Donner Ski Ranch for sale: historic ski resort sale may mean end of an era | SierraSun.com
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Donner Ski Ranch for sale: historic ski resort sale may mean end of an era

ABHUTCHISON and DARIN OLDE, Sierra Sun

Donner Ski Ranch, one of the oldest ski areas in the Sierra Nevada, is up for sale.

Norm Sayler, general manager of the ranch since 1958, who later became the owner, put the ski area up for sale roughly three weeks ago for an asking price of $10 million.

Dwarfed by the mega-resorts that have spawned entire communities, small ski resorts like Donner Ski Ranch have struggled to compete with larger corporations that typically operate a multitude of business ventures. Larger ski resorts across the nation are consolidating, expanding and dominating the market.

“Times have changed in the ski game. Most people want glitz and glitter,” Sayler said. “There are a couple of small areas still out there, but the ranch is the very, very last small ski resort in Tahoe. Even Granlibakken has corporate ownership.”

Donner Ski Ranch will remain open for the rest of the 2000-2001 season even if it is sold, he added.

The ranch has one of the area’s richest ski histories, dating back more than 60 years.

Donner Ski Ranch was first utilized for skiing in 1937. The area’s first rope tow was located at the base of the current lodge.

Even though travel to the ski area took two to three times longer than it currently takes today, old-time skiers reported the popularity of this first rope tow by recalling the long lift lines.

“It used to be a way of life,” Sayler added. “Now it’s about MBAs and high tech. I’d call it entertainment – people go home, they go out for dinner and see a movie.”

The small mountain town ski area Sayler used to know is disappearing.

And with developers looking to the area for real estate purposes, he believes the era of small, family-run ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe region is approaching its end as well.

“We are entertaining a strong offer at this time,” Sayler said. “The ranch will probably be another (residential) development … I don’t want to see it go. But I don’t want to spend the money I’ve put into it.”

In 1955, a group of Sacramento businessmen purchased the ski resort and formed Donner Summit Tramways, Inc., as a way to finance one of the first chairlifts to be built in California.

One of these businessmen was Anthony Kennedy, the father of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony G. Kennedy.

The property was listed by Chase International out of Tahoe City, as a “developer’s dream” in their real estate advertisement, with approximately 460 acres up for sale.

The sale also includes six chair lifts, a small lake, a meadow and a 40,000-square-foot lodge, restaurant and lounge facility on site.


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