Mark McLaughlin is best known around Lake Tahoe as a writer, author and historian, who over the last 25 years has penned hundreds of articles about Sierra history and weather and published seven books.
“I get to work for myself and it’s like I’m an endless graduate student who is always learning something new.”
– Mark McLaughlin
While he enjoys writing about the Sierra, his true passion is talking about it. McLaughlin has 30 presentations that he regularly presents on Lake Tahoe, Sierra weather, trains, skiing, the Winter Olympics and just about anything else that is fascinating about the Sierra.
For the last 11 years, McLaughlin has been giving presentations at the Olympic Village Inn in every week between May and November.
“Mark has the ability to entertain people. He is a treasure, we love having him,” says activity manager Lee Rump.
May 19 | Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center | 5 p.m.
June 8 | Tahoe City Golf Course history
In fact, Rump says many people look forward to his lectures as a highlight of their annual visits to Olympic Valley.
McLaughlin arrived in the Sierra via his thumb. In 1977, he hitchhiked to Yosemite National Park from his home in Philadelphia to spend a summer working at the Ahwahnee Hotel. Later that year, he spent a few days in Tahoe and decided he wanted to live here — and he has ever since.
For years, he served as the floor manager and general manager for a variety of high-end restaurants in Tahoe and Truckee while attending the University of Nevada, Reno. It was while studying history and geography there that he started to dip his toe into the writing business. He wrote a piece about the record winter of 1952 for the Sierra Sun newspaper. Then when a history class required five small papers, he asked his professor if he could do one long paper instead. It focused on the history of Frank Church, the Sierra’s legendary snow scientist and it became an article for Sierra Heritage magazine. McLaughlin has written the popular Sierra Stories column for Tahoe Weekly for more than 20 years.
“That’s when I discovered there is value in this stuff,” said McLaughlin. “I was a freelancer from the beginning. Once I started writing and working for myself I loved it.”
Ever since he was a kid, McLaughlin has been fascinated with history, geography, weather, climate and water management. He ended up spending nine years at UNR, while working full time in the restaurant business and beginning his writing career. While at the university, he amassed a collection of data on all things Sierra Nevada that would become the backbone of his career. He also began his massive collection of images and photos that go back to the 1800s.
“I have a lot of books. I have been collecting for 30 years,” said McLaughlin.
His collection of history and weather information has become so renowned among local historians that several relatives of historians have donated their information collections to him when they died. It’s been enough to fill up his basement.
While he might have a basement full of knowledge, he still has to sift through it all and put the words together to make the stories sing. McLaughlin rarely interviews his subjects, his focus is on research.
“It is up to me to make it my own and give it my voice. I’m not trying to be fancy and I do work hard at getting rid of the superfluous,” said McLaughlin. “I’m constantly revising my presentations. They are a lot of fun. I get positive feedback. I get to work for myself and it’s like I’m an endless graduate student who is always learning something new.”
McLaughlin self-published all of his books, which include “Snowbound! Legendary Winters of the Tahoe Sierra,” “Longboards to Olympics: A Century for Tahoe Winter Sports” and two volumes of “Sierra Stories: True Tales of Tahoe.” He sells them at presentations, through his Web site or at local booksellers.
He is available for presentations at group gatherings, family get-togethers or field trips, and he can tailor the event to the interests of the attendees. | thestormking.com