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VIDEO: Jan. 17’s Tahoe Resort Report

Tahoe Resort Report from Sierra-at-Tahoe.

UPDATE: Deceased victim in Alpine Meadows avalanche ID’d

UPDATE 2:21 P.M.:

Sgt. Mike Powers live from Alpine Meadows on today’s avalanche.

UPDATE 1:54 P.M.:

Sgt. Mike Powers has identified the deceased as Cole Comstock, 34, of Blairsden.

UPDATE 1:20 P.M.:

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows posted this release to its Facebook page Friday afternoon:

(Alpine Meadows, Calif.) Jan. 17, 2020: At approximately 10:16 am today an avalanche was reported in the area between Scott Chute and Promised Land near Scott Chair at Alpine Meadows, within an open area of the resort. A male skier sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 11am. A second male skier sustained severe lower-body injuries and was transported to the hospital by ambulance. Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol responded immediately to the scene and completed a thorough search of the area with the help of additional resort personnel and members of the public using avalanche transceivers, probes, RECCO Rescue System technology, and avalanche rescue dog teams. Witnesses to the incident saw no other individuals involved, no additional individuals have been reported missing and the search was declared complete at 11:45am.

The entire Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows team, including all of the first responders, extend their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased. We are working closely with the families of all the affected individuals to ensure their continued care.

The cause of the avalanche is unknown at this time pending additional investigation.

This statement will be updated if additional information becomes available.

UPDATE 12:56 P.M.:

The search has been called off for any more victims of the avalanche at Alpine Meadows, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said in at tweet Friday.

“After a thorough search, SAR volunteers and avalanche dogs confirmed no further victims,” the tweet stated.

UPDATE: 12:34 P.M.:

Video message from Sgt. Mike Powers:

UPDATE: 12:07 P.M.:

One fatality and one serious injury happened as a result of an avalanche near the Subway ski run at Alpine Meadows, according to a tweet from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office and Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue team are responding to the incident, the tweet stated.


An avalanche occurred at Alpine Meadows, according to a tweet from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. Search and rescue is responding.

The tweet states there are “several unaccounted for victims.”

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Law Review: Can a tennis shoe be a ‘dangerous weapon?’ How ’bout a butter knife?

In criminal cases, judges often rule whether an item used by a person charged with a crime is a “dangerous weapon” or a “deadly weapon.” Today we discuss two cases: one involving a victim kicked with tennis shoes and the other, a victim threatened with a key.


Paul Swallow, egged on by his wife who called him a coward, decided to get even with a man who had failed to deliver $10 of methamphetamine, so Swallow did what any dissatisfied meth buyer would do: knocked the victim to the ground. Then, while wearing tennis shoes, he kicked the victim while he was down. Swallow landed several vicious kicks to the victim’s torso and head until he was unconscious.

But that wasn’t enough. Swallow then kicked the victim in the head with full force “as though he were kicking a football’ as the Court wrote. Swallow wasn’t done. He then stomped on the victim’s head with the bottom of his shoe, crushing the victim’s head into the pavement. The victim now suffers permanent cognitive impairment.


Swallow pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon, then challenged his conviction, claiming his tennis shoes did not constitute a “dangerous weapon … an instrument capable of inflicting death or bodily injury” under federal guidelines.


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals looked at similar cases noting that instruments that are not dangerous per se can be dangerous depending on how they are used, such as walking sticks, leather straps, work boots, and even shoes. In one case the defendant beat her two-year-old son with a shoe held in her hand. She was convicted. A dangerous weapon cannot be committed by using one’s bare feet/hands alone.

The Ninth Circuit had no problem upholding the trial court conviction ruling that the way Swallow used his shoes — kicking and stomping, constituted a dangerous weapon.


In the case of People vs. Brian Keith Koback, filed last July, the California Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal concluded the defendant was guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for using a set of car keys in a threatening manner. While keys are not inherently a deadly weapon, if yielded as a makeshift weapon, a key is capable of puncturing skin and causing serious bodily injury, as the Court wrote.


