Highway realignment sparked changes for Sierra Ski Ranch
Spurred by a relocation of Highway 50, Sierra Ski Ranch, now known as Sierra-at-Tahoe, opened at its current site seven miles west of Echo Summit almost 40 years ago.
The ski ranch, originally situated about a mile farther down the highway from where Sierra-at-Tahoe sits today, was opened by Vern and Bobbie Sprock in 1946, according to Sierra’s Web site.
In the early 1960s, California’s Division of Highways, now known as Caltrans, was concerned about the avalanche danger along Highway 50, which then was located on the south side of the American River.
The highway division sought to move to the less-avalanche-prone north side of the river and worked with Sierra Ski Ranch on moving its facilities to accommodate the change, said Peter Sprock, Vern and Bobbie Sprock’s son.
After an estimated $1 million worth of construction, the resort opened at its new location on Dec. 21, 1968, boasting a new lodge and a single chairlift – the resort’s existing Nob Hill lift.
A rope tow and Poma lift also were brought from the old location.
The wettest January on record was soon to follow, inundating the resort with 20 feet of snow at the start of 1969.
Winds of 75 miles per hour winds and falling branches – combined with heavy snow on the lodge’s roof that created enough pressure to break plate-glass windows – caused an estimated $50,000 worth of damage to the ranch.
“Oh, it was a mess,” said Vern and Bobbie Sprock’s daughter Kathy, who as a sophomore at South Tahoe High School at the time. “We had all this new construction, and we’re fighting to get everything going. It was quite the winter.”
The damage caused the ranch to close for three weeks, but the following winter brought a healthy layer of snow without the same headaches, Peter Sprock said.
“That’s all history,” Vern Sprock said. “I don’t look back on what happened in the past; I always look to the future.”
The Sprocks sold the ranch in 1993 to Fibreboard, a vinyl-siding manufacturing, industrial insulation and resort operations corporation, which renamed the ski area and sold it to the current owners, Booth Creek Ski Holdings Inc., in 1996.
Just as in the ’60s, the owners of the resort are looking to move eastward.
Officials at Booth Creek had hoped to include Huckleberry Canyon, approximately 320 acres of terrain accessible through backcountry gates, into Sierra-at-Tahoe’s boundary this season.
Eldorado National Forest now expects a decision on the proposed expansion in April, according to the national forest’s most recent schedule of proposed action.
Eldorado National Forest officials were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
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