly expressed support for the plan include real estate developers and architects that stand to profit from the proposal.

For those that care about the future of Squaw Valley and the North Lake Tahoe region, there’s a few new updates to note:

• The Placer County Planning Commission will be meeting on August 11 to consider approval of the Village At Squaw Valley Specific Plan. A specific location and time for the meeting has not been determined, but it will be in eastern Placer County. We hope to see the same sort of turnouts that were recently seen for meetings regarding the Martis West project, which was denied at the Commission’s last meeting.

• Chevis Hosea is no longer serving as Squaw Valley’s Vice President of Development. According to HospitalityNet, Hosea has moved on to oversee a Miraval Resort spa project. Miraval Resorts is another subsidiary of KSL Capital. As VP of Development, it was always Hosea that reminded anyone willing to listen that nothing less than the fully proposed development would “pencil out” for Squaw Valley. Who will be saying that now?

• The marketing depart at Squaw Valley has duly noted that there is support for some redevelopment of the current village. The Facebook page for the Village at Squaw Valley has now been changed to the “Village at Squaw Valley Redevelopment”. We’re guessing that we will be seeing a lot more of that term thrown about. While it’s true that a portion of the proposal would redevelop parking lots, don’t be fooled. Unless something radical is presented at the August meeting of the Planning Commission, the project still includes plans for new construction in Shirley Canyon and on the east parcel on Squaw Valley road; they also still include plans for a 90,000 square foot indoor aquatic park and recreation center; and countless other super-sizing that leads to all of those significant and unavoidable impacts.

• A new webpage, SquawTomorrow, appeared this month touting the benefits of the Village project. There’s not much to it other than begging people to support the project. We’re pretty certain that the costs to the North Lake Tahoe community will greater than the benefits they suggest. Besides the jobs the project could create, there is little guarantee that profits from the project will stay in Tahoe. Nor is there any promise that taxes generated from the project will stay in Tahoe to benefit this area. We would love to see Squaw Valley support the restoration of Squaw Creek and other recreational improvements without using it as a bartering chip to gain public support for the project.

We hope to see many people at the Planning Commission meeting on August 11th. We will post an update letting you know the exact time and location for the meeting. 

A Small Victory For North Tahoe

Photo courtesy of Sierra Watch

Photo courtesy of Sierra Watch

It was a small victory for North Lake Tahoe. Last week, the Placer County Planning Commission voted 5-2 to reject the Martis West proposal. The project would have brought 760 new residential units to the west side of Brockway Summit along Highway 267. A secondary part of the proposal would also have added a 550 site private campground facility.

Several local authorities shared concerns about the plan and it’s impact on traffic in the area, especially during an emergency that required evacuation. Captain Ryan Stonebraker came from the Truckee-based office of the California Highway Patrol. He pointed out that they have a bicycle patrol in North Tahoe because the traffic is already so bad. As he told the Commission, “A bicycle is the only thing that can get around in Kings Beach.”

Beth Kenna spoke on behalf of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District and told the Commission that the district and its Chief “share our constituents’ concerns in regards to the added fire and evacuation challenges”. “We are not confident that our concerns have been adequately addressed by the applicant through the County,” said Kenna.

Hundreds of Tahoe residents attended the hearing, many holding up signs that read, “DENY Martis Valley West.”  A stream of locals stepped to the podium to address the Commission.   Once again, public input was overwhelming.  Every speaker expressed opposition and urged the Commission to deny the project. No one but the developers and their consultants spoke in favor of the project.

While the news of the rejection of the plan is certainly big news, it’s just one small victory. The final decision on the project is still to be decided by the Placer County supervisors. No date has been set for that meeting.

Kudos to the local community and those that came from afar to take a stand against carpetbaggers only looking to make a quick buck. We’ll need to continue to stand together as this project represents just one of many proposals that will change our area forever.

