Tahoe Ski Resort Set to Become Private to Battle ‘Bay Area Commuters’

Photo: Homewood Mountain Resort

Many Tahoe ski resorts have been overrun with what many locals call the “Bay Area crowd” and its impacting traffic and lift lines for locals. That’s why one Tahoe ski resort is looking at a private business model to reward local residents and battle the ongoing traffic issues in the Tahoe basin.

Homewood Mountain Resort sits on the west end of Lake Tahoe, with its beautiful slopes opening up to some of the best views of the lake. It’s a favorite of west shore locals, but its location on Highway 89 can make it an arduous journey driving in from either Highway 80 to the north or U.S. 50 to the south. That’s why they are planning to move to a semi-private business model, allowing only season pass holders to ride the mountain, eliminating all single day tickets.

The rare business move, first reported by Moonshine Ink, will allow the resort to give skiers and snowboarders a less-crowded experience and help the business thrive without the reliance on out-of-area commuters. According to JMA Ventures President Art Chapman, the company which runs the resort, its the only way to compete with the local ski resort giants and mitigate the traffic issues that their passholders experience throughout the region.

“The fact is today with all the Ikon passes, if you go to Highway 89 on a Saturday afternoon you will see traffic backed up all the way from Squaw and Alpine into Truckee. You can’t even get to Homewood,” Chapman said to Moonshine Ink. “Commuters coming from the Bay Area can’t get past Squaw and Alpine and get to Homewood unless you are through the Mousehole at 7:30 in the morning.”

Over the past decade, skiing has declined dramatically at Homewood. Skier visits to the park have dropped 40 percent and season pass sales have dropped 60 percent. On February 2, the resort only had 115 skiers on the mountain during the entire day, which included 7 employees. That business model, along with growing competition from Ikon and Epic passes to the major resorts in Tahoe, is not sustainable.

Under their new business model, only residents of the six or seven major West Shore homeowners associations would be able to obtain a pass. The rest of the public would essentially be out of luck.

“Our intent is not to shut the public out,” said Chapman. “Since we know most skier attendance is from the local community, we intend to work with the HOAs to ensure that a certain number of residents can get passes to ski.”

This may upset some people who love riding at Homewood, but with growing competition from major ski conglomerates like Vail Resorts, it may be the only way to keep the resort alive. According to Chapman, this is the only way to create a sustainable business.

“We are trying to do the right thing here; we want to keep Homewood open.”

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

32 Comments

  1. Been a long time, yet Homewood is a nice place for skiing. If that is what you have to do to stay alive, then do it.
    I never skiing on weekends. Way to many flat landers. I was from Grass Valley when I was skiing. Always did my skiing during the week.

    1. What about the local who live and work here, Yet will be told tobad so sad? It’s a move to only cater to the 1% that’s all that live around the lake. By limiting to only rich exclusive areas you are turning it I to something it’s not. You are alienating the locals to cater to money is that a good look. Is that truly sustainable. It is clearly a move to make the lake only for the rich. Sounds alot like what was done to the Indigenous Washoe people sept now there will be laws to allow the discrimination. It’s selfish and unjustified. It still does not fix the traffic problem or sales of tickets just makes it exclusive typical 1% er lies and manipulation.

      1. Sounds like your selfishness would put them out of business. The article said they cant stay open the way things are so trying to save resort by new business plan. That is how most companies operate. If they dont they go out of business. Need a lesson in business or life?

      2. Exactly! We’ve had our cabin on the south shore for 14 years. I love Homewood and its especially nice for my special needs daughter. So bc we are on the south shore we can’t go to Homewood? Hmmm…better check on this.

  2. Funny, most of the Tahoe “locals” are recent Bay area transplants. I find this very hypocritical.

    1. Try not to take it personal. In “local” I took it to mean they ‘live’ in the area, pay taxes, participate in the community, shop.

      1. You mean unlike us that pay $16,000 a year in property taxes? You chuckle heads couldn’t survive without us vacation homeowners at the lake. We represent 70% of the economy and ALWAYS HAVE. TRPA permits little if any new homes each year. The amount of homes hasn’t changed but COVID has and now folks can finally live in their vacation homes all year long. This definition of “local” is a self entitled joke.

    1. Without the tourists from the Bay area most ski resorts would die on the vine. It’s all going to change soon with the New world order so be happy with what you have cuz you will be wishing for the olden days soon

  3. I’ve learned living in California, that if you want to do any activity, it must be mid-week. I ignore Tahoe, San Francisco, any beach area, Yosemite or any golf course on weekends. When I do visit these areas, I spend to support the local economies.

  4. The way this is written it sounds like only west shore communities will have access? So residents in other parts of Tahoe (Kings Beach, Crystal Bay, Incline?) won’t have access either? Don’t really understand that.

  5. Good point, and they didn’t do a good job of “copying”. The info about JMA’s collaboration with the Yellowstone Club’s marketing consultants was totally omitted. Also interesting that Mr. Chapman refers to “SQUAW Valley”

  6. “After living in the Sierra for many years, and hearing newly self proclaimed locals whine about “flatlanders”, I have come to the conclusion that the definition of a flat lander is anyone who moved here a week after you did.
    And the newest of the “locals” are the loudest and most vocal.

    1. I totally agree. The use of “Flatlanders” cracks me up. These self proclaimed locals act as if this recreational heaven belongs to them and only them. Funny how Tahoe has been a place where 70% of the cabins have been 2nd homes. I’d argue that these self proclaimed locals couldn’t make a living without us 70%ers. I’m almost 60 yo and started at age 5 skiing at Homewood.

