Heading west on Northwoods Boulevard in Truckee on a bright, winter day, I see a small mountain through the windshield. There lies a wide swath of glistening fresh groomers of Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort. The view of the backside offers a rocky outcrop with a handful of groomed runs and places to ski off-piste. Something is charming and delightful about this ski hill with 600 vertical feet and 120 skiable acres.
“We pride ourselves in being a family-friendly ski resort. We teach kids as young as 3. We have a history of generations of families that learned how to ski at Tahoe Donner.”
The ski resort is one of the region’s independently operated ski areas and is owned by Tahoe Donner Association, one of the largest homeowner’s associations in California. The association has 6,473 properties and more than 23,000 members.
Read about Tahoe’s other independent ski areas
The land was purchased from a Christmas tree farmer and developed by Jack Kirby and Wayne Valley, who was the founder and owner of the Oakland Raiders in 1971. A fire burned a portion of the property that is now the downhill ski resort. Kirby thought the hill would make a perfect family ski resort and in 1972 Tahoe Donner Ski Resort was born.
“We pride ourselves in being a family-friendly ski resort where kids learn to ski. We teach kids as young as three. We have a history of generations of families that learned how to ski at Tahoe Donner,” says Derek Moore, marketing lead for Tahoe Donner Association.
With beginner and intermediate runs (17 runs in all), skiers can find plenty of places to explore. There are two chair lifts. The Eagle Rock lift gives access to the backside of the mountain at 7350 feet, the mile-loop run and a mini-terrain park. The Snowbird chairlift offers access to the beginner runs, learning center and ski school. In addition, for skiers just learning the sport, there’s a magic carpet, the Caterpillar conveyor and ski school learning conveyor.
At the base of the hill, there is a small lodge that offers ski rentals, tuning, a grill and bar, with a sundeck and outdoor barbecue that’s open on weekends when the weather permits.
Dave Walker has been director of the ski school since 2009.
“We are all about families, kids and beginners. We teach all ages but mainly families with young kids,” says Walker, whose three kids learned to ski at Tahoe Donner. “They’ve grown on the mountain. It’s a safe place for kids to learn and grow.”
Walker oversees the programs, which include ski and snowboarding lessons for TD Tykes, Sunday Speedsters and recreational and race teams.
Olympic and World Championship alpine skier and Tahoe Donner ambassador, Mark Engel, learned to ski at Tahoe Donner. He was age 2 when he learned to ski. He competed in his first alpine ski race at the resort.
The beauty of the Tahoe Donner ski hill is it is rarely busy during the week. On a powder day, you can lap the backside, rarely waiting in line or lapping the groomers. The view from the top of the hill is gorgeous.
Tahoe Donner owns 7,000 acres and boasts a four-season recreational community. Some use requires a membership to the association while some are open to the public. Amenities include a golf course, equestrian center, cross-country ski center, tennis courts and recreational centers. In the summer months, there are plenty of trails accessible for hiking and mountain biking. Alder Creek Café, located at the cross-country center, is open seven days a week for dinner and is only minutes away from the ski area resort. | tahoedonner.com