“This is a great demonstration of real leadership – the Commission was willing to take a stand for Tahoe and for Placer County. It’s yet another example of how we can work together to protect the places we love.  We look forward to that same commitment when they take up other proposals, including development proposed for nearby Squaw Valley.” – Tom Mooers, Executive Director, Sierra Watch

Development & The Potential For Disaster

Fortunately a tanker from Grass valley was able to get on the scene of a fire near Squaw Valley very quickly today. Photo by Jim

Fortunately a tanker from Grass valley was able to get on the scene of a fire near Squaw Valley very quickly today. Photo by Jim

As the fire season in California comes to life, we get used to seeing daily images on the news media about the latest fire and the harrowing evacuations necessary to protect the public. Today, a small fire broke out along Highway 89 north of Squaw Valley in heavy timber. Fortunately, a complete cadre of local agencies came together to contain the fire at less that one acre. They were also lucky to have resources from the Grass Valley air attack base already in the air fighting the nearby Trailhead fire.

We were lucky today. The winds were blowing. Tahoe roads were pretty full with tourists during one of the busiest holiday weeks of the summer. Had today’s fire blown out of control, we could have experienced something like was seen recently in Fort MacMurray, Alberta.

A recent letter in the Sierra Sun highlighted these concerns.

Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Martis Valley are being used as a cash cow for Placer County at the life-threatening expense of residents, visitors and the lake.

One day, a wind-blown wild fire will surely enter the Tahoe Basin. Where will you go … how does anyone fleeing for their life realistically plan to get out of here if the North Shore and it’s only two escape routes are gridlocked?

I have been in the midst of a 100,000-acre, wind-blown wildfire. Here’s a reality of emergency evacuations from wind-blown wildfires — few things go according to plan. People panic, and wind-blown wildfires aren’t predictable.

I spent the better part of three days and nights moving horses during this fire. One minute the fire line could be a mile away; a few minutes later, I was in a hail storm of windblown embers landing all around me while embers were blowing past me faster than I could run or drive.

The ground got so hot I couldn’t stand still and every time I tried to inhale I wasn’t sure my lungs wouldn’t explode from the heat. Then it got worse.

Now, envision a windblown wildfire of that, or greater magnitude on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe with only two, single-lane, canyon escape routes. There is Hwy 89 to the west and Hwy 267 to the east, both single-lane, canyon roads surrounded on both sides by drought-stricken, explosive pine trees.

Various government agencies such as TRPA, Washoe County, Placer County and the town of Truckee are currently in process of reviewing or have approved applications of a number of new developments in our region, including: Village at Squaw Valley, Homewood, Boulder Bay, Highlands II and III, Railyard, Joerger Ranch, Brockway Campground and Martis Valley West.

Mountainside Partners (formerly East West Partners, notably bankrupt at the Ritz, Old Greenwood and Grey’s Crossing at one point) is ramrodding, and so-far successfully fast-tracking, a proposed 760-unit gated development adjoining their also-proposed 550-space campground.

Both of these proposed developments — the 550-space Brockway Campground and the adjoining 760-unit gated Martis Valley West development — parallel the west side of Hwy 267 from the ridgeline, including into the Tahoe Basin for the campground project.

Martis Valley West developers claim their emergency evacuation model shows an orchestrated emergency evacuation time of 1.3 hours.

There is simply nothing orderly about a wind-blown wildfire. Let us consider reality — thousands of fleeing residents and visitors chased by burning embers and exploding trees from all around the North Shore, including the communities east of Tahoe City, like Dollar Hill, Dollar Point, Cedar Flat, Tahoe Vista, Carnelian Bay and Kings Beach, perhaps even residents and visitors from Crystal Bay or Incline Village, rushing toward Hwy 267.

Now add hundreds of out-of-area campers staying at the Brockway Campground with their RVs, trailers and boats. All it will take, anywhere along Hwy 267, is a single accident, a stalled RV, a jack-knifed boat and everything will come to a life-threatening onslaught of stalled humanity being pushed from the rear.

