Caldor Fire Update

Snow Reporter
Thursday, February 17, 2022
general

 

Guest Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. What will be open this season?

A. We are still conducting a thorough evaluation of Sierra’s lifts and trails to understand the full impact of the fire. That evaluation will determine what operations look like for opening the resort for the 2021/22 winter season. Repairs, routine yearly maintenance + annual inspections continue on Nob Hill, Short Stuff, El Dorado + Easy Rider Express, as well as mitigation for fire-damaged trees along ski trails accessed by these lifts. The operating status for individual trails accessed by each of these lifts is still unknown as they undergo inspection.

Based on initial assessments, we do know that the trails and area accessed by West Bowl Express will be inaccessible this winter. In addition, many of the in-bound tree skiing areas, such as Jack’s + Avalanche Bowl, will likely be closed for the season.

We will continue to share the details on specific trails and lifts so you can plan your Play moving forward.

Q. What about Grandview Express?

A. Grandview Express’ haul rope, which suspends the ski lift’s chairs, was damaged during the fire. We have since replaced the haul rope and comm line (communication line) outlined in detail in the below updates for February 17, 2022, and January 21, 2022. We are focused on making repairs and restoring Sierra to optimal condition and are excited about the two milestones reached so far in repairing Grandview. 

Q. When will Sierra open for the 2021/22 season?

A. Our opening timeframe for the 2021/22 season is still unknown, as there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in order to offer you the quality ski experience you have come to expect from Sierra. It is unlikely that we will open in 2021 - so we have set our sights on resuming operations sometime in 2022. Stay tuned on our social channels or sign up for our email updates to be in the know!

Q. What is the Season Pass Recess program?

A. This program protects your 2021/22 season pass to potentially give you access to both the 2021/22 and 2022/23 winter seasons – as soon as we are able to open parts or all of Sierra. When operations can resume, your pass will be valid immediately for use and for the entire 2022/23 winter season. We can’t wait to welcome you back, and explore the mountain in a whole new way with you. Alternatively, we will honor a refund for your season pass products, no questions asked.

Q. How does the $50 Season Pass Rebate or Donate work?

A. Doing right by our guests and employees is core to who we are at Sierra. By sticking with us as a loyal member of the Sierra fam through these uncertain times, you can get in on the action! With the Season Pass Recess program, you have the power to choose to receive either a one-time $50 rebate on your season pass for any inconvenience caused by these circumstances or elect to donate your $50 to assist employees affected by the fire. All donations of the $50 rebate will go directly to supporting our employees, and Sierra’s ownership will match the funds raised, dollar for dollar.

Q: How do I make my selection to refund or recess my pass?

A. Let us know which option you choose by filling out your Recess request here . All 2021/22 season passes purchased prior to November 30 qualify for the Recess Program. Still not sure which option to choose? No problem, you have through March 18, 2022 to decide. We hope this gives you peace of mind with more time to plan your Play.

Q. Can I still use my Powder Alliance perks?

A. All Play and Unlimited Season Passholders receive access to the Powder Alliance with their 2021/22 Sierra Season Pass. In addition, a few of our partners have extended your skiing privileges to include unlimited skiing Monday-Friday, non-holiday when you keep your pass! Holiday/Blackout days due apply + vary be resort, so check out the details on our season pass benefits page  and start mapping out your winter road trip!

Q. How can I donate to Sierra?

A. Continuing to be a season passholder or guest through 2022/23 is the most helpful way to show your support. If you would like to donate directly to employees affected, The Sierra Education Foundation has set up a Go Fund Me with 100% of donations going to support employees impacted by the fire.

Q. Are there any volunteer opportunities to help?

A. We appreciate everyone's willingness to roll up their sleeves so we can all quickly return to our winter playground. Once evaluations of the mountain are complete, we look forward to engaging our Sierra Fam offering to help restore the resort.

Q. Will Sierra be offering Competition, D-Team and the Rippers programs?

A. Unfortunately, due to the uncertainty of a Winter 2022 opening, we will not be offering our usual teams programming this season.  We look forward to returning to our usual teams programs for the 2022/2023 season.  Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date and check the Sierra-at-Tahoe website toward the end of summer for updates about our teams.  If you have any questions about our teams programs, please contact Ryan Zaczek, the Competition Services Manager, at rzaczek@sierraattahoe.com .


February  17, 2022  

The tread is still fresh from this week's “comm line” (communication line) pull, our next major milestone achieved — a stepping stone in our rebuild. With a brand new haul rope + communication line on our most iconic lift, Grandview Express continues to be a symbol showing the damage incurred, and the rebuilding occurring as each obstacle is overcome. 

