Donner Ski Ranch near Truckee to open mountain biking trails next year |

Donner Ski Ranch near Truckee to open mountain biking trails next year

Greyson Howard
Special to the Sun
Trail builder Clif McMilan enters a turn in one of the new trails at Donner Ski Ranch.
Courtesy Greyson Howard |

NORDEN, Calif. — A small group of body-armor-clad mountain bikers stood under a gray sky at Donner Ski Ranch on a cool October morning, bikes being loaded into a trailer, when Jim “Hacksaw” Severt raised his hands to get the group’s attention.

“Donner Ski Ranch was the first lift-access mountain bike park in 1992, and we want to bring it back where it started,” said Severt, addressing the group. “We want locals to come back now, that’s why you’re all here.”

Two trails had been cleared, smoothed and tested by Severt and his trail building sidekick Clif McMilan, but before lifts spin in the spring or summer of 2016, Severt wanted the critical eye of local riders.

At the top, the group split in two, dropping down the steep trails, across rock gardens and around sweeping corners, sussing out the newly buffed terrain.

“We used to race at Donner Ski Ranch in the ‘90s — there used to be 300 people here, coaches in the parking lot, it was great. Last winter I was working in Reno and thinking about Donner Ski Ranch when I decided to email them about bringing mountain biking back,” Severt said.

Events like “Rage’n at the Ranch” drew big names to Donner Ski Ranch, located near Sugar Bowl Resort at Donner Summit, like Gary Fisher and Sean Palmer to the region from 1992 to 2002, he said.

Janet Tuttle, who owns the resort with her husband Marshall, said they were immediately interested after Severt’s enthusiastic pitch.

“We’re very excited about the new bike park, we have been looking for ways to keep Donner Ski Ranch open during the summer,” Tuttle said. “He (Severt) told us that so many of his fellow mountain bikers always speak so fondly about riding at Donner Ski Ranch back in the day … After quite a bit of discussion, we realized that Jim would be the perfect person to make this happen.”

The goal is to have five trails ready for next summer, with the ability to build more throughout the season, offering trails for different tastes and ability levels, from jumps and technical downhill to trails more suited to the modern enduro bike, Severt said.

“I want to be a local’s mountain, with Thursday night locals-only nights, and I want to try to keep lift ticket prices down,” Severt said. “I’m also working with programs for kids like summer camps, and would like to bring in races.”

Severt also envisions movies in the lodge and connections to greater trail networks in the area, potentially including the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s Donner Lake Rim Trail.

John Svahn, stewardship director for the land trust, said the organization is exploring Donner Ski Ranch as a possibility for the rim trail connecting between Interstate 80 and Schallenberger Ridge on the south side of Donner Lake.

For Donner Ski Ranch, it’s all part of a bigger picture that started with live music every weekend last summer.

“We’re so pleased that Jim and Clif are part of our Donner Ski Ranch family now,” Tuttle said. “Our hope is that this is just the beginning of many new and exciting things to come.”

To learn more, search “The Bike Park at DSR” on Facebook.

Greyson Howard, a former Sierra Sun reporter, is a Truckee-based freelancer writer and photographer. He may be reached for comment at greyson.howard@gmail

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