Birds in The Air, Fellers on The Ground, Phase 02 Restoration Underway at Sierra

Shelby Dunlap
Thursday, August 17, 2023

With tree fellers on the ground, helicopters in the air, and logging trucks on the road, phase 02 of restoration from the 2021 Caldor Fire is underway, and from what we’ve seen already, the 2023/24 season is shaping up to pack an even bigger punch- with new lines, bigger bowls, and a chance for guests to trail blaze across the ‘newest terrain’ in the ski industry. Because it's not every day a resort gets to literally redesign its mountain, ammiright?  

For those chompin’ at the bit to get back into those closed areas (a-bowlers? 🙋) we’ve got you 👊.


What's Happening at Sierra? 


So here’s the scoop. Phase 02 restoration began in early July with the goal of removing the remaining fire-damaged trees in all gladed areas that were closed off last season based on the prescription of the foresters of the USFS. What does this means for guests?  Re-opened access to all of the gladed areas that were closed last year- stoke level ignite 🚀 (as always, conditions permitting*). 

The East Side, Backside + Avalanche Bowl are the main areas getting a serious ‘glow up’ this summer with some much-needed TLC ahead of next season. The level of remediation effort varies in each area, and is ranging from minimal tree thinning to full tree removal. It's all dependent on the level of damage from the fire.

The El Dorado RCD and USFS are following proper protocols and acting with the utmost sensitivity to leave as many healthy trees as possible for those freeriders + skiers to enjoy. The crews are up against some hurdles with areas of heavy tree mortality  not initially included in phase 01  that were impacted by the fire in these gladed areas.   

Gladed zones include: 

  • The eastern areas between Rerun + Castle 
  • The eastern areas of Castle + Preacher’s Passion going towards the Grandview rope line 
  • The backside (Huckleberry Canyon) 
  • The front side (Avalanche Bowl, areas around Chute + Main) 

These areas store special, core memories for many of us, and one thing we can all agree on is,  the love for this mountain runs deep . Sierra along with The El Dorado RCD, and the United States Forest Service are rallied around a common goal- to preserve what we can and remove what we must .    

[image: Eastside looking upward before tree assessment + removal, Sierra-at-Tahoe]

Fire Aftermath: Tree Mortality 

The deeper impacts of the fire are starting to show with tree mortality happening across the mountain. Tree mortality is a natural process in forest ecosystems after going through nature disasters. Natural effects can include the spread of beetles, disease impacts or stress from large-scale regional weather events, such as severe droughts or fire. Delayed mortality is common in burned forested landscapes for up to ~5 years, and more trees  are anticipated to die due to the delayed effects of the fire.

Most notably, the Western White Pine is taking a big hit from pine beetles and in the Red Fir, the fir engraved beetles. We are also starting to see evidence of bug activity in the Mountain Hemlock which is experiencing scattered mortality as well. Prior to removal, Forestry crews are performing White Bark Pine surveys to ensure only decaying trees are marked.  

[Image: Tree feller near Thunder Gulch, Sierra-at-Tahoe]

One important note is that we are not alone, and this isn’t just happening at Sierra . The entire footprint from the Caldor Fire is experiencing similar lasting impacts of tree mortality from the burn. The fire was out of our control, but what's important is how we react to it. We will work alongside Mother Nature in her recovery, and enjoy every phase of this mountain's rebirth.

All The Details  

You’ve been Axing alll the right questions, and we’ve got answers. 


  • July 01: Phase 02 restoration began 
  • August 07: Helicopter work began with a Chinook to transport logs from hard-to-access areas to a staging site 
  • August 15:  An estimated 2.5 million gross board feet* have been delivered to Tahoe Forest Products to date (TFP)
  • Approximately 30-40 truckloads of timber a day being delivered from Sierra to TFP
  • Each log can weigh up to 10,000 pounds

Similar to last summer, merchantable timber will be loaded and transported to Tahoe Forest Products in Carson City, Nevada. Non-merchantable timber will be chipped and broadcast around the mountain as insulation for runs to assist with snow preservation, especially in the early + spring season.  

[Image: Trucks using Sugar n' Spice as an access road to load + transport timber, Sierra-at-Tahoe] 

Along with restoration, regular summer maintenance projects are continuing across the mountain with chair inspections, replacing necessary comm lines, and having the new Upper Shop ready by the time snow starts to fall. 

Board Feet definition*: is a unit of measurement for the volume of lumber, it is a wood measurement for a piece of lumber 12" wide by 1' long by 1" thick for estimating purposes. For example, a 2x6 board is equal to one board foot for each foot of length. 

What’s Next? 

In just 8 weeks we are nearing completion of phase 02 restoration. With lots more to come, we encourage guests to expect the unexpected this coming season . There will be less trees in the gladed areas, but less trees mean new possibilities with new views, new lines, and bigger bowls. Sure, things are going to look a little different, but we think different can be pretty fun. 

Quick reminder, Season Passes are on sales for the 2023/24 season! Prices go up Sept. 30