 “comm line” (communication line) pull

A 14 member crew set out to patch the two lines that were damaged from the heat of the fire between towers 10-18 and tower 3 to the bottom lift terminal, a task that would take 3 days to complete. With clear weather and favorable temps, the crew devised the plan which would require two snowcats to carry the massive spool to the top of Grandview, to be threaded over the lift frame of the tower head. 

The comm line is a critical piece that carries the data signals from each tower's safety and operating circuitry, as well as phone lines between the base, summit and mountain dispatch, and can generally be seen running down the middle of the lift. 

“comm linef pull” (communication line) pul

In order to access the particular part of the mountain, known affectionately by Sierra loyalist as “hollywood line” above Lower Dynamite, the crew would need to load the chairs and complete a lift evac, to rappel down to the steep sections as access with the necessary equipment over the varying snow conditions would create its own challenges. 

comm line pull

A winch cat, on loan from Pisten Bully, would be required to pull a separate snowcat equipped with a custom sled carrying the comm line spool up the mountain. Once the crew was on foot, the spool stationed at the top of Grandview would be pulled by hand and run down the mountain to be threaded over each tower, simultaneously as 3 mechanics leapfrogged each other from tower to tower for time efficiency. 

comm line pull

Billy goating over rocks and traversing through variable snow conditions, making their best effort to not post hole through the snow and endure the laughter from their fellow crew members, the two damaged comm lines were successfully strung. 

comm line pull

Some lift mechanics can go their entire career without ever completing a comm line patch, but by the time Sierra is able to have all of our lifts back online, this team will have completed 12 on 7 different lifts. We will only get better, faster and more efficient with each completed repair. Although the nuances of each lift will present their own unique challenges, with these 14 crew members on the task, it is just another day at the office.

comm line pull


January 21, 2022  

145 days after that infamous night. In the dark, glued to the webcams, we all watched in shock + disbelief, as glowing embers turned to red flames and engulfed our beloved resort, scathing our most iconic lift….Today, Grandview showed us that she still has a lot more laps to take with you.

Since the day Paul Beran, our Director of Mountain Operations, returned to Sierra-at-Tahoe to witness the damage in the aftermath of the Caldor Fire, getting Grandview back on-line has been one of his crew’s top priorities — and most daunting tasks. The damage caused by the Caldor Fire to Grandview’s haul rope, literally melting it from the inside out, necessitated an entire replacement of the 10,000-foot rope. Each haul rope is created to the particular specs for each lift, and replacing a piece of equipment of this magnitude typically has long shipping times and even longer lead times. Add supply chain issues affecting everything from nuts + bolts to wire and widgets, made the likelihood of receiving the rope from the manufacturer in Switzerland, a tall order. But, not trying, was not an option.

grandview
With the haul rope being fabricated, the crew used the time to prepare + strategize on how best to accomplish a complete install in the middle of winter, with access only available over snow, limited hours of daylight and the unknown variable of Mother Nature’s visits. Projects of this scale are typically tackled in the off-season, along with yearly maintenance so by the time winter arrives, the lifts, terminals and chairs have all been repaired, safety-checked, permitted and are ready to spin when the white stuff starts to fly. But nothing about this project would be typical. It would take grit, ingenuity and most importantly faith — complete conviction and buy-in from the maintenance crew to accomplish the (near) impossible. With many on the sidelines looking on, commenting to “throw in the towel” or wait ‘til next year, it would have been the easier option to pursue. But the love of skiing and riding runs through the veins of every single member on Beran’s crew — it’s why they work here, it’s why they choose Sierra, and nothing was going to stop them from giving everything they could to get it done.

grandview

And then all the planning, all the time spent prepping, all of the endless hours strategizing would be put to the test. On Monday, January 17th, 2022, when most were enjoying a day off to reflect and remember the honorable Martin Luther King, Beran and his team, led by Kevin Schmidlin or “Smudge,” arrived to work as the sun kissed the mountain and the thermostat read a bitter 9 degrees, to execute their mission. Delayed from delivery due to December’s record breaking snowfall, the 42,000 lb. rope arrived on site. Multiple pieces of heavy machinery would be required to offload the massive rope and position it to be unspooled to perform a process known as a “construction splice”. This particular splice involves interweaving the strands of the damaged end with the new rope while simultaneously spinning the lift to thread the rope onto the lift shives. The rope must be laid out from tower to tower while this splicing is completed, held up by the crew in a tedious and grueling act, requiring patience and steady footing. 

grandview

Once the rope has successfully been threaded on the shives, the task of pulling tension to get the “bellies” of the rope out requires hydraulics, due to the sheer weight of the rope. From sunup to sundown the crew tackled the task, and 5 days of around the clock focus, Grandview’s haul rope was successfully hung today.