The Court of Appeal noted that other deadly weapons have been: dirks, black jacks, screw drivers, a sharp pencil held to a victim’s neck, a victim smothered with a pillow, poking a classmate in the back with the tip of a pocket knife, a golf club, a roll of coins, batteries, a broomstick, a fingernail file, a rock, and finally my favorite, a butter knife “with rounded end and slight serrations on one side” – are all capable of being used as a deadly weapon.

Actually, my very favorite is a disgruntled student who was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for hiding a metal pin inside an apple and giving it to his (favorite) teacher. Now that is uncalled for.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or www.portersimon.com.

Pine Nuts: A short conversation between a mother and her high school son

“Mom, does character matter so much in a high school volleyball coach?”

“Of course it does, Honey, why would you ask?”

“Well, Coach seems to have some … some mess-ups.”

“Like what, Honey?”

“Well, for one, when I opened up my science book before practice today, Coach took it, held it up and announced to the team, ‘It’s fake.’ Then he handed it back to me and laughed.”

“He did that?”

“Yes, and that’s not all.”

“There’s more?

“Well, if you want to know, Mom, Coach is married.”

“Yes, I know he’s married. What has that got to do with anything?”

“Well then, why does he drive off with Snuffy’s mom whenever Snuffy spends the weekend with his dad?”

“He does that?”

“Yeah, and you know that bake sale we sponsored for the team last week?”

“Yes, the bake sale was a big success.”

“Well, Johnny’s mother told Johnny that Coach took some money they raised from that bake sale and bought himself a brand new pair of Nike LeBrons.”

“Johnny’s mother said that?”

“Yup, and that’s not all.”

“What more could there possibly be?”

“You know that volleyball school Coach started last year?”

“Yes, a successful venture I’ve been told, Volleyball U.”

“Well, Volleyball U has folded, and Coach has to pay a humongous fine for fraud.”

“Oh my, your father’s not going to like to hear that.”

“Why can’t we get rid of Coach, Mom, and why does Dad even care about Coach, anyways?”

“Coach wins games, Honey. Your dad and his friends bet on those games, and Coach has been making some easy money for your father. Coach could do just about anything objectionable I suppose, and your father and his friends would never ask him to leave.”

“Mom, what would happen, if like somebody like Coach ever became President of the United States?”

“That could never happen, Honey. But if it ever did happen, that would be cause for alarm, alarm for the fate of the Republic. But now here’s the important question, what would you like for dinner?”

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.

Barbara Smith: Will the real Tom McClintock please stand up?

“If a President can start a war without Congress’s approval, in direct violation of the Constitution, and that is not an impeachable offense, pray tell me what WOULD be?”

September 11, 2013

“No matter how strongly we may feel about the actions of the Syrian government, the President had no legal or constitutional authority to order this attack without the consent of Congress.”

April 7, 2017

“… the President not only had unmistakable authority to order the attack, he had a moral imperative to do so.”

January 10, 2020

A popular game show, To Tell the Truth, concluded by asking the real person to identify themselves from a group of imposters. But this isn’t a game. District 4 constituents look at the inconsistencies in Tom McClintock’s statements and wonder. What does he believe? Whom does he represent?

When will the real Tom McClintock stand up?

Barbara Smith


Women’s march set for Saturday in Truckee

The Truckee Women’s March 2020 is being held at 10 a.m. Saturday, coinciding with hundreds of local marches across the United States, included Washington, DC.

The march is open to all people to celebrate the global march for women’s rights, climate action, and democratic and social justice. The first national Women’s March in 2017 was the largest protest march in North American history. The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.

Saturday’s march in Truckee will begin at the Eagle Statue, where attendees will meet at the corner of Spring Street and Donner Pass Road.

Current highway conditions: Friday, Jan. 17

Interstate 80

For eastbound traffic, chains are required on all vehicles except 4-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels from 2.1 miles east of Baxter in Placer County to the Nevada State Line.

Eastbound trucks are being screened at Applegate.

