Caldor Fire Update
Update: September 30, 2022
Felling Into Fall: Updates on East Side Runs + Terrain
As the seasons begin to change, Sierra is shedding her summer layers and gearing up for a winter sure to be like no other in Sierra’s history.
The anticipated ‘breaking ground’ on the east side is here, and it’s a sight to see.
[Image: View from the top of Grandview looking down on the east side and a glimpse of Huckleberry. Photos courtesy of Brian Walker]
Building on the success and lessons learned in West Bowl, the crews are using the momentum and applying their expertise to mitigate the areas included in Phase I on the east side of the mountain, in preparation for opening day.
UPDATED MAP SUMMARY: September 30, 2022
Below is an updated map as of September 30, courtesy of Atlas Tree and the El Dorado RCD, that shows exactly which runs and terrain have been completed. As a reminder, ‘complete’ in green means the area has been assessed, fire damaged trees have been cut, decked, and are being hauled off the mountain to Tahoe Forest Products in Carson City.
[Image: Sierra-at-Tahoe Progress Restoration Map. Source: https://www.eldoradorcd.org/caldor-fire ]
POTENTIAL TERRAIN CLOSURES THIS SEASON
While the upper east side fared better and took less of a direct hit from the Caldor Fire compared to West Bowl, the fire crawled south across the lower east side affecting areas such as lower Jack’s Bowl and Preacher’s Passion. Full assessment continues in these areas to determine the accessibility of the areas.
With mitigation continuing alongside all 46 trails, a full reopening of the trail network is on track, however certain gladed areas will likely be closed this season, and assessed for inclusion in Phase II of mitigation anticipated to start next spring including:
- Avalanche Bowl
- Trees between Lower Main + Chute
- Trees between Tahoe King + Preacher’s Passion
- Trees between Castle + Preacher’s Passion
The areas above are part of Phase II in the 2023/24 restoration plan. With the daily changing vegetation, this season will be about continuous learning and discovery. Where will the snow drift and stack? How do our guests ski the mountain differently? What areas should we widen or create access to? These questions and more are being thought through and hashed out by our operations crew daily.
We are thinking through the changes to grooming, patrol, trail crew, terrain parks etc. But, the feedback and insight from our skiers + riders who know and love this mountain will be an invaluable asset to assist us in tackling the next phase of mitigation. Ski with us and be heard.
[Image: Aerial view of the mountain with West Bowl on the left and Grandview + Tahoe King in the center]
[Image caption: Sugar N' Spice run is being used as the primary haul route in and out of the east side.]
[Image caption: Huckleberry Canyon showing limited to no impact from the Caldor Fire. Area currently ’in progress’ of remediation]
[Image caption: Atlas tree feller removing fire damaged trees to the left of Tahoe King]
The Sierra operations crew continues to perform routine inspection and maintenance including repairs, chair lift inspection, hiring, rebuilding the upper shop, and getting our mountain ready for opening day!
We will continue to share an updated map every few weeks to show meaningful progress towards a long-awaited welcome home.
Update: September 13, 2022
Gearing Up for a Winter Like No Other: Updates on Your Favorite Runs and Terrain at Sierra
With our latest updates of trees dropping and the daily changing landscape, some may still be wondering, ‘Is Sierra really going to open this winter?’. Our answer is: YES. We are on track for a full reopening of our 46-trail network this winter season. And we’ve got the stats to show it.
Below are key details, courtesy of the El Dorado RCD, that show exactly which runs have been completed. Now, what does ‘completed’ mean? Completed means the area has been assessed, hazardous trees have been cut, decked, and are being hauled off the mountain to Tahoe Forest Products with few scattered log truck loads remaining on the west side.
The West Bowl area was the first focus for remediation as it sustained the largest concentration of damage from the Caldor Fire, while the east side was largely spared from the flames of the fire.
With goals for West Bowl complete, falling ops have moved to the eastern side of the mountain. We anticipate remediation in this area to move swiftly as early assessments indicate the tree canopy and vegetation has limited to no fire damage across beloved areas such as Huckelberry Canyon. Helicopter operations are planning to arrive at the end of September to assist with hard-to-access areas like those in Jack’s Bowl.
While many fire-damaged trees are being removed, the RCD is diligently preserving every tree possible to protect the experience of skiing among the pines we’ve come to know and love.
