Tahoe Backcountry Access Crisis: TRPA Responds With Large West Shore Parking Area

Miles Clark | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Cliche, but gorgeous shot of skiing Lake Tahoe's West Shore.
Cliche, but gorgeous shot of skiing Lake Tahoe’s West Shore.

Two weeks ago, we reported on the alarming deletion of backcountry access to incredible Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing areas such as Jake’s Peak on Tahoe’s west shore.  As we looked deeper into the issue and spoke with Tahoe Backcountry Alliance‘s Mike Schwartz, we discovered that the problem was a systemic one.  Tahoe was slowly losing enormous amounts of winter backcountry access all over the lake with more access planned to be removed in the future.

Needless to say, once backcountry skiers and riders found out more about this, they were outraged.  They created the Tahoe Backcountry Alliance and began peppering the Tahoe Regional Transit Authority (TRPA) with letters, emails, and phone calls.

West Shore Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing zones.  photo:  tahoebackcountryskiing.com
West Shore Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing zones. photo: tahoebackcountryskiing.com

“We have heard the concerns of the backcountry community and are committed to addressing them through this process.” – Sue Novasel, El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor & member of TRPA’s Governing Board

Their voices were heard and now TRPA is working with the Tahoe Backcountry Alliance to mitigate the issue and find ways to keep Lake Tahoe’s great backcountry zones accessible to skiers, riders, and snowshoers.

Here is what TRPA is doing as far as the West Shore parking goes:

“To make up for that lost parking [for Jake’s Peak backcountry ski zone on Tahoe’s west shore], TRPA and Caltrans approved a project revision to install a 25-by-180-foot paved pullout just south of D.L. Bliss State Park, and California State Parks offered to provide plowed winter parking at the D.L. Bliss State Park Visitor Center.” – TRPA

This paved parking lot should be enough to allow sufficient winter backcountry access to the Jake’s Peak backcountry area.  Great work, Tahoe Backcountry Alliance.

There is still more work to do, however, to reopen other areas that have been shutdown and make sure that more backcountry access isn’t taken away in the future.

Emerald Bay Chutes off Jake's Peak on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, CA.  photo:  skiingthebakcountry.com
Emerald Bay Chutes off Jake’s Peak on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, CA. photo: skiingthebakcountry.com

TRPA PRESS RELEASE:

TRPA, Backcountry Skiers, Working To Address Winter Recreation Access

Lake Tahoe, Stateline, NV – The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, El Dorado County, and members of Tahoe Backcountry Alliance announced today they are partnering to create a coalition of stakeholders to maintain and enhance public access for winter backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

“We’re optimistic about this opportunity to work together to get back some of the access that we have lost in the past, and work to enhance access in the future. Let’s together reclaim and preserve backcountry access in the Tahoe Basin,” said Mike Schwartz and Todd Offenbacher, of Tahoe Backcountry Alliance.

As a result of this new partnership, the public meeting the evening of October 23 has been postponed. Instead, nearly a dozen agencies are convening this week to begin a comprehensive conversation about roadside access to some of Tahoe’s more important backcountry skiing locations.

North Shore Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing.  photo:  tahoebackcountryskiing.com
North Shore Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing. photo: tahoebackcountryskiing.com

“We have heard the concerns of the backcountry community and are committed to addressing them through this process,” said El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel, who is also a member of TRPA’s Governing Board.

Ringed by prominent mountains, extensive public lands, and wilderness areas, Tahoe offers world-class backcountry skiing. But while the sport has been growing in popularity, parking and access to popular peaks have become increasingly challenging.

That issue surfaced this month when a Caltrans project to reduce soil erosion and stormwater pollution on seven miles of State Route 89 between Emerald Bay and Meeks Bay displaced some on- and off-road parking used by the backcountry skiing community to access popular peaks in the area.

To make up for that lost parking, TRPA and Caltrans approved a project revision to install a 25-by-180-foot paved pullout just south of D.L. Bliss State Park, and California State Parks offered to provide plowed winter parking at the D.L. Bliss State Park Visitor Center.

Reducing stormwater pollution remains a top priority because fine sediment pollution from roads and developed areas is a key contributor to declines in Lake Tahoe’s famed water clarity. But TRPA and backcountry skiers partnering in this initiative believe that those measures can be better balanced with needs for improved winter recreation access.

“Improving public recreation opportunities and recreation access are top goals for TRPA, and we feel we can play a vital role in working with the backcountry ski community and bringing the right people and agencies together to tackle this issue. Improved recreation access, parking, safety, and transit service are key focus areas in the comprehensive plans that we are putting together to improve all of our highway corridors at Lake Tahoe,” said Joanne Marchetta, Executive Director at TRPA.

TRPA will also review upcoming water quality improvement projects around Emerald Bay that Caltrans has already received permits for to ensure that maintaining or enhancing parking areas for backcountry access is considered in those highway plans.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region, while improving local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment. For additional information, contact Tom Lotshaw, Public Information Officer, at 775-589-5278.


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One thought on “Tahoe Backcountry Access Crisis: TRPA Responds With Large West Shore Parking Area

  1. Nice to see the community rally and people listen. Hopefully the parking around Bliss/Hidden can be expanded to it’s former size. Honestly, any more parking than what we’ve had in the past and those spots will start feeling a bit overrun.
    And that first cliché pic of the west shore is actually on the east shore.

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