For westbound traffic, chains are required on all vehicles except 4-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels from the Nevada State Line to 3.4 miles east of Gold Run in Placer County.

State Route 20

Chains are required on all vehicles except 4-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels from 5 miles east of Nevada City to the Junction of I-80 in Nevada County.

State Route 28

Chains are required on all vehicles except 4-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels from Tahoe City in Placer County to the Nevada State Line.

State Route 89

Chains are required on all vehicles except 4-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels from Bliss State Park in El Dorado County to Squaw Valley Road.

Chains or snow tires are required from Squaw Valley Road in Placer County to the Junction of I-80 in Nevada County.

State Route 267

Chains or snow tires are required from Truckee in Nevada County to 5 miles south of Truckee in Placer County.

Chains are required on all vehicles except 4-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels from 5 miles south of Truckee to Kings Beach in Placer County.

Source: Caltrans

Bank joins forces with Protect Our Winters

Bank of the West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, has announced it is the first bank to join Protect Our Winters, a leading climate advocacy group for the winter sports community.

As a Summit Level Partner, Bank of the West will join some of the most recognized outdoor brands in pushing for systemic solutions to climate change.

“When you deposit money in the bank, it doesn’t just sit there, it goes out into the world and finances things,” said Ben Stuart, chief marketing officer at Bank of the West, in a release. “Your bank, and your deposits, can be a force for good. That’s why Bank of the West is making bold choices about what we do and don’t finance on behalf of the environment and teaming up with organizations, like Protect our Winters, that are taking action to protect our planet.”

Bank of the West announced in 2018, according to the Associated Press, that it would withdraw support from companies and businesses that are “detrimental to our environment and health.” The bank stated it would no longer do business with companies whose main activities are tied to oil and gas from shale and tar sands, along with no longer financing oil and gas exploration or production projects in the Arctic. Support of fossil fuels by big banks has been on the rise, according to the 2019 “Banking on Climate Change” report, which stated that 33 banks from Canada, China, Europe, and the U.S. have financed fossil fuels with $1.9 trillion from 2016 through 2018. The report was produced by the Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, the Sierra Club, and others.

The Climate Impact Lab predicts the number of days at or below freezing in some of the most popular ski towns in the U.S. will decline by weeks over the next 20 years. As this reduction occurs, there will be a dramatic, negative impact on the local economies and industries who rely on these winter seasons — unless people act now to protect natural resources.

“(Protect Our Winters) aligned with Bank of the West because it is one of the only U.S. banks taking action to combat climate change via sustainable financing practices,” said Mario Molina, executive director at Protect Our Winters, in a release. “Bank of the West has proven to be an important ally to the outdoor sports industry. We’re excited to welcome them into our community. Their proactive action on energy transition issues makes them a natural fit with (Protect Our Winters’) mission.”

To kick-off this relationship, Bank of the West and Protect Our Winters have launched the #CaptureTheChange photo contest on Instagram to initiate conversations on how climate change is affecting the winter season. The contest, which will run until March 1, encourages consumers to think about the impact they’re seeing as a result of climate change, including the important areas they wish to preserve with more sustainable lifestyles.

To enter, participants should follow @Bankofthewest and @Protectourwinters on Instagram and post a photo in accordance with the official rules. Photos should show a winter experience and how it is, or could be, impacted by climate change. Winners will receive gear from select Protect Our Winters members.

For the full contest details and rules, visit changematters.bankofthewest.com/change/capturethechange-photo-contest/.

Achieving greatness: 5 inspiring people who are taking skiing to new heights

“Go, Char, go!” Sandra Sandford shouts to her 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte.

Strapped into skis, gripping outriggers to steady her balance, Charlotte glides down a groomed slope at Alpine Meadows on a sun-kissed bluebird day in April 2019.

Two members of Achieve Tahoe — a North Lake Tahoe-based nonprofit that provides adaptive sports and recreation for people with disabilities — trail behind Charlotte to assist her, if needed.

