Even Afghanistan gets the Tahoe blues | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Even Afghanistan gets the Tahoe blues

South Lake Tahoe resident Susan Kinstler, a senior chief petty officer in the Navy, stands next to a plane on which she placed a "Keep Tahoe Blue" sticker while stationed in Afghanistan.
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The picture of Susan Knistler in front of a Navy fighter plane in Afghanistan is a telling example of her love for Lake Tahoe.

Above her right shoulder, clothed in camouflage and a gun holster, is a Keep Tahoe Blue sticker on the aircraft.

Back in her hometown of South Lake Tahoe and skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort where she worked as a ski instructor about 20 years ago, Knistler was, as in the picture, all smiles.



Knistler, her mother and friends were enjoying a sunny, spring-like day Tuesday at the resort. As always, the constantly prepared Knistler brought goodies for her group to munch on during lunch. As always, she looked as natural on the ski slopes as wings on a jet.

“It’s like she never stopped (skiing),” her mother, Karen Olson, said.




Knistler began skiing when she was 3 years old. After she graduated from South Tahoe High School in 1983, she took a job as a Heavenly ski instructor. During that time she met a “pre-mohawk” Glen Plake, now a famous skier known for his hair as much as his skiing. After two years at Heavenly, she worked the same job at Mammoth Mountain before spending time skiing in Switzerland. In 1989, she joined the Navy.

After more than 16 years in the service, she reached the high rank of senior chief petty officer. Besides Afghanistan, which she believes is geographically similar to Fallon, locations she’s been to include Turkey, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.

Currently based at Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, she chose the location because it reminded her of Tahoe. She works as a quality assurance supervisor.

It’s the “last line of defense” on whether maintenance on equipment, such as airplanes, has been done correctly, she said.

When her daughter is back in Tahoe, Olson said she often has a tool in her hand.

“When she comes home she fixes things for me,” Olson said.

Knistler’s goal is to make master chief and possibly retire after 20 years in the service but, with her past history of re-enlisting, she isn’t putting the 20-year retirement mark in stone.

But she has plans for her retirement.

“If I teach skiing again, that will be all right,” she said.


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