[image: Sierra-at-Tahoe Progress Restoration Map. Source: https://www.eldoradorcd.org/caldor-fire ]
[image: West side marked as complete in green. Source: https://www.eldoradorcd.org/caldor-fire ]
[image: East side marked ‘in progress’ in blue. Source: https://www.eldoradorcd.org/caldor-fire ]
[Image: A list view of ski runs that have been remediated and marked as complete.]
We will be sharing an updated map every few weeks to show meaningful progress towards opening day this 2022/23 season. Now let’s start praying for snow!
Update: August 29, 2022
One Step Closer to Coming Home: West Bowl Goals Complete on 1-Year Caldor Fire Anniversary
They say that time heals all wounds. And as our once open and vulnerable wound turns to a scar, we wear it like a badge of honor — showing that we fought hard and survived. And will thrive — again.
The Caldor Fire began August 14, 2021, almost 30 miles southwest of Sierra-at-Tahoe. Just 15 days later, the once far off orange glow transformed into raging flames as the sky grew dark. On August 29th, exactly one year ago today, our deepest fear became a reality. The Caldor Fire had arrived at Sierra.
Thinking back to the days leading up to that infamous night, there were many desperate attempts to slow the blaze to give the firefighters on the ground a fighting chance. And if it did come knocking at Sierra’s doorstep, it was thought that the runs and parking lots would act as mega fire breaks to give the crews on the ground the respite necessary to begin to push back. But, despite heli operations, dozer lines 6 blades wide, and back burning, the howling winds + lack of humidity made all attempts seem futile. The fire had taken off and Sierra was its target.
With eyes glued to the webcams, hearts from around the globe started breaking as the flames engulfed your favorite run... your secret stash, your Sierra — it was as if all those memories were on fire, transforming to ash before your eyes. We felt it too. Every person with a love for this mountain felt it. And in that moment, it seemed as if that wound could never heal.
[Image: The Caldor Fire burning through Easy Rider Express chairlift with Lower Main in the background]
The 3000-degree fire ripped through our beloved trees crawling through the canopies and the forest floor affecting 1,600 of our 2,000 acres, damaging lift towers, haul ropes, disintegrating terrain park features and four brand new snowcats and practically melted the Upper Shop — a maintenance building which housed many of our crews' tools and personal belongings, some that had been passed down through generations. It would not have been uncommon to think that that was the end of Sierra, but to us, it was the beginning of a comeback story like you’ve never seen. As Paul Beran, passed Director of Mountain Operations said, “This will be a place of new adventure and rediscovery, West Bowl will now truly be a bowl.”
Armed with an arsenal of dedicated partners, many who’ve grown up with Sierra as their playground, before the smoke has even begun to clear we got to work — to heal the wound. Through the holidays, around the clock, after hours and overtime, the plan for execution was created and the expert team to get it done was assembled. And when the boots hit the ground, the energy was palpable. There would be no stopping this train.
In just 55 days, we’ve done what first seemed insurmountable and many touted as impossible- we've accomplished the goals set for Phase 1 — and more. West Bowl was given priority attention having suffered the most severe impact from the fire. The expert crews from Atlas and the RCD worked through restoration with a ‘minimal environmental impact’ philosophy, however Mother Nature’s impact was fierce. Many roads had to be carved across the mountain to allow for hand fallers, heavy equipment + trucking crews to access the steep and difficult terrain. And when the incline was so drastic that accessibility was near impossible — we called in the bird. With every passing day, every triumph overcome, + every obstacle eliminated, the momentum towards opening is in full swing.
[Image: Fire damaged trees clear cut in West Bowl]
With over 14,000 fire damaged trees abated in Phase 1, amounting to an estimated 5 million board feet of timber removed from Sierra’s slopes to date [more coming soon on ‘where the timber goes’], the area that so many have come to know like their back of their hand, has changed. From Highway 50, quick glimpses of the daily transforming landscape will take you back. But standing at the top of West Bowl Express looking down onto unchartered trails and revealed lines, will take your breath away.