Not today. Charlotte, locked in with an intense focus, smoothly finishes her run without so much as a wobble, as seen in a video taken by her father, David Sandford.

Skiing a slope without assistance — and without falling — could be a major breakthrough for any young skier. But this is especially true for Charlotte, who has cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

Simply put, skiing at Lake Tahoe gives Charlotte, and many others with physical disorders or disabilities, a sense of freedom that they cherish each year.

“I just kind of feel like I’m flying,” Charlotte said with a beaming smile during a Skype interview with Tahoe Magazine. “Between the speed and the feeling of doing something by myself, I just feel — I don’t want to be corny or anything — but I just feel free.”


A native of Berkeley, Charlotte said she has come a long way since she first stepped into skis three years ago.

“I remember I used to wipe out a lot — like, every few feet — when I first started,” Charlotte said, laughing. “And so I made it my goal to get down a hill without falling. I think that really helped me. I was just really happy that I was able to do something independently and that I was able to enjoy it.”

Coming from a family that frequently skis, Charlotte said she was “really excited” when she first got on the mountain, adding: “I wasn’t really sure if I was going to be able to get really good at it; I was just kind of enjoying it.”

But thanks to specialized teaching from trained Achieve Tahoe staff and volunteers, Charlotte began making strides — in more ways than one — each time she took to the slopes. Before long, she was doing more skiing than falling. And then, just this past season, she was able to ski on her own alongside her parents and older brother, Nicholas.

“It opened my eyes that I could do something that I never thought I would be able to do,” she said.

David Sandford said he’s been amazed how much his daughter has grown over her years skiing with Achieve Tahoe instructors.

“The amount of energy kids like her have to expend to do this … it’s really hard work,” he said. “From just balancing going down a hill to even going through the lift line.

“It was a huge breakthrough (last season),” he continued. “To get from having to always be with the (Achieve Tahoe) instructors to being able to ski with her as her parent is really amazing.”

Charlotte told Tahoe Magazine she’s already counting down the days until her family’s next ski trip to Tahoe this winter.

Flashing a smile, she added: “I’m hoping to advance to harder hills.”


Jennifer Weast was 16 when her life was turned upside down.

It was the winter of 1977, and the native of Carmichael, was skiing with friends at Alpine Meadows, just as she had done for years. During a run, the young Weast took a spill, just as she had done for years.

But this fall was different.

“I remember falling, I remember sliding, and then I got knocked unconscious at some point on the way down,” Weast recalled in an interview with Tahoe Magazine.

When Weast blinked back to consciousness the next day, she saw only white walls and whiter fluorescent lights. She heard only a soft rhythmic beep — like a faint alarm clock pulling her out of a deep sleep.

Soon after, doctors told Weast that her neck was broken. She was a C5/C6 quadriplegic, the informed her, and would have no use of her legs and limited use of her arms and hands. The then-16-year-old struggled to comprehend this life-altering news.

“In the beginning, I kind of had the attitude of, OK, they’re telling me my neck’s broken and all of these different things,” she said. “But, I really didn’t have anybody tell me, ‘You aren’t going to walk again.’”

Eventually, while rehabbing in Vallejo, Weast faced the reality that the active life she once had was going to be drastically different. Yet Weast, a self-proclaimed “jock,” didn’t let that stop her from trying her hand at adaptive sports. Skiing, however, was not one of them.

“It was a fear of the mountain, or I thought I was going to be too cold … all of those different excuses that I came up with in the beginning,” Weast said.

Thirty-three years later, Weast faced that fear — doing so on the same mountain that took away her ability to walk and fully use her arms.

It’s the winter of 2010, and Weast — seated in a bi-ski, with an Achieve Tahoe instructor tethered behind, assisting with turns — is flying down a snowy slope at Alpine Meadows.

The white snow, the green pines, the blue lake glistening in the background. Weast soaks it all in.

“It just erased 30 years in a blink. I’ll never forget that first day,” said Weast.