Hwy 267 will be a death zone. This is North Shore Emergency Evacuation reality … and this is the very reality Placer County is fast-tracking toward approval — common sense, safety and wellbeing be damned!

Most notably missing from various public forums are any representatives from the Northstar Fire Department., North Tahoe Fire Protection District, Calfire and Caltrans. How can his be?

The developers are seeking a 20-year building permit for Martis Valley West. They plan to log more than 20,000 trees and move an estimated 11 million cubic yards of earth, absolutely decimating natural wildlife corridors.

These developments, Martis West and Brockway Campground, are insanity. The irreversible threat to the environment, the displacement of established wildlife corridors, the threat to public safety and the threat to Lake Tahoe itself from the added carbon emissions from gridlocked traffic should surely be evidence enough to sway our supervisors, planners and TRPA toward common sense realities and to stop them from approving of these two insane, destructive and dangerous developments. The entire Lake Tahoe and Truckee areas are already at capacity overload.

Stand up on July 7 at 2 p.m. at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach at the Placer County Planning Commission meeting and tell Placer County to listen to the people and deny Martis Valley West.

Robert Heinz is a Tahoe City resident and has lived here since 1997.

As Mr. Heinz suggests, it’s important that we take a stand and let Placer County know that enough is enough. Combine all of the proposed developments at Martis West, Homewood, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley – and you will be bringing far more people than ever into the Tahoe basin during fire season.

The Placer County Planning Commission is expected to vote on the Martis West Plan at their meeting on July 7th at 2 pm at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. The Commission was also expected to address the Village at Squaw Valley project by July, but no date has been set for that meeting yet. It’s been encouraging to see large numbers of people showing up at recent development meetings – we can’t let our guard down.

The future in Lake Tahoe? The Fort McMurray evacuation in Alberta this summer has many people thinking about the potential for disaster.

The future in Lake Tahoe? The Fort McMurray evacuation in Alberta this summer has many people thinking about the potential for disaster.

It’s Good To Be Back On The Snow

A tiny bit of winter happening in the midst of a warm summer day at Boreal.

A tiny bit of winter happening in the midst of a warm summer day at Boreal.

Today the “Summer Shred” at Boreal really did feel like summer. While the previous shred day began with an intense rainstorm and clouds, today’s skies were blue and warm. While the temperatures were only 50° this morning in Truckee, as I climbed Donner Summit the temperatures rose with each passing mile. Standing in the Boreal parking lot I had to have  that internal debate about whether or not to just ski in shorts or put on the ski pants. By the time lift was loading, the weather app was reporting a balmy 64° and Boreal was still making snow.

I’m definitely out of practice, having not skied since Alpine Meadows closed in early May. Many people may have mistaken me for Jerry this morning, especially at the moment that I slung my skis over my shoulder and realized that the ski brake was now stuck in my helmet strap. But once I clicked in and stepped up to the lift, it all felt natural again.

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Thanks to the use of salt by the Boreal team, the surface started out firm, crunchy and fast for those first few laps. As the crowds increased and that crust was broken, things rapidly got slower and sloppier. There were also some pretty good crowds peaking by 11am, resulting in people stacked up at the lift and at the top of the run, waiting to hit that first jib. While I’m pretty good at dealing with those traffic jams, I took it as a sign it was time to go have lunch.

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It felt good to get those ski pants off, as the car reported that the temperature was 80° in the parking lot. It certainly was a day of Boreal magic. Kudos to mountain manager Shaydar Edelman and the rest of the Boreal crew for making it happen.

I won’t be making it to Mammoth in the next two days before they close on the 4th so it’s time to start thinking about a trip to Mount Hood for more summer turns.

My friend Stev is now on his 153rd consecutive month of skiing...that is a streak.

My friend Stev is now on his 153rd consecutive month of skiing…that is a streak.