From age 8, Ty Polastri began a lifelong connection to the bicycle. He rode one to school as a child and, eventually, to work as an adult. He has had passion for his occupations, which have included promoting recycling, manufacturing skiing simulators, training skiers and marketing and sales promotion, but it was the bicycle that has truly held his heart.
Rachel Richards | BikeTahoe.org
Polastri was born in Hayward; his parents built a home in South Lake Tahoe in the 1960s. He spent two weeks there every summer and, as often as he could, the rest of the year. He served in the Air Force Reserves for six years between 1965 and 1971 and he graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara in 1972. Then, he opened the South Tahoe Ecology Action Center. According to Polastri, it focused on “recycling of household waste and promoting bicycle advocacy. I laid out a bicycle path network proposal and submitted it to the City of South Lake Tahoe.”
“Bicycling became a metaphor, a way to connect
with this energy inside of me and give back to Tahoe.”
He left Tahoe in 1978 and founded Interski, which manufactured large machines that six people could ski on. He began selling them at ski slopes across the country.
“We opened a world-class training center with two indoor ski slopes, trampolines and a ski jump,” he said.
The Enterski Marin Training Center, yet another of Polastri’s ventures, was located in Tiburon. Jonny Moseley, winner of the gold in the 1998 Winter Olympics, trained there from age 8 to 10. “We trained the public how to ski, as well as world-class athletes,” he said.
Then he produced a 13-week TV show for Ski Adventure. Corporate America liked what it saw and hired Polastri to do promotions and marketing, starting with skiing and then wind surfing. He sold the Interski businesses in 1986 and for the next 20 years worked in the field of marketing and promotion.
Marin County was the epicenter of mountain biking in the 1980s and 1990s and Polastri was there to enjoy it to the fullest.
“I got very involved in mountain biking, became a bicycle advocate for the Marin County Trails Council and produced the Marin County Mountain Biking Festival,” he said.
Polastri still loved his time in Tahoe, however, and began helping his Tahoe biking friends at the Tahoe Region Advocates for Cycling.
“They were struggling,” he said. “I started consulting with them and tried to help them out. In 2005, I decided to move back to Tahoe. I wanted to come back and give back. Tahoe had shaped the man I’d become. I wanted to balance business, the environment and community.”
Since then, Polastri has been all about biking in Tahoe. He developed the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition, an advocacy network to get biking in Tahoe on the community’s radar. He produced a video about making South Lake Tahoe an officially designated Bicycle Friendly Community and in a year and a half of work, Polastri was able to help the City of South Lake Tahoe to obtain the designation.
He served as a bike representative with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the City of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County and Caltrans.
According to Polastri, all he did was designed to get everyone on board with the bicycle, but what he really needed was to make a difference in a way that wasn’t entangled in the political process.
He applied for grants from a variety of organizations to design and produce the Lake Tahoe Bikeways Map. Now more than 200,000 of the maps have been printed and are available for free.
The Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition developed the Tahoe Bike Challenge, which asked people to ride their bikes instead of drive and to record their times and enter in a competition for prizes during the first two weeks of June.
“We tried to create motivation to ride,” he said.
He also got the City of South Lake Tahoe to design and build more than 500 bike racks that have been placed throughout the city.
A few years ago, he left the coalition to start a new nonprofit, Team Tahoe.
“It is an advocate for eco-friendly programs and events. I’m so entrenched in biking that the first project for Team Tahoe was BikeTahoe.org,” he said.
BikeTahoe.org is a Web site outlining more than 70 bike rides in the region, including mountain biking, road biking and cruising routes. The group also recently released a new video series promoting bicycling in South Lake Tahoe (see the feature in this issue on some of South Lake Tahoe’s best mountain biking trails.)
“It’s the ultimate bicycling guide,” he said.
Polastri is not slowing down. In the winter, he finds fulfillment as a ski school manager at Heavenly Resort. He is producing six videos promoting bicycles in the area, as well as working on a book that will be a compilation of bike stories at Lake Tahoe.
“I want to publish the book to encourage others to ride,” he said. “There is an energy inside me that has been called to be creative and contribute. I’m here to serve others and create a better world. Bicycling became a metaphor, a way to connect with this energy inside of me and give back to Tahoe. When I come to the end of my journey, I will be satisfied and fulfilled.”