Norm Sayler feted on 80th for Donner Summit contributions |

Norm Sayler feted on 80th for Donner Summit contributions

Beverly Lewis
Special to the Sun
Norm Sayler ran Donner Ski Ranch for 46 years, still runs his excavating business and is president of the Donner Summit Historical Society. Speeches testified to the fact Sayler positively affected many lives over the decades.
Courtesy Bill Oudegeest |

An illustrious cross section of snow boarding pioneers and luminaries, including Sen. Ted Gaines, gathered to honor Donner Summit icon Norm Sayler on his 80th birthday.

Former President and General Manager of Donner Ski Ranch (DSR) for 46 years, Sayler was recognized for his recreational and cultural accomplishments that have had positive regional, state and international impacts.

Sen. Gaines presented Sayler with a Senate Proclamation, which was followed by a Placer County Proclamation presented by Lake Mary resident Pat Malberg, listing contributions that have enhanced Donner Summit’s vitatlity and beyond.

On a national level these included operating the first ski resort in America to embrace snowboarders (the sport credited with a resurgence of snow sports in the 1980s), telemark skiers, mountain bikers and what we now know as adaptive skiing.

He also staged memorable world-class events at DSR and around the Summit, attracting tourists by the hundreds of thousands to the region: motorcycle and trials competitions (he was a past national trials rider himself), rockclimbing events, as well as skateboarding. He also was one of the 1960 Winter Olympic torchbearers. Sayler was responsible much of the Summit community’s infrastructure formation, including the fire department and PUD.

Also honored was his commitment to historic preservation, ensuring Highway 40 was designated a historic highway and saving the scenic Summit Bridge on Donner Pass from being demolished in the 1990s. Most recently, he founded the Donner Summit Historical Society and runs the Society’s Historical Museum in what is considered one of the most historic regions in California.

After the resolutions and a 20 Mile Museum sign had been presented, people got up to speak and shared their stories about Norm. They were stories of help, encouragement and guidance of others, and humor. There were dozens.

Among those feting Sayler at the standing room only “surprise party” held at The Summit Restaurant were: Don Bostick, owner of World Cup Skateboarding and former director, XGames who got his start as DSR’s marketing manager; Jay Price, former manager of at Boreal Ski Resort; 1964 Olympian Starr Walton-Hurley, whose forebears developed Sugar Bowl and built Rainbow Tavern; Mike Basich and Paul Wickstrom, world renown snowboarders; and Tom Burt and Jim Zellars, world-class Xtreme boarders who started their careers at DSR.

Also on hand were Jim Dobbas of JDI, heavy equipment and railroad contractor; Gary Davis, film director and major Hollywood stunt coordinator; noted author Jack Duncan and many others representing the broad spectrum of Sayler’s long and varied interests.

Singled out for his unwavering commitment, encouraging those with an idea to pursue their goals, Norm responded, “It was this place, Soda Springs and Norden. So many of these people came for fun and then found great opportunities here that catapulted them into their careers and achievements.”

Beverly Lewis is the director of the Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office. Bill Oudegeest contributed to this article.