Since that unforgettable day nearly 10 years ago, Weast, a high school math teacher for 32 years who lives in Citrus Heights, makes the most of her time on winter breaks and weekends.

She skis.

“I would go every weekend if I could,” smiled Weast, noting she hits the slopes up to 15 times a season at Alpine Meadows. “It’s definitely my happy place.”

And every time she comes back, thanks to Achieve Tahoe’s Michael Hunter (who is typically tethered behind her), Weast said she’s able to explore new terrain.

“It’s allowed me to go down mountains I never thought I could,” said Weast, who frequents the Summit, Wolverine, Bobby’s Run and Sherwood runs. “It’s absolutely changed my world — back to being just completely passionate about the sport that I thought I had lost. When I go up there, it’s just my getaway to be in nature.

“And it’s the one place I can go without the wheelchair.”


For 17-year-old Myles Molnar, of Pleasanton, his first time adaptive skiing with Achieve Tahoe had extra special meaning. He mono-skied down a run at Alpine Meadows on Jan. 21, 2018 — one year to the date after he suffered a traumatic spinal injury during a wrestling practice that left him a C5/C6 quadriplegic.

“It was huge because it made me realize that I can still do all these fun activities, even after my injury,” Molnar said in a phone interview with Tahoe Magazine. “Prior to that, I thought the days of me doing really physical activities are over. But once I was able to do go do that, I just kind of realized … nope, it’s not over — I can go out and enjoy myself.”

Moreover, Molnar said skiing at Tahoe is a welcome retreat, literally and figuratively, from the daily stresses and pressures. Flexing a 4.0 GPA, the high school senior said he plans to apply to the University of Southern California, University of California, Berkeley, and Santa Clara University, among others.

“Normally, I have a lot on my mind and I’m constantly thinking about tons of stuff,” he said. “But when I’m skiing, it clears up my mind and I just kind of focus on the skiing.”

Looking toward this upcoming season, he added: “Once I’m able to get back up on the mountain, it will definitely help me, both mentally and physically.”

Laura Molnar, Myles’ mother, said she sees the joy skiing brings her son every time they’re on the slopes. She pointed to a particular day this past February that encapsulated Myles’ happiness when he’s on the hill.

“It was a really bad, heavy snowstorm and he and (Achieve Tahoe’s) Keegan Buffington were skiing in the snowstorm,” Laura Molnar recalled. “It was a whiteout … and the smile on Myles’ face was the best thing ever.

“He doesn’t think about anything else,” she continued. “He just thinks about what he’s doing with his arms, what he’s doing with his body. You can see it … he’s so relaxed. He’s free up there.”


Squaw Valley native Marina Gardiner also experiences a sense of freedom when she straps into a mono-ski and flies down a slope.

At age 18, Gardiner, raised in a skiing family, was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. The rare disease left her paralyzed from the hips down.

As a result, “for the first couple of years, I didn’t ski,” she said.

In time, she got the itch to get back on the mountain. Through Achieve Tahoe (which was Disabled Sports USA – Far West at the time), Gardiner, an undergrad at UC-Berkeley, used her time home for the holidays learning how to use a mono-ski. “I eventually missed the social aspect of skiing,” she said. “That’s a really big part of the community of people that I know and spend time with up here. So that was what drew me back to it initially.”

Years later, after graduating from UC-Berkeley and receiving a master’s in art and history administration in Chicago, Gardiner returned to her hometown. With hopes of working for a nonprofit, she found a great fit with an organization she already had a personal connection with: Achieve Tahoe.

Since, Gardiner, who works as Guest Services Manager for the nonprofit that formed way back in 1967, said she experiences daily the rewards of working for a nonprofit that helps fellow people with disabilities.

“It’s a really rewarding job, even though it can be really busy and really crazy all the time,” she said. “But, I think that’s what keeps all of us here — seeing people achieve new things and discover that they could do something they didn’t realize they could do.”

As for Gardiner, not only has she “grown a passion for skiing” that she never had before, the Squaw Valley native has also discovered newfound freedom and adventure in her own backyard.