This has been no easy feat. It’s been a true testament of our community rising from the ashes to take action, and not settling for anything less than a job well done. West Bowl will have a new look, but harness the same feeling you know and love as the place ‘where play reigns free’. Where you can ski/ride the beloved sun-kissed long laps your way— a new way. What used to be a place where tricks were hidden backstage in the trees, now will be your stage to perform. A place to let your off-piste side hit/180’s shine for the chairlift crowd above. A place where old memories + new adventure unite.
Note: Power to the webcams in West Bowl have also been restored so you can catch the first snowfall on new terrain this winter.
Update: August 24, 2022
A Q&A with Atlas Tree Company:
The Art + Science to Tree Mitigation at Sierra
Atlas Tree arrived at Sierra in full force, armed with the highest caliber equipment, a top tier crew, and a carefully planned tree mitigation strategy. As a company who has led by example in elevating the standard of tree service since 1982, and has deep personal ties to the mountain, we knew this was the group to trust in executing our vision of building the next era at Sierra. We sat down with Tyler Willis, Atlas Tree’s Director of Forest Management, to unpack the strategy and techniques being implemented across the mountain aiding in the re-opening for the 2022/23 ski season.
Q) What was Atlas’ approach to developing a plan of this size and complexity?
A: Atlas Tree’s mission on every project is to “elevate the standard”. For this unique project, we took this to heart as we developed our execution strategy. Our primary objective for this project is to enable Sierra to reopen for the 2022/2023 ski season. We started our approach by connecting with staff members of the ski resort and many other stakeholders, including the El Dorado Resource Conservation District and the USDA Forest Service. During these discussions, it became clear that the positive economic and social activities associated with reopening Sierra would benefit the entire region.
Opening Sierra for the 2022/2023 ski season will enable the resort to resume operations including lift tickets, food and beverage sales, ski school lessons, as well as merchandise sales and rental revenue. Sierra-at-Tahoe has deep personal ties for our team with some of our employees growing up skiing at the resort and still living in El Dorado County. We knew that reopening Sierra would bring back jobs and would lift the spirits of the local community that has experienced the severe negative impacts and losses from the catastrophic Caldor fire. The benefits will even spread beyond the local community as ski enthusiasts and outdoor recreationists from California and around the nation will once again enjoy the scenic and relaxing experience of Sierra and the Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounding the Resort.
As the planning proceeded, our team became dedicated to ensuring that Sierra would be open for this year’s ski season. Our team devoted several days on the mountain to review the project details and create the methodology we would use to execute this multi-workflow project. We identified the type and quantity of equipment, personnel, partners, and resources needed to achieve this goal. The diverse range of education, experience, and talent of our staff has created a unique approach that is safety oriented with minimal environmental impact.
Q) How do you determine what timber is salvageable and which isn’t?
A: It is important to recognize that not all timber is merchantable. In accordance with Best Management Practices, some material is left on-site in the form of woodchips, slash, and logs. This material has many positive environmental impacts including erosion control, increased soil development and moisture content, weed abatement, habitat improvement, and snowpack insulation. Determining merchantability of timber is challenging. There are many options to consider when deciding whether a log will be utilized at a mill or other end use facilities. It is part science and a bit of art. A skilled forester looks for log size and tree type while also rejecting logs that are split, rotten, miscut, bent, or otherwise defective. Logs that are not salvaged are deemed non-merchantable and are chipped on the mountain side or used in appropriate ways for erosion control.
[Image: Non-merchantable timber being processed through a chipper and spread on-site]
Every day we are sending approximately 40 to 50 loads of salvaged logs to Tahoe Forest Products, a newly opened mill located in Carson City, NV. This new mill is extremely beneficial because it is creating jobs, revenue, and increasing mill capacity to handle merchantable timber harvested during fuel reduction projects, specifically located within the Tahoe Basin. We anticipate sending the mill about 20 million board feet of salvaged timber from the Sierra project.
[Image: Salvaged merchantable timber being decked in preparation to be hauled to Tahoe Forest Products]
Q) What equipment is on-site and how is it being used?
A: Atlas Tree is using a wide range of heavy equipment augmented by a crew of hand fallers and sawyers to complete this project. This equipment includes feller bunchers, skidders, processors, excavators with grapples, log loaders, chippers, and grinders. The feller bunchers cut and bunch the timber. Skidders and/or log loaders then drag and move the cut merchantable timber and woody materials to a centralized landing area where the material is processed and decked.
