The Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort dates back nearly 50 years ago, to the days when the Dart Corporation that developed Tahoe Donner began construction on 120 acres off of Snowpeak Way.

Today, it is known as “the best place to begin” with wide open bowls, great beginner terrain, excellent grooming and friendly, courteous staff – plus outstanding ski instruction and equipment rental geared for beginners.

Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort features two chair lifts and three conveyor lifts that support 15 total runs, three terrain parks and 120 skiable acres, ideal for first-timers and novices learning to ski and snowboard. Even expert skiers happily take to the Tahoe Donner slopes when they just want a few hours of exercise on the slopes without wasting time in traffic.

While additions and remodels have been made through the years to accommodate growing visitation numbers and improved service levels, the snowflake-shaped lodge that was originally built as the Dart Corporation sales office still anchors the resort. Higher up the ski hill, a 700-square-foot yurt with a sun deck provides a slope-side warm area for lessons.

Recent investments in snowmaking equipment have helped to reduce dependence on snow-producing weather matching the weekend and holiday visitor pattern of the skiing families who make up the majority of Tahoe Donner skiers.

The Downhill Ski Resort Amenity Subcommittee is developing an amenity master plan that will bring the Downhill Ski Resort into accord with the Tahoe Donner Vision: An attractive and well-maintained facility, leading customer service and member satisfaction, without increasing member assessment.

What's the future of our Downhill Ski Resort? Join a Downhill Ski Resort Discussion Group to learn about what's happening with plans for the future of our longest-running winter amenity. If you would like to participate as an individual or with a group of friends or neighbors, please email Jim Beckmeyer, Downhill Ski Resort Subcommittee Lead. Read more about what the committee is recommending on the Tahoe Donner blog.

  • Background

    Member questions about the Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort include: What needs aren’t being met by the current amenity? How can our ski hill compete against world class resorts literally just down the road?

    Our answer brings past and present together: The Tahoe Donner ski hill is a unique place and in its niche, is capable of competing with the best of the best in the north Tahoe area.  From the time that Dart Corporation was developing the Tahoe Donner property in the early 70s, the ski hill has been advertised as “The best place to begin”.

    Except for the drought years before snowmaking, we have consistently drawn a bigger crowd than we can accommodate. We are much more easily accessible from Truckee than the big areas during heavy snows. We cater to beginners. We have well trained instructors, good rental equipment and most important, our entire ski hill is visible from the bottom which gives parents a great sense of security.

    Once the beginners become more advanced, they move on to the bigger ski areas, but in the meantime new beginners come to take their place.

    The ski hill is designed to service our members and their guests and over half of the users come from that community. But our capacity is larger than the primary user base of members and their guests, so we sell the excess to the public, which helps Tahoe Donner in two ways: One, the additional revenue helps defray the cost of operations, and two, in good snow years, the additional revenue helps defray costs across our entire portfolio of amenities.

    The ski lodge was originally the Dart sales office and was later converted to a ski lodge. Some areas are undersized for our user base, particularly the kitchen and eating area. Our ski lodge has a unique challenge: Most of the skiers are beginners who were brought here by their family. Some family members do not ski, so they occupy the lodge to watch their skiers on the hill.

    Additionally, the lodge was built before many current legal regulations were created. Tahoe Donner has a program to bring all our facilities into compliance with current regulations. These alterations are likely to reduce the usable space.  The task force is currently evaluating the choice between remodeling and rebuilding. We do not yet know which is more desirable but we do know that we want a facility that is safe, in compliance with regulations, and economically the most favorable for Tahoe Donner members.

    We also know that in order to make a Tahoe Donner ski hill truly “the best place to begin” we need to make other changes such as providing additional snowmaking to protect our financial performance from the whims of Mother Nature. Ski areas these days consider snowmaking as “insurance” and we know that our current investment has protected us from what could have been significant losses over the last two years.

    Other elements that are being addressed by the task force include parking and transportation, accessibility, the Snowbird Chair (recently replaced) and Mile Run slope improvements.

  • Current Status

    Snowmaking Update, January 2019

    Tahoe Donner’s winter operations are entirely dependent on having snow. We aren’t alone; thousands of ski and snowplay areas worldwide are adding or increasing snowmaking capacity as insurance to protect against being unable to provide their services.

    Financially, our winter amenities generate a significant part of the association’s Operating Fund, which helps support other amenities. Winter startup costs remain the same whether or not there’s enough snow to open for the critical Christmas period, so generating revenue to offset those costs is essential.

