It takes a (Incline) Village to run Diamond Peak

Courtesy Diamond Peak

On an uncrowded sunny day at Diamond Peak Ski Resort, I ride up the Crystal quad with three members of the Cruising Geezers Club, two super seniors and a senior from Reno who follow three rules when they ski: 1) they only ski on sunny days; 2) they only ski groomers; and 3) they pick runs where they can ski right up to the next chairlift and don’t have to walk.

This group used to have season passes at other resorts but adopted Diamond Peak in recent years because its quality of snow, lack of crowds and season pass prices.

Editor’s Note: While Diamond Peak closed for the season shortly after this story was written, Tahoe Weekly still feels it’s important to publish this feature online highlighting one of the region’s only independently owned downhill resorts. Read about Tahoe’s other independent resorts: Donner Ski Ranch, Granlibakken, Mt. Rose, Sky Tavern, Sugar Bowl and Tahoe Donner.

“We ski midweek and can’t beat this place. This is a neighborhood ski area; come on the weekends and this place is crawling with kids. But as retired super seniors who have time on our hands, Diamond Peak has the cheapest pass in Tahoe,” one of them says. With that, we all unload the chairlift and take off down the Crystal Ridge run, notoriously known for its incredible views of Lake Tahoe.

So how does Diamond Peak stay in business when it’s so affordable? Well, Diamond Peak is unique in the sense that it’s not private, independent or managed by a corporation. Rather, it’s owned by the community.

When people purchase property in Incline Village or Crystal Bay, they pay a yearly recreation fee to the Incline Village General Improvement District. In turn, they receive discounts on local amenities including two golf courses, a tennis center, a recreation center and the 655-acre ski area. The revenue that Diamond Peak brings in is then put back into the IVGID Community Services fund for capital improvements and maintenance on all IVGID facilities.

After 36 years at Diamond Peak, General Manager Mike Bandelin says that he is grateful to have the ability to provide a level of service that he says can only be done by being a smaller, community-owned ski resort.

“I think being small allows me to go out and regularly talk to the lift maintenance crew and employees, and they all know my name. I like being close to our customers and can get direct feedback from them to share with the (IVGID Board of Trustees) to be able to manage the resort appropriately,” he says. What has kept Diamond Peak alive all these years, Bandelin believes, is always adjusting to the demands and wants of its daily skiers and passholders.

“People tell me it’s the price (to ski at Diamond Peak), but I disagree with them. I think it’s the amenities we provide – the quality of snow, friendliness of the staff, safety. Plus, by being small we can refine season pass perks to cater to our passholders,” he says.

However, Bandelin adds that it helps having the support from the District to get through any lean or low-snow years.

“Because this ski area is community owned, we have access to capital expense funds to maintain Diamond Peak’s infrastructure and equipment. The District, and community, provides ways to maintain it,” Bandelin says. The District’s control has allowed the resort to make upgrades to facilities, provide snowmaking enhancements and perform regular maintenance no matter what Mother Nature decides to do.

Everything that Diamond Peak stands for is what Incline Village resident Mike Matteo loves about his local ski area.

“I live 60 seconds down the road and when I’m bored, I can get here so fast. It takes me 10 to 15 minutes to get my boots on and be on the chairlift, whereas at other resorts it can take 10 to 15 minutes just to park my car and wait for the shuttle to come.

“There are no crowds, you can’t beat the views, and everyone is super friendly. You can tell that they’re out here to have fun, not just putting in their time to move up the corporate ladder. They built a big park this year and changed it up a few times, it’s really cool that they do that,” he says.

He bought his IVGID resident midweek season pass, which came with perks that are valuable to him, like a significant discount on food and drinks and lift tickets at other resorts in the area that match his style of riding.

“To get 12 days at local resorts like Boreal, Donner Ski Ranch and Homewood and then get deals at Copper, Colorado, and Montana … they have partners all over the place. To get all that for $319, it’s unreal,” he says.

“Diamond Peak is my favorite resort in Tahoe and the most underrated. A bunch of us rode another resort for 10 years, but now we all come here,” Matteo says. | diamondpeak.com