Where practicable, to minimize ground disturbance, Atlas Tree is using the Shovel Logging technique. Instead of skidding the material along the ground an excavator with a grapple or a log loader picks up the cut log and swings it over to the landing. Then a processor is used to trim all the limbs off and deck the logs in preparation for loading onto log trucks for hauling to the mill. To support timber yarding activities in hard-to-reach areas, such as steep slopes, stream banks, and outcrops, Atlas Tree is using a combination of a track loader with tong-thrower, a helicopter, and a crew of hand fallers and sawyers, as appropriate. The track loader uses a winch cable that attaches to the cut timber to pull it out of these hard-to-reach areas.
[left image: Feller buncher removing hazard trees rear roadside right image: Tong-thrower extracting hard-to-reach timber in rocky terrain]
Additionally, the hand fallers and sawyers fell and prep the logs for the helicopters to aerial lift them to the landings for processing. Non-merchantable timber and other cut woody material such as limbs and branches are fed into a large horizontal grinder or chipper using an excavator with grapple. The material is ground up into small mulch chips and is spread around on the mountain.
Q) What is the next milestone your team is working towards?
A: We are extremely proud of the progress so far and are nearing completion of the West Bowl operations. As we phase out of the West Bowl, we began hand felling operations on the east side near Sugar N’ Spice, Jacks Bowl, and other steep slope areas. Moving forward, we are excited about implementing helicopter operations into the workflow. Helicopter logging enables us to extract timber that is in inaccessible areas such as boulder fields and extreme slopes. This will allow us to aerial yard merchantable timber safely and efficiently to landings for transportation to the mill. Prep work for this operation has begun and we hope to have a bird in the air soon!
Update: July 21, 2022
Crew Pushes Forward Following Passing of Leader Paul Beran, Completes New Haul Rope Installations in West Bowl
The crews reached another major summer restoration milestone installing two new haul ropes, on West Bowl Express and Puma, in just 6 days. Doubling down and showing incredible teamwork.
Same process, same equipment, and the same team, minus one. John Paul Beran, Director of Mountain Operations, had been carefully planning the install for months but was absent as the crew began the multi-day process to repair two lines simultaneously. Although Paul was absent, the groundwork had been laid and the crew was prepared for action, having successfully executed Grandview’s haul rope back in February. During the first installation Paul was right in the middle, shoulder to shoulder, instructing and guiding the crew to work in unison. This time around the crew united around a common goal — to make Paul proud.
West Bowl, home to Puma and West Bowl Express, was in the direct path of the fire and sustained the lion's share of the damage. The fire was selective in its destruction, ripping through trees, burning a concrete storage facility housing cherished mechanics’ toolsets and snowcats, while somehow sparing the tent constructed at Baja Grill. Mother Nature is unpredictable, and in the end, she always calls the shots.
The summer season brought different challenges compared to Grandview’s winter installation. While the dry ground offers more grip and steadier footing, it requires more manpower to physically lift the massive steel ropes over rugged terrain since there’s no snow to slide the ropes on.
The rope must be laid out from tower to tower while this splicing is completed. Almost 20 crew members hauled the rope over their backs and up the exposed mountain, climbing over rocks, trees and debris in the summer heat. Each maneuver for every member must be orchestrated and precise, to ensure the wire is laid just right to allow for a smooth chair ride tow this coming winter.
Typically, these haul ropes are made to last an average of 40,000 hours of operation until they need to be replaced. Completing a construction splice of this magnitude is such a specialized task that there are only a handful of wire rope specialists qualified to complete this work. Working side by side these experts, our crew members will gain more experience in one summer than some will have throughout their whole career.
Steel strands are wrapped around a plastic core called Polypropylene (propylene) which is heated up during the closing stage and pressed between the strands. Although the lifts themselves did not fall victim to the flames, the heat coming off was so intense that the core literally melted from the inside out. This shows the melted interior being removed and replaced.
Like a Chinese finger trap, tension is released on both sides of the cable to interweave the strands of the damaged end with the new rope while simultaneously spinning the lift to thread the rope onto the lift shives. The team uses a combination of a motorized winch (used to adjust tension of rope) and physically pulling the cable to keep tension on the rope.