      1. so funny so true Im 64 born in sac the minute summer hit since i was 4 years old my mother would take all of us 6 kids to homewood an stay most the summer there. I graduated in 1975 an immediately moved to SLT bought a home an stayed there till 1983 in the meantime my parents purchased a nice west shore home off McKinney Rubicon. go there all the time but mainly ski squaw an alpine/ or excuse me palisades. rarely ski homewood even though its 5 minutes from my door step. only cuz i like the other mountains better. But We are not a member of any homeowners association does this now mean that we are locked out of skiing at Homewood the rest of my sisters like to ski there there.

  7. I’m not sure how this is going to work. They’re admitting attendance is low, and think that they can increase attendance by limiting who can buy passes?

  8. Well, we used to travel from the flatland to Tahoma Meadows cabins. Guess Dick and Uli won’t be seeing us non locals anymore. Can’t imagine what others who welcomed “outsiders” for years are thinking…

  9. That is exactly what I thought too. Wasted my time reading. When they are once again catering to the 1%. I hope it backfires in their faces.

  10. I agree that a private West Shore business needs to be able to make a profit first and foremost (the business doesn’t survive without the profit and then the public resource is lost in its entirety). And profitable business opportunities on the sparsely populated West Shore are limited. However, for JMA to blame their recent declining customer base solely on mega passes and increased traffic is a bit disingenuous. We were Homewood season pass holders and ski team participants back 2014 and several years thereafter, and the truth is JMA didn’t even make the basic investments that it’s customers could see. The lodge plan seemed so attractive because it was finally a visible investment for customers. But it became a future promise that was never realized and used as an excuse not to do any investment at all. That is a huge contributor to their reduction in season pass sales.

  11. I went to Lake Tahoe decades ago for a ski week with a newbie gf. Skied Heavenly Valley and one or two other areas nearby in spring conditions. Back ‘in the day’ when snowboarding didn’t exist. Less crowded but not anymore with corporations like Vail buying and offering Ikon, Epic and other ski/snowboard passes, packing areas with excess to the point of zero parking. Business, nothing personal. If I planned on another out west ski vacation, I’d have to examine which address areas ate most likely over crowded and search for lesser know areas to enjoy less crowded conditions. Those days included Utah, Colorado and British Columbia, Canada of well known mountains. It’s a tough business decision for Homewood to refrain from over crowding by taking this step to limit season passes and offer residents first chance that effectively blocks out of towners like me. Hopefully things work out for everyone’s sake as I would consider any area free of over crowding conditions to be able to enjoy skiing and not stand for hours in lines to catch a lift.

    1. “…which address areas ate most likely over crowded..” should be which areas are most likely over crowded.

  12. I agree. I live near ocean and on weekends, holidays I stay home. Natural resources are for all people to enjoy not just locals. God gave it to all of us.

  13. Sounds like an interesting idea, but Homewood should refine the model and have the hill open to all Monday thru Thursday to entice midweek skiers.

  14. Close 50 and 80 and see what’s left of Tahoe in a year. Just be honest and say it’s an elitist thing.

  15. Thank you Dan. You’re spot on. Our kids learned to ski at Homewood, but once they could, the mountain was not challenging. One HSQ? Really! With all the great mountains ringing the lake, what 1 percenter is going to buy a Homewood Season pass, and what local is not going to be bored after one season.

    This new plan will not improve revenues, but it could help curb expenses. That’s bad for locals, South Americans, and a future Homewood.

  16. Welp! There goes my plan to get a pass there and about the Epic/IKon mountains. That should be an interesting experiment. My bet is this will backfire. Good luck!

  17. “Boo I hate all these rich folks that pump money into my economy “

    Is there anything you ski pussies won’t complain about?

  18. I’m growing irritated seeing Homewood/JMA management continues to flaunt the statistic there has been a “10-year 40% decline in skier visits and a 64% decline in season passholders”. Do you know what Homewood was doing in 2011? They had a partnership with Alpine Meadows where you could ride both resorts under the same pass per agreements between JMA and KSL. This is also the same year the previous master plan was approved (also a contributing factor to the increased ridership). A quick google search will lead you to articles where they note ridership in 2011 was up 500% and local riders were getting irritated! So they are reporting on a 10-year statistic from their highest year of engagement! Do you know what Homewood has done since 2011 to increase ridership? Basically nothing. Grooming has gotten worse. On site amenities have gotten worse including the suspect burning of the South Lodge (half of the onsite amenities). Weathering and inoperable lift equipment year-over-year (Ellis chair, accessing over 30% of the terrain). They are gaslighting the public making it seem like its an issue with US and our increased desire to ride Ikon/Epic resorts, when they’ve literally pushed us off the lift and out the door to the next best option.

  19. This is INCREDIBLE! So happy that Homewood is doing this and hope more ski resorts cater to the locals. Our local ski areas are dying and that’s leading to more and more reliance on visitors. Create a warming environment and locals will buy passes! Shut us out with tourist heavy operations and we’ll avoid you! It’s pretty simple…

  20. It’s somewhat simple – if the entire resort property is privately owned they can do whatever they want. It’s called private property rights.
    If as much as half a square foot is on National Forest land then I hope they get sued for access and they will lose.
    Just like uphill access rules, those don’t apply to FS leases either. We all own that land as a nation.

    But first and foremost, no matter what route they go, I hope they make it 🙂

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