From Ranch to Resort: New book details history of Sierra-at-Tahoe

Display copy of the new book at Sierra-at-Tahoe store at the Y.
Ashleigh Goodwin/Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — From Ranch to Resort: The History of Sierra-at-Tahoe is a 360-page book that details 75 years of history.

The book, published by Sierra Software, Solutions & Consulting, details 75 years of history at Sierra-at-Tahoe through three generations of ownership. On Dec. 21, 2021, the book was printed. At the end of April 2022, shortly after arrival, it became available on shelves in three stores in and near the Tahoe Basin: The History Museum, Sierra-at-Tahoe Store, Strawberry Trading post/Gas Station Strawberry lodge off U.S. Highway 50. The book is also available on Amazon. 

Christopher Couper, author, was captivated by the area and the ski families. Couper describes them as virtual families; individuals and couples who are avid skiers coming together. 

“For about 10 years I was skiing with people like this, virtual families,” Couper said and recalled a conversation on the ski lift with one such friend, Dan Barrett, which encouraged him to record the family and resort history. After Barrett died from cancer, Couper decided it was time to get to work detailing the family’s legacy.

“I was more of a conductor than a composer,” Couper said. “I didn’t create much of this, per se, I just gathered, coordinated, and massaged the information and made it flow.”

Investigation and diligent research over a short 6-month period led to the successful compilation of family history from three different segments of ownership; the Berrett family, the Sprock Family and the current ownership managed by John Rice. 

Christopher Couper worked on the book for several months.

The first chapter shows the resort before it was built. The nuances that make it different from other ski resorts can be easily seen in the first 14 pages. In addition to the geographical differences of the resort Rice said, “It’s why people don’t say ‘I like that place’, rather they say, ‘I love Sierra.’ They feel a part of something special … it’s authentic.”

Chapters two through four detail the authentic background of the resort during the different generations of ownership. Most interesting of the three, perhaps, is the origin. Prior to Sierra-at-Tahoe the resort was known as Sierra Ski Ranch. 

Page “11 of the 360-page book. Provided / Christopher Couper
Sierra Ski Ranch

The Barrett family started the resort driven by the passion of Skiing. Brother’s Floyd and Ray Barrett with their wives and growing families recruited fellow ski enthusiasts and friends of the family to help with the unbelievable feat of constructing the ski resort. Photos are featured in From Ranch to Resort that show the first of the ski lifts being assembled. 

The fifth chapter reveals the aftermath of Caldor. Reports of what happened along with scientific research/experience are used to suggest possible changes to the ski resort to make it more protected from future fires.

“One of the problems with the ski resort is they are the perfect victim of fire. What makes a great run also unfortunately is perfect terrain for a fire to take hold,” Couper said “Kirkwood and Heavenly both were in line to be devastated in the same way Sierra-at-Tahoe.” 

Ideas have been laid out in the book as possibilities for Sierra-at-Tahoe to rebuild effectively and safely. The resort lost one building thanks to the two weeks prepping the buildings before the fire came through.

Couper said, “The chair lifts impacted by fire will be repaired in the short term. There are some chair lifts that are currently under review to be changed. The areas burned have hazards that remain after the fire, and they must be methodically addressed.

“To be able to create new runs in the previously burned areas forest service require environmental reports, drainage, loads of people, and other forest service requirements, bureaucratic red tape it could take 18-24 months to see changes come to fruition,” Couper added.

The passion for skiing and the Sierra resort will once again be the driving force for the recovery of the resort.

“Underneath this burnt landscape is a resort waiting to come out of the ground and be glorious again,” John Rice said. “Just like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.”

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