The last step is performing what’s called ‘tucks’ which is taking the end of the strands, straightening them out, and tucking them into the polycore so there are no exposed steel cables.
With the haul ropes installed the team is now working to repair 180+ chair pads that melted in the flames, a process that will take about two weeks to complete before the lift undergoes its normal summer maintenance.
The drive to get Sierra back on its feet was already strong, but Paul’s passing has given us a greater purpose and more personal meaning to our work. We’re doing it for the man who saw discovery in destruction , for the man who made Sierra what it was, so we can create what it will become.
Update: July 7, 2022
It Takes a Village, Restoration at Sierra-at-Tahoe Begins
The rip of a chainsaw is not typically a sound that is described as sweet, but as the buzzing of blades echo through the resort, it signifies the removal of damage to allow for regrowth. With almost 100 boots hitting the ground, each with different uniforms from their respective companies but all with the united goal — to get Sierra back on her feet.
After months of detailed planning and coordination, restoration of your beloved mountain is in full swing. Log loaders and hand crews clearing an acre in a few hours, semi-trucks filled with fallen timber head for lumber yards to build something anew, dozers, track skidders and feller bunchers all working in unison to heal the scar left from the Caldor Fire. To heal the void, that a year without Sierra has left on all of our hearts.
The Bat signal shone high in the sky and the calvary arrived. With representation across the United States Forest Service (USFS), El Dorado Resource Conservation District (RCD), Atlas Tree Company and the contributions made by our community through the El Dorado Community Foundation, the work is underway with the goal of a reopening of our 46-trail network for the 2022/23 winter season.
Leading the efforts is Atlas Tree Company, based locally in Santa Rosa, California, who are already making great headway clearing trees from Beaver and Marmot trails, with the daily goal of 30-40 loads of logs being removed from the slopes each day.
Aspen Café, typically home base for our Competition Teams, has been transformed into the command center of the operation. With daily and sometimes even hourly check-ins to coordinate and execute the complex plan with Atlas and Sierra’s crew, communication is key. With lift and building maintenance and repairs simultaneously occurring alongside tree felling, keeping everyone informed of the latest updates is priority number two...second only to priority number one which is and always will be to perform the tasks at hand with the highest level of safety.
With RVs and tents onsite, many members of the crew have made Sierra their basecamp for the summer, and do not plan on going home until the job is done. With the first of three phases kicking off this week, restoration efforts will first focus on West Bowl, where the fire had the most impact, before moving east across the mountain. Fire damaged trees within a 150-ft margin have been identified and marked for removal, with the goal of preserving every tree that was not impacted. For the trees whose fate will not land them in a lumber yard, chipping will occur to assist in insulating the ski trails to help maintain the snowpack during the season.
Proper planning prevents poor performance, and with the planning phase almost complete, it’s time to get to work! Follow our journey all summer long as we grow back not to what was, but instead towards what we can become.
Follow all our social channels ( instagram , facebook , twitter ) for key restoration updates.
Update: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort General Manager
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 with remediation efforts currently underway. With boots on the ground for tree mitigation on areas damaged during the fire, we are working in partnership with the USFS and the El Dorado Restoration Community Foundation with the goal of a reopening of our 46-trail network for the 2022/23 winter season. Repairs, routine yearly maintenance + annual inspections continue on our 14 lifts and tows as well as mitigation for fire-damaged trees along ski trails accessed by these lifts.
We will continue to share the details on our Caldor Fire Blog 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 2022/23 season?
A. Our opening day for the 2022/23 season is dependent on conditions and the work accomplished this summer/fall to offer you the quality ski experience you have come to expect from Sierra. 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 protected your 2021/22 season pass by deferring it to the 2022/23 winter season. 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, you may request to defer the purchase value of your season pass to a future season, if you are unable to join us next season.
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, many of you donated your $50 to assist employees affected by the fire. All donations of the $50 rebate went directly to supporting our employees to purchase new tools, gear, or any items of value that was lost in the fire. Additionally, Sierra’s ownership matched the funds raised, dollar for dollar.
Q. Can I still use my Powder Alliance perks?
A. All Play and Unlimited Season Passholders receive access to the Powder Alliance with their 2022/23 Sierra Season 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 restoration efforts, The El Dorado Community Foundation has set up a Caldor Fund that you can donate to here !
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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org