Watching this first major step towards getting Grandview back on line was not only an incredible feat but an opportunity to begin to heal — for them, for you and the resort. The burn marks and scars are still fresh, the wound has only begun to heal but the accomplishment despite the obstacles is a symbol of the resiliency of Sierra, of nature + of the human spirit. 

grandview
We still have a long way to go before we are making Grandview laps again. The reality is, the crew is starting from square one, as all of the maintenance that is typically performed on Sierra’s lifts in the summertime was completely undone from the fire, and can now begin again. With the haul rope in place, the crew can now begin additional restoration projects on Grandview, to prepare this lift and others for operation. The crew continues to work outside, entirely in the elements, as the single most important maintenance building that housed their daily work, tools and shop, was lost in the fire. In addition, the project for necessary tree mitigation to fire-weakened trees has not started — held up as El Dorado County’s Resource Conservation District awaits for federal funding to be released. These are true challenges, not mere excuses or trivial tasks to check off prior to welcoming our Sierra Fam home, but the determination to open is written on the faces of every single member of our staff. And while we are taking a moment to savor the feeling of a job well done, tomorrow we regroup and refocus on the next milestone to tackle, as another step in the direction to reopen before the snow melts away for the 2021/22 season. 

Keep sharing your stories, your memories + your support. It makes all the difference in reminding us what we are fighting for when the days are long, but the season is short.  


Update January 14, 2022

It’s a challenge to move forward without looking back, and as we start out 2022, we resolve to keep persevering with steadfast determination to welcome you back to the place #WherePlayReignsFree

No one has replayed the events leading up to the current damage that has led to our continued closure, more than John Rice, Sierra’s General Manager since 1993. And in a special two part interview with SAM Magazine , John relays the moment to moment events he witnessed first hand, as the fiery blaze came knocking at Westbowl’s proverbial doorstep. Grab a (root) beer, throw on your fav Sierra swag, and kick back to hear it all, straight from the man who had his boots on the ground then….and will keep marching us forward.

Fire on the Mountain Part I

Fire on the Mountain Part II

The memories of that fateful day will forever be memorialized and recounted in stories passed on — as we remember + honor who Sierra was, and rebuild to what Sierra will be. We know many of you are looking for greater clarity on exactly when Sierra will be able to welcome you back, but with over 15 feet of snow removal to tackle from December’s storms, Mother Nature is another unknown variable that will continue to impact our ability to complete the necessary repairs to restore your beloved resort. Have no doubt, that not a day has passed that we haven’t been putting in the work + with a major milestone on the horizon, we are a step closer to taking a lap with you. 


Update: November 1, 2021

Holding the vision, trusting the process.

As resorts are spinning their first chairs for the 2021/22 winter season, the yearning to join them in this historic, early opening runs deep here at Sierra. And while we're stoked for our friends Mammoth Mountain, Palisades Tahoe + Boreal Mountain in this celebratory event, the daily grind to join the winter lineup continues at the place Where Play Reigns Free.

We have substantial work ahead of us before we are able to announce our opening day for this season, and it is unlikely that we will open in 2021 - so we have set our sights on resuming operations sometime in 2022. With a delayed start to the season, the recent snow is a strong reminder of what we are working toward and we will not stop until we are all making laps on Grandview. 

When we return to Play, we want each and every one of you to be part of building the future of Sierra. We are working on opportunities for you to leave your mark + forever be a part of our story. 


Update: October 24, 2021

Like a phoenix rising, we will emerge from the ashes to explore, learn, progress, connect, escape + most importantly, to shred every available inch of our beloved mountain with you all. 

The work continues daily - in the rain, through the snow but the glimpse of the "new" to come has us daydreaming of future turns down Lower Main, stomping tricks in The Playgrounds + discovering new lines on a powder day. It will be different. How different is still unknown.

We do know that the trails + area accessed by West Bowl Express will be inaccessible this season, as we restore that section of the mountain for seasons to come. We are dedicated to keeping you informed and at the forefront of all that we do, which is why we have added a FAQ (above). We will keep sharing answers as we learn them to all of your pressing questions and cannot wait to welcome you back to the place Where Play Reigns Free.


Update: October 13, 2021

Although we have been working nonstop—and will continue to—on plans to reopen the resort, we want to let you know that we are still uncertain as to how much terrain we will be able to open this year. The safety of our employees and guests continues to be our number one priority, and despite making progress every day and working together with our partners at the United States Forest Service, and with arborists, engineers and inspectors, we have big challenges ahead.

Detailed inspections of the entire resort have revealed that we will not be able to offer you the same ski experience you have come to expect from Sierra. The work ahead of us includes evaluating the damage to trees throughout the resort property, particularly those along ski trails and lift lines, and continuing to repair chairlifts that were impacted while simultaneously navigating global supply chain and shipping challenges that are slowing that progress.

