Beloved by skiers and riders throughout the West, multiple Tahoe mountain resorts are now threatened by the Caldor Fire as it spreads into the Tahoe Basin.
But as of Tuesday afternoon, preliminary reports by industry officials indicated resorts could have fared much worse in the 191,000-acre fire edging toward South Lake Tahoe.
Heavenly and Kirkwood — owned by Vail Resorts — have not sustained any property damage as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Susan Whitman, senior manager for communications and marketing at both mountain retreats. However, all employees and guests were forced to leave, she confirmed in an email.
“For both Kirkwood and Heavenly, we continue to work closely with Cal Fire, the United States Forest Service fire team, local fire departments and other local organizations who have been assisting us with structure preparation and protection at our resorts,” Whitman said. “We have been offering our support to these organizations and making our facilities available for emergency responders.”
Homewood Mountain Resort, located on the west shore of Tahoe and north of the evacuation zone, is also on fire watch.
“Due to the proximity of the Caldor Fire to Homewood, we are monitoring the situation closely. Our hearts and thoughts are focused on the safety of our employees, our community and the fire personnel working this fast moving fire,” the resort said in an emailed statement. “Our team has been in close contact with responding fire agencies to provide access to the mountain as needed, and we are ready to support their efforts in any way we can.”
The fire did burn through Sierra-at-Tahoe, a resort on the west side of the Tahoe Basin near Echo Summit, but initial reports indicated the base area, lodge, administration building, and gear shop were saved, according to Mike Reitzell, president of Ski California, an organization that represents ski resorts throughout California and Nevada.
“We know there is going to be some damage,” Reitzell said. “The firefighters and first responders who were there trying to protect Sierra did a great job. There’s some natural aspects of ski resorts that really help the firefighting piece of it all. We have more open space.”
The ski industry, he said, has been preparing for a fire of this magnitude for years. Snow-making equipment, set up in advance, was used to help fight the fire,
Last year, China Peak, located east of Fresno, sustained minor damage in the Creek Fire that burned nearly 380,000 acres. The resort was able to operate for the 2020-2021 ski season, and Reitzell said he is optimistic for the coming skiing and riding season.
“We fully expect all of our resorts will offer the full slate of skiing and riding in the winter. The fire is not over, and we are not out of the woods of other fires either, but we are optimistic,” he said.