    Following the success of the original snowmaking system at the Downhill Ski Resort as well as a series of low-snow winters, the Board of Directors approved, in the 2019 budget, feasibility studies for snowmaking at the Eagle Rock Chairlift runs. This would be an expansion of the system already in place for the runs served by the Snowbird Chairlift and would ultimately provide reliable skiing across all of the resort’s most-used terrain.

    Lodge Sizing Update, January 2019

    Renovate or rebuild? What’s the right size for the Downhill Ski Resort Lodge? The answer has been discussed for years, and there’s a dedicated group of member volunteers who are working hard to identify the best solution.

    The General Plan Committee’s (GPC) Downhill Ski Resort (DSR) Subcommittee began work on these projects, among others, in 2017 with the following objective:

    “Produce a plan for investment that the board and the Town of Truckee will approve that will bring the Downhill Ski Resort in compliance with the TD Vision without increasing the Annual Assessment for members. Bring the ski area to a service level that provides an attractive and well-maintained facility, leading customer service and optimized owner satisfaction.”

    Last summer, the DSR Subcommittee addressed the ski lodge question by breaking down the decision process into three components: replacement, renovation and sizing. The initial focus was on renovation and replacement strategies, but over time it became apparent that lodge sizing would be the key factor in decision-making.

    Replacement Team: Should we demolishing the old lodge and build a new one? To determine what that involved, a Request for Information was sent to regional contracting experts, who told us that the project could be completed without undue interruption of operations by using modular construction techniques. Prefabricated precast sections could be constructed offsite and trucked onsite for installation of a new lodge. This approach would be a design/build project working with a contractor who provides architectural, structural engineering and modular partner relationships. If the decision is made to move forward with this option, the next formal step would be to generate a statement of work for competitive sourcing and would likely be a year or two in the future.

    Renovation Team: Should we update the existing lodge? A renovation would have to comply with legal and code requirements including ADA, Title 24 and California building codes, and must meet operational needs for the current skier volume, including a kitchen update. A strategy to increase square footage, depending on the lodge sizing determination, could also be necessary. In November, the renovation team did a detailed walk-through and analysis of the building. They concluded that extensive and costly renovations would be needed to meet required codes, and the resulting building would have less usable space than the current building, requiring the addition of an annex building to meet current space demands. Additionally, the layout of the current building is awkward, resulting in operating difficulties and a less-than satisfactory member experience. The renovation team presented these findings and conclusion to the DSR Subcommittee and the GPC, which then notified the Board.

    Lodge Sizing Team: What lodge size will meet member needs now and in the future? Whether the lodge is renovated or replaced, two approaches to lodge sizing are being addressed.

    The financial approach: Our finance director has developed a financial model that compares fixed and variable costs, shows how daily skier volumes affect amenity financial performance and examines the member/guest/public mix on peak skier volume days. This will be updated with metrics from the current ski season to assist in developing a final lodge sizing recommendation.

    The operational approach: Empirical data will be gathered this season, such as five years of skier volume and corresponding lift line wait times, and member surveys on peak days. Reviewing skier volume on peak usage days also provides guidance for where to set lodge sizing on the high end. Understanding lift and parking capacities also assists. As the recent ECOsign report showed, the current lodge capacity is more constrained than parking and on-hill capabilities. The DSR Subcommittee will continue to develop the operational approach, anticipating an updated financial model in April. Then the two approaches will be blended to propose recommendations on a final lodge size and for either renovation or replacement to the GPC and board sometime in the summer of 2019.

  • FAQs

    Some of the most frequently asked questions about Downhill Ski Resort Subcommittee projects are answered below:

    Q: Why are we doing this project?

    “The project website states that the current lodge doesn’t adequately serve the needs of members and guests. I’m curious to understand more about the demands that aren’t currently being met”.

    A: The current lodge was originally built in the 70s to be the Dart Corporation sales office and was later converted to a ski lodge. Two main reasons for looking into improving the lodge are:

    First, there are areas that are undersized for our user base, particularly the kitchen and eating area. Our ski lodge has a unique challenge: Most of our skiers are beginners, mostly children, who are brought here by their family. Some family members don’t ski so they occupy the lodge while their skiers are on the hill and also when they come in for meals or rest breaks. This creates a greater need for usable space than other ski area lodges that do not cater to beginners.

