By Bob Goligoski
Tahoe Donner, one of the largest cross country ski areas in the West, has embarked on a major expansion program.
Earlier this year, already boasting some 100 kilometers of Nordic trails in the Sierra just outside Truckee, the resort bought Crabtree Canyon, an adjacent 640-acre tract of land. Another 16 kilometers of cross country terrain will open in the canyon for visitors this winter.
Steve Miller, board president at the Tahoe Donner Association, said, “There is some spectacular terrain in the canyon with double black diamond, blue and green-rated trails so skiers of different abilities can enjoy Crabtree.
“In the future,” he added, “there is even more terrain in the canyon that can be developed into Nordic trails.”
Tahoe Donner purchased the site from the Truckee Donner Land Trust for $500,000. The trust had originally bought the property from private interests for $2.4 million.
The Tahoe Donner Association purchased Crabtree Canyon from The Truckee Donner Land Trust in April. For next year, the Land Trust is in contract to purchase nearby Carpenter Valley. It will manage the property for year-round recreational enthusiasts. There is a long-term plan to extend the linked trail systems from the Alder Gulch Adventure Center through Euer Valley, Crabtree Canyon and Carpenter Valley to the Independence Lake Nature Preserve.
Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust, said, “Carpenter Valley is one of the most spectacular – and little known – valleys in the entire Northern Sierra. Preserving the pristine natural beauty of our surroundings and ensuring continued recreational access is of utmost importance to us, especially that its less than 10 miles from downtown Truckee.
Once acquired in July 2017, the property will be open to the public for the first time in over a century.
Tahoe Donner is one of the largest homeowner associations in the country with nearly 25,000 members and 6,500 homes and condos spread across more than 7,000 acres. The Nordic and downhill ski areas, along with the golf course and several other Tahoe Donner attractions, are open to the general public.
The cross country area has been surging in popularity. Last season, USA Today took a national poll of skiers, checked out numerous resorts and concluded that Tahoe Donner is one of the top three Nordic resorts in the country.
Brinn Talbot, director of marketing and member services at Tahoe Donner, said that frequent snow storms last season helped propel both the alpine and cross country areas to record years.
Cross country visitors were up 33 percent over the previous record year and downhill skier traffic increased 17 percent over the earlier record year. The association does not releases visitor numbers. The resort’s popularity also is tied to the fact that nearly all of the trails are groomed.
Tahoe Donner also opened the Alder Creek Adventure Center last year. The large structure serves as the home base for Nordic buffs with a cafe, rental services, wax rooms, a retail store and other amenities.
“The center,” Talbot said, “really put us on the international map. We now have a world-class facility that can accommodate national and international events.”
During the summer, the building houses Tahoe Donner’s Equestrian Center and Bikeworks operation. Many of the Nordic trails are used in the summer by hikers, bikers and horseback riders.