mtnslake

Homewood History

HOMEWOOD PAST AND PRESENT-SIXTY YEARS

by Jenn Sheridan

There’s gold in them hills…. Or not: The story behind Homewood’s Gold Rush inspired run names

Lake Tahoe, including the West Shore, was the summer and fall home to the Washoe tribe for many centuries before non-Native Americans even knew Lake Tahoe existed. However, things changed quickly during the mid-1800s. The westward exploration by John C. Fremont in 1844 put Lake Tahoe on the maps and shortly after, the California Gold Rush and the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City inspired a westward migration of people hoping to strike it rich. 

The Lake Tahoe basin wasn’t particularly fruitful when it came to precious metals, but many of the failed miners that settled the area found success logging the forests to provide lumber for the railroad and the Comstock Lode in Nevada. A couple of these settlers landed on the west shore of the lake including Jack Sargeant Ellis, a dairy farmer for whom Ellis Peak is named, and Dick Madden who settled along the creek that now bears his name.  

Though logging and mining brought settlers to the West Shore, the area slowly began to evolve into a resort destination. A Homewood District was established as a vacation resort and marina. The Hotel Homewood was built in 1910, soon followed by a large casino and dance hall that attracted people in search of fun to the area.  

However, Homewood’s mining days weren’t over yet. In the 1930s the Tahoe Treasure Mine, and the Noonchester mine were established a quarter-mile south of Quail Lake just outside of the current boundary of Homewood Mountain Resort. The mines were abandoned after a few years of no profits due to poor quality ore, however, the mining legacy continues on the mountain via run names such as Bonanza, Miner’s Delight, Ore Car. The decline of mining and logging cemented Lake Tahoe’s status as a vacation destination attracting people to the area seeing the outdoor lifestyle.

1910 Hotel Homewood, Courtesy of the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society

The tale of two rope tows

One of those people who was drawn to Lake Tahoe was Ron Rupp. Recognizing the calm waters on the West Shore he ran a waterski school near Homewood and rented a room at the Homewood Hotel which was owned by Don Huff at the time. 

“My waterski school was across the street, at the pier,  and I always looked across at the hill back here and though, you know, that’d make a wonderful ski hill,” said Rupp. “I was working part-time at other ski hills, and I got a lot of learning skills from those times. The hill back here always intrigued me.”

The 1960 Winter Olympics put Lake Tahoe on the map as a winter destination and the time was right to bring skiing to the West Shore of Lake Tahoe so Rupp pitched the idea to Don Huff. If Rupp could open a ski hill, he could use the land and Huff would open the lodge in the winter. Rupp went to work building a lift.

“I built the first lift on a trailer and it was made from car rims and, I think it was a jeep motor and a rear end that did the driving. It was kind of a spoke wheel. The towers were just trees that I cut down and put in the ground and made cross arms to hold up the wheels for the return of the rope. It was basically the same length of the [Alpine] platter that is there today,” Rupp says. 

Unfortunately, the rope tow wouldn’t operate as planned that winter. As the legend goes, a group of Wiley West Shore bandits stole the rope tow and moved it to start what would become Tahoe Ski Bowl, just south of Homewood. 

However, Rupp clarified the legend was just that, a legend. When the Cuban Missile Crisis struck, Rupp was one of the reservists called to service. Meanwhile, local realtor Max Hoff had been selling property in the Chamberlands subdivision with the promise of a ski area nearby. With no way to install the lift, and no idea how long he would be away in service, Rupp struck a deal to sell the lift to Hoff who set it up where the current Spillway run exists and established Tahoe Ski Bowl. 

As it turns out, Rupp was released from duty after one month. So he returned to the Tahoe area got a job with a local survey company and went to work building two more rope tows. 

“One thing I didn’t have was a building and ski rentals. So I made enough money to buy sixy-four sets of rentals, skis, boots and poles. And then I needed a building so I built a little A-Frame that housed the rentals, and a repair bench, and I had a potbelly stove that came out of a caboose. That little building still stands – it’s the building on the other side of the Madden Chair.” Ron says.

“I built the first lift on a trailer and it was made from car rims and, I think it was a jeep motor, and a rear end that did the driving. It was kind of a spoke wheel. The towers were just trees that I cut down and put in the ground and made cross arms to hold up the wheels for the return of the rope. It was basically the same length of the [Alpine] platter that is there today,” Rupp says.

The community joins the one-man show

So that season, Homewood opened much like it was built –  as a one man show, but the community pitched in to help get the operations running.

“The mothers would volunteer to help. They would sell tickets and I’d set the kids up in ski boots, and skis, and poles and shove them out the back door. Then I’d go outside, hit the button and start the lift and then I’d ring the ski school bell,” describes Ron.  “I had a toboggan in case of an accident, and we had a few of those. I’d go up and teach them skiing and we sold candy bars and stuff inside. And that was the way we ran. It was a lot of fun.”

Now that he had established the ski area, and found that the interest was there, it was time to figure out how to grow. Rupp’s vision of the future included expanding the ski area further up the mountain as well as turning the property into a year-round destination with a marina, and a hotel on the lake. Around the same time, Don Huff told Rupp he was ready to sell his property. So Rupp set out to find a buyer.

“I had these families that would come here to go skiing. One was the Alrich family and they really enjoyed it. Ms. Alrich would bring her kids Hank, George, and Bill. So I approached George, he had a trust and he asked what I was going to do with the place, so I approached him with my master plan. I told him with a lot of hard work we can make this a nice place for families, and he was very interested,” said Rupp. 