    Second, the lodge was built before many current legal regulations were created. Tahoe Donner has a program to bring its facilities into compliance with current regulations, and building experience has shown that such alterations reduce the usable space of renovated structures. The GPC is currently evaluating the choice between remodeling and rebuilding. We do not yet know which will be the best option, but we do know that the lodge needs to be safe, in compliance with regulations, and economically the most favorable for Tahoe Donner members.

    Q: How can we compete with other ski areas?

    “What value can the Tahoe Donner ski hill provide to entice people to stay in TD rather than heading out to Squaw or Northstar or Alpine?”

    A: The Tahoe Donner ski hill is a unique place and in its niche, is capable of competing with the best of the best in the north Tahoe area.

    From the early 70s when the Dart Corporation developed Tahoe Donner, the ski hill has been advertised as “The best place to begin”. Except for the drought years before snowmaking, we have consistently drawn a bigger crowd than we can accommodate.

    Our competitive advantages are strong: We are much more easily accessible from Truckee than the big areas during heavy snows. We cater to beginners. We have well trained instructors, good rental equipment and most important our entire ski hill is visible from the lodge which gives parents a great sense of security as well as the enjoyment of watching their children learn to ski. Once the beginners become more advanced they move on to the bigger ski areas, but in the meantime new beginners come to take their place.

    Tahoe Donner’s ski hill is designed to serve our members and their guests, and more than half of our skiers come from that community. The capacity of our ski hill is larger than that user base, so we sell the excess capacity to the public to help defray costs.

    Q: How can we protect our investment?

    “How is TD going to be able to recoup the massive project costs when there so many world class ski resorts literally down the road?”

    A: We know that in order to keep the Tahoe Donner ski hill truly “the best place to begin” we need to make additional changes that protect our competitive advantage. We have made, or are in the process of studying, three main changes that were recommended by the experienced ski area consultant who analyzed Tahoe Donner and compared it to industry standards:

    The first was replacing the almost 50-year old Snowbird chair lift and positioning it to be friendlier to beginners.

    The second is providing additional snowmaking to protect our financial performance from the whims of Mother Nature. Ski areas these days consider snowmaking as “insurance” and we know that our current investment in snowmaking has protected us from what could have been significant losses over the last two years.

    Third, re-grading several parts of the hill that are difficult for beginners to navigate will provide a better beginner experience and continue our market position as “The best place to begin”.

    Q: How can we protect against weather risk?

    “If I’m remembering correctly, the ski hill has been losing money more often than not the past few years?”

    A: During the drought years and before snowmaking at Tahoe Donner, the Downhill Ski Resort financial results were dominated by the whims of Mother Nature and revenue varied by five to six times from one fiscal year to the next. We added limited snowmaking in 2016 and are proposing to complete the beginner hill coverage in 2019.

    Tahoe Donner Association uses a measure called Net Operating Result (NOR) to compare the financial performance of its amenities. (NOR is Operating Revenue minus Operating Expenses.) Here is a view of NOR dollars by fiscal year for the years, 2013-2017:

  • Master Plan

    The Downhill Ski Resort Amenity Subcommittee is developing an amenity master plan that will bring the Downhill Ski Resort into accord with the Tahoe Donner Vision: An attractive and well-maintained facility, leading customer service and member satisfaction, without increasing member assessment.

    What’s the future of our Downhill Ski Resort? 

    Join a Downhill Ski Resort Discussion Group to learn about what’s happening with plans for the future of our longest-running winter amenity. If you would like to participate as an individual or with a group of friends or neighbors, please email Jim Beckmeyer, Downhill Ski Resort Subcommittee Lead. Read more about it in January TD News.

  • Documents
  • Meetings + Members

    Task force meetings are held on the first non-holiday Monday of each month at 1:30 PM in the Mezzanine Room of the Northwoods Clubhouse.

    Members:

    • Jim Beckmeyer (Chair)
    • Frank Aldridge
    • John McGregor
    • Nan Meek
    • Steve Miller
    • Courtney Murrell
    • Kevin O’Neil
    • Rob McCray
    • Michael Sullivan
    • Robb Etnyre (General Manager)
    • Michael Salmon (Director of Finance and Accounting)
    • Forrest Huisman (Director of Capital Projects)
    • Miguel Sloan (Director of Operations)
    • Robert McClendon (DSR Manager)

  • Contact