Can South Lake Tahoe become the ‘Outdoor Capital of the World’?
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On a midsummer Friday afternoon in South Lake Tahoe, traffic crawled along Highway 50 toward the casinos, wherein a steady circulation of vacationers arrived to strive their success at the blackjack desk or seize the night time’s leisure — the Steve Miller Band and Peter Frampton had been in town.
Meanwhile, a mile away, filmmaker and photographer Corey Rich fired up a gas grill on the patio in the front of his office on Ski Run Boulevard. Dogs wandered around the workplace, and some pedestrians meandered up the sidewalk out front, on their manner to the farmers’ marketplace. Rich’s buddy, professional climber and writer Chris McNamara, tapped a keg of locally brewed pilsner. Soon, about 30 of their friends, colleagues and acquaintances would be mingling, taking part in the nice and cozy Tahoe night.
“This road is outstanding,” said McNamara. “It’s one of the best streets, perhaps within the international, that connects an great lake to a mountain. We believe that you may have a actually low priced spot on a in reality cool road and be part of a brand new, cool transformation.”
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Ski Run, a 1½-mile stretch that runs from Lake Tahoe to the bottom of Heavenly Ski Resort, is the locals’ downtown. Tucked below tall pines lining the road are casual eating places, an array of companies — vintage apparel, ski elements, a day spa, accommodations — and a smattering of small houses. But there also are a lot of vacant homes and empty plenty in this street. Many of the ski shops are open best half the yr, whilst the chair lifts are spinning.
Rich and McNamara need to alternate that.
With a beer in a single hand, McNamara rolled out a zoning map for Ski Run Boulevard throughout the office ping-pong desk. It confirmed a mixture of colored squares lining the street — red ones indicating vacant plenty. Several as soon as were a inn that thrived in former, snowier days but become later torn down. “Our goal is to discover human beings to fill inside the crimson squares,” McNamara said.
South Lake Tahoe has lengthy been placed as a mountain cousin to Las Vegas and Reno. Bordered by way of Heavenly to the south and the lake to the north, the city’s period is sliced with the aid of a 5-lane east-west highway, threading chains of strip malls and blighted inns till it hits the Nevada border and the considered necessary cluster of casinos. But this town is likewise a launchpad to a number of California’s gold standard outdoor pastime. World-elegance snowboarding, mountain cycling, hiking and mountaineering are just minutes away — now not to mention the lake itself. And as compared with different lakefront communities round Tahoe, it’s noticeably less costly, with an average domestic cost of $434,000.
Chris McNamara (left) of Outdoor Gear Lab Services and Corey Rich of Novus Select inside the renovated headquarters constructing of Novus Select headquarters on Ski Run Boulevard.
Photo: Michael Macor / Special to The Chronicle
By championing South Lake as a paradise for experts who want a mountain lifestyle, a residing wage and less expensive actual property, McNamara and Rich intention to help the city shed its recognition as a playing vacation spot for an economic system and way of life this is greater harmonious with its natural surroundings.
“It seems like that is the instant wherein we are able to create this downtown ecosystem,” Rich says. “Our purpose is to discover a couple extra companies or investors that see the opportunity on Ski Run. We’re building the momentum, and it’ll take only a few extra key players to step in.”
A prolific Yosemite rock climber and the writer of 10 mountain climbing guidebooks, McNamara is likewise the founder and editor in leader of Outdoor Gear Lab, a internet site that critiques the entirety from trekking footwear to mountain motorcycles. He grew up in Marin County, and had usually visible Tahoe as an area to excursion, now not to live.
The “Over the Edge’ motorcycles and coffee keep on the corner of Ski Run Blvd. And Tamarack Ave. In South Lake Tahoe.
Photo: Michael Macor / Special To The Chroicle
But he visited regularly, generally staying with Rich, who moved to South Lake Tahoe 15 years in the past. “Chris likely spent a hundred days a yr on my couch,” Rich says. Eventually, McNamara’s perspective flipped. Disillusioned with the aid of the Bay Area’s increasingly more high value of living and eyeing Tahoe’s proximity to major airports and towns, McNamara realized it became a perfect region to run his business. He moved right here in 2014.
“South Lake have become this super possibility,” McNamara says. “Not only should I rent outstanding humans who have an amazing lifestyle, I could pay them a dwelling salary wherein they might honestly buy a house. It got me reinvigorated at the area.”
Two years ago, McNamara and Rich pooled their sources to shop for an workplace that might residence their developing businesses. They observed a 1,500-square-foot area at 1111 Ski Run — previously a computer repair save — and overhauled it absolutely. Today, the modern-day office for Rich’s manufacturing enterprise, Novus Select, has two beer faucets and a separate 800-rectangular-foot cabin for device storage and video editing. (McNamara rents another office down the road for Outdoor Gear Lab.)
“I’m reminded, nearly on a weekly foundation, that (moving to South Lake Tahoe) became the proper choice,” Rich says.
In 2016, McNamara and Rich articulated their vision for transforming Ski Run into the cultural hub of South Lake Tahoe in a manifesto they posted on-line and distributed the various community.
“Why now not work to alternate Lake Tahoe into the maximum colourful mountain network in the U.S.?” McNamara wrote. “Why no longer emerge as identified because the Outdoor Capital of the World?”
The pair outlined three desires: First, set up more hiking and biking trails and moderate rock-climbing routes, and host community events like farmers’ markets. Second, draw enterprise hobby to Ski Run Boulevard and “boost the architectural bar” of the street to carry more higher-wage, 12 months-spherical jobs. Third, construct a single-tune motorcycle trail around Lake Tahoe.
“Rather than a road map, this record is a compass, an effort to decorate a shared imaginative and prescient that moves this network within the same direction,” McNamara wrote.