Getting back to “normal” has been quite the journey for fire-ravaged Sierra-at-Tahoe. Yet through persistence, the venerable Tahoe ski resort is back in business – starting today.
Sierra-at-Tahoe has much to celebrate Saturday (Dec. 3) in its reopening after suffering huge damage during the August 2021 fire. The opening comes 16 months after the Caldor Fire burned 80 percent of Sierra’s 2,000 acres, damaged the maintenance facility, five of the nine lifts and the magic carpet, and equipment like snowcats and snowmobiles.
The fire also killed more than 14,000 trees, which had to be removed from the mountain in a long, tedious process. Much of the area’s recognizable terrain and famous tree skiing was destroyed, which can be seen when comparing this season’s trail map to the 2020-21 map.
“We had to remove a lot of the trees. While it’s devastating for the people who have been coming here for 10, 15, 20 years, opening day is going to be really exciting,” Sierra’s Shelby Duncan recently told KCRA TV in Sacramento.
Against the odds, Sierra-at-Tahoe is ready to reopen. A new chapter for Sierra arrives Saturday. The fact that the ski resort is opening at all is a minor miracle and a major reason to celebrate. Due to the extent of the damage caused by the Caldor Fire, many people thought the resort would never reopen.
“There was a moment after the fire came through where a lot of people were thinking ‘this is it for Sierra’ because of the amount of damage that we had sustained,” Sierra spokesperson Shelby Dunlap said. “But the fire gave a lot of us a purpose to work toward something greater and bring Sierra back.”
With the snow coming down steadily Saturday, Sierra will stage a modest opening. The resort will have only two ski lifts and four runs on the beginner’s hill operating. Easy Rider and Rock Garden are open, serving four runs – Broadway, Easy Street, Aspen, and Aspen West. Sierra Playground off-Broadway with jumps, hips, and jibs will also be available, as well as two carpets, Slider and Thunder Gulch.
Opening Day Schedule
- 8-10 am: DJ Dave Berkman spinning tunes for first laps
- 8:15 am: First 75 chair rider celebration
- 11 am to 1 pm: Red Bull tasting for a mid-day boost
- 2-5 pm: Live music in the pub – Preacher’s Pickers
There’s one more reason to celebrate Saturday. Sierra will be celebrating its 75th anniversary.
“While it will be beginner terrain, we encourage everyone to come out, pick up a season pass and take a couple turns,” Dunlap said.
WEST BOWL DAMAGE: This was previously an area of blue and black runs that was a favorite of many skiers and snowboarders who weaved in and out of tree islands. The bowl is now wide open.
The runs are still marked and named, but where there once were trees is now defined as “off-piste terrain open when conditions permit.” The area between Upper Dynamite and Jack Rabbit used to be all trees and is now a double black area called Jack’s Bowl with very few trees up high and more off-piste conditions lower on the runs.
On other parts of the mountain, most of the tree areas are currently closed. This year’s snowfall halted work in these areas, and restoration will begin in spring 2023.
CONSIDERABLE SNOWFALL: Mother Nature has been kind to the resort. Sierra received 25 inches from this week’s snowfall, the most of any Tahoe ski resort. And more is on the way with the current storm likely to extend into Monday. Sierra has 90 total inches to start the 2022-23 ski season.
Sierra-At-Tahoe expects to open all 47 of its trails this season. However, a few gladed areas will remain closed until the second round of remediation efforts begins in spring of next year. The removal of so many trees will create a much different ski experience.
“A lot of these runs will be wider because we had to make sure we had 150 feet of clearing from any (damaged) tree that we weren’t able to get to that could fall,” Dunlap said.
TAHOE SKI RESORT OPENING DATES
- Mt. Rose: Open Nov. 11
- Boreal: Open Nov. 11
- Northstar: Open Nov. 12
- Heavenly: Open Nov. 12
- Kirkwood: Open Nov. 12
- Palisades: Open Nov. 18
- Sugar Bowl: Open Nov. 25
- Soda Springs: Open Nov. 25
- Sierra-at-Tahoe: Open Dec. 3
- Diamond Peak: Open Dec. 3
- Tahoe Donner: Dec. 9
- Homewood: Dec. 16
- Granlibakken: Dec. 18