The Abandoned – Iron Mountain, CA

Ryan Flynn | | BrainsBrains
Hundreds of former ski resorts dot the landscape of the United States.

In today’s mega-resorts/mega-passes era, it almost seems as if some of the big resort names in the ski industry could never fail as a business (excluding if mother nature has something to say about it). This was not always the case. For most of the ski industry’s time in the United States, resorts closing their doors were more common headlines. Today, hundreds of abandoned resorts litter the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Wasatch, Rocky Mountains, Appalachian, and Cascade ranges. In this article series, we hope to relive their memory and maybe even learn a thing or to (who knows!?). If you enjoy this and have any suggestions for future resorts to dive in to let us know in the comments!

We start at Iron Mountain Ski Resort that sits in a familiar place for all those who frequent the Lake Tahoe basin. Some of you reading this might have even skied there as it was abandoned in 1995. If you have, feel free to share your experiences and photos of the mountain!

Iron Mountain was once a ski resort located along The Carson Pass Highway (Highway 88), just 13 miles west of Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Growing up, I skied at Kirkwood Mountain resort and was surprised to hear that another ski resort was just along the highway. When the resort first operated in 1970, it was called the Silver Basin Ski Area, as seen on the trail map below. Over the roughly 30 years before closure, the resort fought financial trouble and filed multiple times for bankruptcy. It operated only 14 years of the 28 years because of this.

Location of Iron Mountain with Lake Tahoe and Kirkwood as reference.

The resort boasted a substantial amount of terrain within its boundaries. 5 lifts accessed roughly 1,200 vertical feet of descent and 1,700 acres of terrain that included beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails. One of Iron Mountain’s coolest features, as seen from the trail map below, is that it was a reverse ski area. This means that the mountain’s entrance and lodges are situated at the top of the ski lifts and not the bottom. This is probably a reason why so many drive by the abandoned property and never see it. This is a more rare form of ski resort, especially for one in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Iron Mountain Trail Map from 1990. Credit:
Silver Basin (Iron Mountain’s Original Name) Trail Map From 1972. Credit:

Carson Pass has no power lines, so, like Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Iron Mountain obtained its power through on-site generators. For all of those who have spent long periods of time at Kirkwood Mountain, you know just how important those generators can be given the valley can get snowed in for multiple days at a time.

Today much of the resort’s lifts and lodges still sit on the property. Through vandalization and mother nature, the buildings and lifts are now shadows of their former glory. If you want to relive this resort, you can! Located in National Forest Land, you can still drive to and walk around the resort! Here is a quick video showcasing some of the remaining structures at the resort.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next week’s edition of The Abandoned! Cheers, and have a great New Year!


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19 thoughts on “The Abandoned – Iron Mountain, CA

  1. I had season passes here in the 80s and practiced with my high school ski team here every week. We had a GS course set up along lift 4 and our coach had us race down and walk up for conditioning. It sucked. I think it was in 86 we were walking under the lift when chairs started falling off right after passing through a tower. Everyone was yelling up and down the mountain for them to stop the lift. A kid went down with his chair, landing in a pile of other chairs. He hit the ground got up and started running before another chair came down. He fell down and we did what we could for him. Seems like his back and legs were injured. I suppose this probably contributed to their financial difficulties. Had a lot of good times here too. Like when we were snowed in and ended up staying at the lodge with no adult supervision. I recall a lot of drinking and jumping out of second floor windows into snow drifts. A diabetic kid didn’t have his insulin and they ended up plowing a path in so they could haul him out in an ambulance. Weird the things you remember.

  2. I grew up in thed area. UNFORTUNATELY my last experience up Iron Mountain road is a horrible one-so it goes like this–approx. 6 years ago or so I heard that someone had DUMPED their domesticated part Hybrid wolf dog up here-long story short I put many many many many many large lost dog posters on big cardboard up and down Iron Mtn road-people would call because dog (pure white) has been seen, even photographed from a far (one of the last pictures I saw she was skinny skinny skinny with a Gash on her side of neck/face) well this jumping out of bed because “hunters” spotted her at 3am -hit and miss-this went on for about 2 seaons (2 years). Outcome you wonder? Yeah, so do I. Phone calls stopped, there were several people/groups who got involved-but to no avail-(In the 2 years going up and back though did come across 2 other dogs that had been lost up “there”, but was never the dog I started looking for (and who I had never met before-maybe I’ll get to finally meet her in the next life-you think? Teena- El Dorado County. march 2022.

  3. Iron Mountain closed many years ago (1995) because it’s owners were in debt (bankruptcy) and committed insurance fraud to cover their debts. They even buried vehicles on the property to hide them from the insurance company.

    Subsequent investors also went bankrupt. The last proposal submitted to the DOF was in 1999.

    Don’t expect the forest service to ever revert the area from the current public benefit use to commercial use again.

