From Visionaries to Capitalists – The Evolution of Tahoe Ski Resorts

Miles Clark | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Alex Cushing on TIme Magazine
Alex Cushing on TIme Magazine in 1959

Moonshine Ink’s David Bunker wrote a great piece in 2012 called Capitalism, Culture, and the Tahoe Ski Industry.  It touched on something we’ve all been contemplating:  “what is happening to our Lake Tahoe ski resorts?”

Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts were started by pioneering visionaries like Alex Cushing (Squaw), Warren Hellman (Sugar Bowl), and Dick Reuter (Kirkwood).  These were men who loved the mountain and the creative process first and the profits somewhere later down the line.

“If you spread it around, good things will grow — and if you pile it up, it just smells bad.” – Warren Hellman 

These men created Tahoe’s ski resorts that have become world-famous for enormous snowfall and challenging terrain from nothing.  Alex Cushing was even able to bring skiing’s highest honor to Tahoe:  The Winter Olympics of 1960.

Dick Reuter, founder of Kirkwood ski resort
Dick Reuter, founder of Kirkwood ski resort

Tahoe’s cultural landscape has changed dramatically since the 1960 winter Olympics.  Private equity firms have set in, our visionaries have retired or passed away, the focus has shifted from skiing to real estate, the heyday of the ski bum has come and gone, and money has become the hear all end all of Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts present-day trajectory.

Dick Reuter skiing kirkwood
Dick Reuter skiing Kirkwood

We’ve watched as our ski resorts have passed from the hands of visionaries to the hands of capitalists, from mountain men to bankers.  We’ve had our criticisms of both, but it’s now becoming obvious where the soul of Tahoe skiing lies.  Tahoe skiing’s soul lies within the mountains and the men who created them;  within the visionaries who made Tahoe skiing what it is today.  What these new bankers and capitalists want to enhance at our Tahoe mountains is obvious.  They want to enhance their profits, not their soul.

Warren Hellman, one of the founder of Sugar Bowl
Warren Hellman, part-owner of Sugar Bowl and founder of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, CA

Check out KSL’s large new village plan with 1,000 residences and a 132,000-square foot indoor aquatic center:  KSL/Squaw New Village Model

Moonshine Ink’s David Bunker has just written an insightful piece into the transgression of Lake Tahoe ski resorts:  Capitalism, Culture, and the Tahoe Ski Industry


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5 thoughts on “From Visionaries to Capitalists – The Evolution of Tahoe Ski Resorts

  1. Let’s get this straight: Alex Cushing “loved the mountain and the creative process first and the profits somewhere later down the line”?

    Was that in an alternate universe?

  2. change is eminent but it does seem like we could keep some sort of soul. although, i’m not so sure how much soul cushing really had.

  3. This is going to be nuts. What if they fail? what if they go bankrupt? I’m still waiting for the next housing collapse.

  4. There are a few ways to look at this. Could we run squaw as a co-op? No, because we’d never be able to buy it. But there sure could be a bit more feedback from the community. KSL are you willing to listen to us at all?

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