“I love the freedom that it provides, the ability to go out with friends and family and do the same things that they’re doing,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to get out of your wheelchair and access a part of Tahoe that you would never be able to do from your chair.”


Alpine Meadows native Jason Abraham was a regular on the mountains of Squaw Valley. A contracted photographer for the famed ski resort, Abraham — known as “A-bro” by his Tahoe friends and family — could most often be found snapping photos and ripping lines at Squaw.

That all changed the morning of April 9, 2015. After photographing athletes skiing off Squaw Valley’s famed Palisades, Abraham and a few friends hiked up to get in a few runs. He dropped into Main Chute, a steep, 53-degree chute that quickly opens into Siberia Bowl. Carving down the hill with control, things took a turn as Abraham tried to slow down.

“I caught an edge and tried to correct myself, picked up some speed and ended up falling,” Abraham said in a phone interview with Tahoe Magazine. “I must’ve hit my neck on an ice bump or something. I sort of knew immediately that I was paralyzed. When I fell, I was conscious, I just couldn’t really move.”

Abraham’s fears were confirmed at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. There, the North Tahoe native was told that he fractured his C6 vertebrae, causing temporary paralysis from the shoulders down.

“It was obviously a pretty sad moment in my life,” he said. “But I had a lot of friends and family and community rally around me and help me get my life back together.”

Playing an instrumental role since his injury, Abraham said, has been High Fives Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Truckee that supports athletes with life-altering injuries. High Fives has provided Abraham with everything from acupuncture and massages to personal training at the CR Johnson Healing Center to full-day adaptive ski lessons with Achieve Tahoe.

“It’s really been essential in my recovery to have their support,” Abraham said of High Fives.

Following his injury, Abraham said there “was a good period of time” when he didn’t think he’d able to do anything more than “sit around on the couch.”

However, through High Fives’ funding, Abraham was introduced to a handful of adaptive sports, including mountain biking, surfing and fly-fishing. And then, in February 2016, less than a year after his fall, he was back on the mountain to adaptive ski with Achieve Tahoe.

Though he knew his days of ripping up powder in the backcountry were behind him, that reality sunk in his first day using a sit-ski at Alpine Meadows.

“It was — and still isn’t — the same as what it used to be for me,” he said. “I kind of struggle with skiing a little bit … I generally need quite a bit of help out there. So that part of it is still kind of difficult.”

This, Abraham said, has inspired him to brainstorm solutions for disabled athletes to ski more independently. Specifically, he said there is technology used in adaptive mountain biking that he thinks might translate into adaptive skiing, which “would make it quite a bit more fun to go skiing again.”

“That’s honestly my primary goal — to develop technology to make it easier for quadriplegics to ski,” he added.

In the meantime, Abraham said he’s looking forward to returning to the slopes this winter. More than ever, he cherishes the time he gets to spend skiing at Tahoe with his wife, Kate, and 8-year-old son, Ebbett, who Abraham said is “really into skiing,” adding, “and that is awesome.”

Tahoe Mountain Club Director of Operations Travis Alley recognized by PGA

The Northern California Section of the PGA of America recently announced its 2019 Section Awards, and among the 14 professionals and industry leaders selected was Tahoe Mountain Club Director of Golf Operations Travis Alley.

Alley was named the Merchandiser of the Year by the association for his efforts in consistently changing displays, the representation of nearly 50 manufacturers in the shop, and customer service.

“With a season that lasts only 150 days, from mid-May to mid-October, there is much to be done in a short amount of time,” said the Northern California Section of the PGA of America in its announcement. “Overall, (Alley) recognizes the importance of knowing the customer. He says, ‘Buy for them … and do a thorough job of monitoring the results.’”

The recognition comes following the announcement that the Tahoe Mountain Club, which operates Gray’s Crossing and Old Greenwood, will host the Reno-Tahoe area’s only PGA Tour stop.

The Barracuda Championship announced in December that it is changing venues from Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno to Old Greenwood. The tournament will be held from June 29 through July 5.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.