We’re not giving up, nor are we backing down from the challenge. We want you to know what we know - our intention is to keep moving forward, and to open what we can, when we can to welcome you back to Sierra this season.

To our loyal Sierra-at-Tahoe Season Passholders:  please check your email for options related to your 2021/22 season pass.

We realize that it’s incredibly frustrating not to have all the answers, or to have a clearer picture of what the season may look like. Like you, we wish we did. On behalf of our entire team, we appreciate your patience, support and understanding as we work through this unprecedented situation.


Update: October 1, 2021

Since we shared our last update, we have been busy bringing experts to Sierra to evaluate and help us outline our plans to open the resort safely, and as soon as possible. Engineers, arborists, and representatives from the United States Forest Service have begun the detailed inspections necessary in this effort.

What we now know is that there is more damage to the resort than was initially thought. A significant number of trees were weakened by the fire, some of our chairlifts have sustained damage, and other infrastructure requires repair. Already, a tremendous amount of work has been done along Sierra-at-Tahoe Road to remove fire weakened trees, and engineers are making progress in the effort to repair affected lifts.

As we look ahead, there’s still work to be done on the mountain to remove fire weakened trees on trails and along chairlift lines, and we’re working in partnership with the USFS to do that. As we learn more about timelines related to the repairs that are in progress, fire damaged tree remediation, and what our operations may look like this winter, we will continue to keep you informed.

It is also important to know that the USFS forest closure order issued yesterday does not mean Sierra was closed for the season, rather the fire boundary is currently not safe for recreation and when there is adequate precipitation on the ground, they will issue a new order.

We also want you to be confident in knowing that our goals remain the same:  to put our employees back to work, to give you the high-quality ski and snowboard experience you’re accustomed to, and to adapt and persevere as we always have. The Sierra-at-Tahoe spirit is alive and well!

Thank you for your continued support and positivity.


Update: September 20, 2021

Our goal is to continue to share what we know -- and what we’re still learning -- with you as we continue to gather more information.

Unfortunately, the Caldor Fire is very much still active within the resort and surrounding areas, and fire crews and personnel are continuing fire suppression efforts in the region. To date, this has limited our opportunity to have experts at Sierra to fully assess all that needs to be done.

We understand Hwy 50 will reopen tomorrow, however the resort remains closed, as is the Eldorado National Forest. The US Forest Service has a security guard positioned at the entrance to the resort and is only admitting fire crews and personnel affiliated with PG&E, who are onsite working hard to restore power to all those who have been impacted along the Hwy 50 corridor.

Our partners at the USFS have begun to survey the situation on the ground at Sierra and as of today, have crews actively removing fire damaged trees along Sierra-at-Tahoe Road. We expect we will know more soon about the level of support they can provide within the resort boundary itself, as there are a significant number of fire damaged trees there too.

Although we have not yet inspected all of the lifts, we have been able to look at several of them. Nob Hill and Short Stuff have sustained damage to varying degrees. When the fire crews wrap up their work, we will be able to really get in and understand more about the level of repair needed and the timeline related to how quickly that can happen.

In the meantime, we are making every effort to not only assess the damage, but to do what we can to restore as much of our resort operations as possible prior to the start of the season.

On behalf of our entire Sierra-at-Tahoe team, we appreciate your patience and support. We will continue to keep you updated as we learn more and begin to develop a clearer picture of our operational plans for this season.

Sincerely,

Your friends at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort


September 13, 2021

To our passholders and friends,

On behalf of the entire Sierra-at-Tahoe team, I wanted to share with you what we currently know about the damage caused by the Caldor Fire at Sierra. I also want to assure you that while some things will look different, we are doing everything in our power to open, operate, and welcome you back for Sierra’s 75th season. 

As many of you have read or seen on the news, most of the resort’s structures remain intact. The fire did, however, destroy one of our maintenance shops, a surface lift used by beginner skiers, and caused significant tree damage that is visible along the access road into the resort and in various areas around the mountain.

Currently, Hwy 50 remains closed and fire crews and personnel are still on-site monitoring hot spots. We are already engaging experts and working closely with the USFS and other partners who are prepared to move quickly to complete a full inspection and assessment of the damage across the entire resort and help us with a plan to move forward. This includes a full evaluation of all of our lifts, buildings, power, and other infrastructure.

As the assessments get underway, we anticipate having more information to share with you in the next 30 days. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Safety is our number one priority, and we look forward to welcoming you and all of our employees back to Sierra this season.

Sincerely,

John Rice

Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort General Manager