Donner Ski Ranch: Don’t stash the boards just yet |

Donner Ski Ranch: Don’t stash the boards just yet

Marshall Tuttle, owner and hands-on operator of Donner Ski Ranch, wears a mountain fed perma-grin.

DONNER SUMMIT, Calif. and#8212; Marshall and Janet Tuttleand#8217;s business philosophy stems from a love of Lake Tahoe, the mountains, snow skiing and riding. In 1996, they purchased and restored the Rustic Cottage Resort in Tahoe Vista, originally the sawmill and labor camp of the Brockway Lumber Company, converted to vacation cottages in 1925.

and#8220;I like restoring cool old places,and#8221; said Marshall Tuttle. He aims to make his boyhood Lake Tahoe memories of affordable skiing and beachy summer cabins a viable reality for families today.

Seven years ago, he and his wife and#8220;lucked outand#8221; and were able to purchase Donner Ski Ranch, one of Californiaand#8217;s first ski resorts, built in 1937 and one of the last mom and pop resorts, located on Historic Route 40 near Donner Summit.

Each year, the husband and wife team pour Donner Ski Ranch profits back into the resort.

The Tuttles have rebuilt all the old chairlifts, purchased two new groomers, renovated an historic Sierra Club ski hut, where California ski pioneers hiked from Clair Tappaan Lodge and enjoyed a day of rope tow access.

A brand new log home-style warming hut on the backside will boast amenities for 2011-12 including a fireplace and patio. On the front side, they added a magic carpet for beginner ski lessons and mellow snow tubing, and have new snow removal for the parking area.

Donand#8217;t be fooled by the Donner Ski Ranch face: There are 500 plus skiable acres, 360 of them not visible from Route 40. There is beginner, intermediate and expert terrain. and#8220;The steeps here are a good place to learn,and#8221; said Tuttle, smiling and smiling some more, manning Chair 1 as a lift op. and#8220;If you crash down, you wonand#8217;t go for miles and miles.and#8221;

Since the Tuttles keep prices down, Ranch enthusiasts travel the miles to get there: Again and again vs. one yearly trip.

And theyand#8217;re still coming. The bullwheels will spin until the snow is gone, for the love of skiing and riding. and#8220;Iand#8217;ve never seen this much snow, not just this late in the year, but any time,and#8221; said General Manager Lincoln Kauffman, a friend of Tuttleand#8217;s since second grade, with large scale distribution center management experience. Chair 2 is being dug out and hopefully run by May 21 and 22.

The snow is massive, but ride up Chair 1, and the splash and gurgle of snowmelt dancing down rock faces far beneath your dangling feet is a tell-tale sign of spring.

and#8220;I love the mountains, when the snow is almost melted and there are waterfalls, wildflowers and streams,and#8221; said Janet Tuttle. and#8220;I love to listen to it.and#8221; Janet, who worked as a bookkeeper in the Bay Area for a chain of family-owned Ace hardware stores and a bit for the Tuttle family business, also visited Tahoe as a girl. and#8220;We arenand#8217;t fancy people and#8230; most of our adult lives weand#8217;ve been in business, and we can do what we want.and#8221;

What they want is to keep the lifts spinning for die-hard skiers and riders, and offer an low-priced, well-rounded experience.

Families can sit on the deck and watch a lesson or get burgers, hot dogs, soup and fries. On sunny spring days, grab a bite from the deckside barbecue. and#8220;Itand#8217;s almost like being at the beach,and#8221; said Marshall.

During the World Extreme Rock Crawler Championships, June 20, 2010, beaches were on most minds. Not Marshall. He opened up a backside lift during the summer event, for a private ski party atmosphere.

There are no guarantees the Ranch will be open this June, but improvements each year are. and#8220;Itand#8217;s beautiful, everything runs like a dream,and#8221; said Janet, who attributes 99 percent of this fact to her husband.

In keeping with the family owned and operated business model and a genuine love of the mountains, Marshall said: and#8220;Skiing should not be just for the rich and famous.and#8221;

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