  4. In college, we loved Iron Mountain because normal lift ticket was $30, midweek was half-price, and you could buy 2-for-1 tickets at Safeway. $7.50 plus gas to go snowboarding was awesome!

  5. So in the 1990’s my friend Dan, who worked as an instructor at Mammoth, and I would ski hard here in the morning. He taught me how to take the drops from the giant snow covered boulders. It was a riot. In the afternoon we would hit the snowline and play 9 holes of golf on our way back to Walnut Creek. Very nostalgic.

  6. I think many of us do realize what a beautiful gem we have 🙂 that’s why some of us choose to live in isolated places, close to the natural wonders of the Sierras.

  7. I’m 55 now and my dad is 83, but I remember he took me here to ski once, I remember the shock of the fact that the runs were all downhill from the parking lot. When my dad and I were about 3/4 of the way down on the first run, he told me I could go ski on my own and tear it up. I was thrilled and skied the whole resort by myself. I must have been about 13 or 14 at the time, good memories and really sad it’s gone now. I remember the buildings were new and the place was pretty busy with so many people. Especially families and lots of kids.

    Good times…

  8. I have gone cross-country skiing there a number of times. As late as June. Last time, though, was in 2011. A spooky feel to the place. Very pretty. Not that far from Kirkwood. Now that I live in Maine it’s a bit far for a weekend trip. Not a place to go alone. You could break a leg there and not be found for months.
    I DO MISS the Sierras. Californians and Nevadans don’t realize what they have.

  9. We skied and even raced with the local High School teams here through the early 90’s. I recall the slow diesel lifts, and the cheap prices (it was 10, 12 and then 15 bucks) as I remember it. Those were low snow years and I remember them having to pull snow out of the trees one year to host a race. I had thought it was shut down because they cut down a bunch of trees to expand terrain/runs without permission but maybe that was just rumors for financial difficulties. I do remember forgetting to buy a lift ticket once (because our team raced/practiced at Kirkwood and I was used to just showing my season pass) and skiing down to the bottom of the lift from the lodge, only to have a dick lift attendant not let me on the lift and had to hike back up the run. It was a good pre-race workout. I also remember that they got a few of the lifts from the old Echo Summit resort that went bust in the 80’s and just moved the lifts over to Iron Mountain.

  10. What closed the resort was the DOF not renewing contract with the resort. Now it’s a snow park we go to regularly, sometimes if snow good enough we bring the snowmobile and we will ski down runs and use the it to ride back up. One time our kids were sledding and were going to fast and started going down main run, finally crashed about half way down, took 2 hours for them to hike back up (was deep snow year!). Calfire has used the old buildings for practice, a few years ago before the old ski school was burned down, we watched some extreme snowmobiles jumping from a snow “ramp” up onto edge of roof then coming down. There have been rumors of new investors coming in to rebuild it, and DOF open to leasing. We’ll see

  11. I stumbled upon Iron Mountain in the early 2000. It was closed by then, The caretaker lets us walk around and explore everything that was still there. The lodge still had beds that looked like they were ready for workers, there was the old rental place that still had rear-entry boots on the shelves, and the motel/hotel that was there had clothing in one room of someone that was staying there and worked at Meeks in Meyers. The caretaker said he used to hitchhike into town to go to work and one day never came back, In another room, there was a painting of something that looked like an alien, was told that a lady had shown up one day and went into the forest to mediate, when she came out she told the care taker that the woods were hunted by a very old alien that had crashed in the woods right near by and she drew/painted this thing and gave him a picture in which he just kept in a room in the old abandoned motel. Strange place.

  12. I skied Iron Mountain years ago. Our inter-club race was held here one weekend. This was an interesting resort.
    Another abandoned ski area, not really a resort, was Stover Mountain in Chester, CA. Our family had a vacation home at Lake Almanor. We learned skiing at Stover. Primitive by today’s standards, no snow grooming, surface lifts and one warming hut. When snow squalls came over people sitting them out might say, “a one beer” storm. We also occasionally skied Lassen Park for a change of pace.

  13. I’ve skied there many times in the past. When they would close the Carson Spur we ski at Iron. I recall the terrain was pretty good, but with the upside down resort, it suffered from lack of snow down low.
    I wish it was still open as they still close the Spur all the time.

    1. Yea with the fluctuating snow levels in the Sierra I could easily see this resort getting a lot of rain at some elevations. Thanks for sharing and I also wish it was still open with the Spur being closed during/after the major storms.

  14. Great retrospective. I grew up in Sacramento in the 80s and 90s skiing. My Dad would take me to teach me a thing or two. It was part of the “family-friend learners” group of resorts, along with Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch, that were cheap, accessible, and good for kids. Plus the drive up 88 was quite pretty and a nice change from 50 & 80. By the time it closed, I had graduated to skiing Squaw, Kirkwood, and Northstar, but I’ll always have a soft spot for this old gem.

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