George Aldrich bought the land and he and Ron built a new platter lift where the happy platter sits today, and the following year they built the Spring Lift – the first chairlift at Homewood Mountain Resort. Unfortunately, George suffered an accident and didn’t live to see the completed lift. However, his mother Helen Aldrich honored his memory by continuing to support the growth of Homewood. So the following winter the resort opened with the new chairlift, and lights making it one of the only resorts offering night skiing in the area.

Breaking Ground on the Next Phase

“I had a lot of nice young men that I hired that helped me at the time as we developed up the hill – the Madden Chairlift and then a T Bar that we put at the top of the Madden. The way I laid out the runs was by horse. I had a horse and it was an easy way to get through the brush,” said Rupp.

The crew laid out Miner’s Delight, Bonanza, Gilbert’s Gultch and Homewood Mountain really started to take shape.

“Mike Brown hired me here in June of 1973 and that was the year that they were going to build the first quad chairlift. So as the Operations Manager and Ski Patrol Director it fell on me to get all the trees out of the way.” said Bud Rosenthal, Mountain Ops Manager and Ski Patrol Director. “If there’s ever a legacy I have here it’s Rainbow Ridge,” said Rosenthal.

Over at Tahoe Ski Bowl, things had expanded from the small rope tow used to advertise the property in the neighborhood into a growing ski area. Just after the construction of Rainbow Ridge, the team at Tahoe Ski Bowl built the Ellis Chair and that opened a whole new era for the two resorts.

“Ray Kettenhoffen owned Tahoe Ski Bowl next door and his son Jamie was the Mountain Ops manager over there. It was only a couple of years after we ran the quad that Jamie put in the Ellis Chair. That started a nightmare with Rainbow Ridge because if Ski Bowl Skiers ended up on Rainbow Ridge they either had to either know a route to get back to Ski Bowl or they’d end up at the bottom of Homewood without a Homewood ticket – and the same thing happened to Homewood skiers who would end up at Ski Bowl. We each had a special pattern we’d punch into the paper tickets to give people a warning.” describes Rosenthal.

At the time, the ski patrol presence at Homewood Mountain Resort was provided by the National Ski Patrol. With the majority of the marketing for the resort coming from word-of-mouth via patrol volunteers across the region. In 1970, the Homewood Volunteer Ski Patrol was formed with Hal Bechtle at the helm.

In his plan, Rupp envisioned building 300 condo units in Madden Canyon. They began breaking ground on a new lift as the first step, but construction was halted when the Tahoe Regional Planning Association imposed a building moratorium.

HISTORY TIMELINE

An overview of Homewood’s history by key dates.

  • 1800

    ELLIS PEAK

    A couple of settlers landed on the west shore of the lake including Jack Sargeant Ellis, a dairy farmer for whom Ellis Peak is named and Dick Madden who settled along the creek that now bears his name.

  • 1910

    HOMEWOOD BECOMES A RECREATION DESTINATION

    Homewood shifts away from mining and logging and begins to find its place as a vacation destination. The Homewood Hotel is built in 1910 followed by a Dancehall and casino.

  • 1938

    A MINING REVIVAL?

     In the 1930s the Tahoe Treasure Mine, and the Noonchester mine were established just outside of the current boundary of Homewood Mountain Resort. The mines were abandoned quickly due to poor quality ore, however, the mining legacy continues on the mountain via run names such as Bonanza, Miner’s Delight, Ore Car. 

  • 1960

    OLYMPICS

    The 1960 Winter Olympics put Lake Tahoe on the map as a winter destination and kicked modern development into high gear.

  • 1961

    BUILDING THE FIRST ROPE TOW

    In the summer of 1961, Ron Rupp began construction on a rope tow on the property owned by Don Hoff. However he is called into service during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  

  • 1961

    TAHOE SKI BOWL ESTABLISHED

     When the Cuban Missile Crisis struck, Rupp was one of the reservists called to service. Meanwhile, local realtor Max Hoff had been selling property in the Chamberlands subdivision with the promise of a ski area nearby. Rupp struck a deal to sell the lift to Hoff who set it up where the current Spillway run exists and established Tahoe Ski Bowl. 

  • 1962

    HOMEWOOD MOUNTAIN RESORT WAS ESTABLISHED

    Rupp returned in 1962 from service and purchased a second rope tow and Homewood Mountain Resort was established.

  • 1966

    BUILDING THE MASTER PLAN

    Aldrich and Rupp went right to work to develop the ski hill at Homewood beginning with the addition of the Alpine Platter and Madden Chair in their current locations in 1966 and the Spring Chair in 1969. The Madden Creek T Bar was also added in 1969 where the run Tailings is today.

    On the lakeside, they built the Homewood High & Dry Marina.

  • 1970

    VOLUNTEER SKI PATROL

    In 1970, the Homewood Volunteer Ski Patrol was formed with Hal Bechtle at the helm.

Homewood Resort entrance, Courtesy of the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society

1959 Callender Motel, also known as the Homewood Marina Lodge, Homewood waterfront

MEMORIES OF HOMEWOOD

Homewood’s history is made up of the people who are connected to it.  View some of their stories and memories below.

"Jumpin" Jack

“I have many memories of skiing Homewood over the years. Homewood became the perfect fit for me and [I] instructed there from the ’78-79 season on through ’83-84. Some fellow instructors and I built a nice jump in between the Face and Gloryhole to get some shots of us with the lake in the background.”

Nancy

“This was the annual end-of-year softball game -Instructors vs Lift Ops.  The year was 1978.  One of the many fun times the entire mountain staff had.  We even had employee spectators at the bottom of the Spring Chair!!”

LORIE

I taught skiing at Tahoe Ski Bowl on weekends and college breaks in 1972 and 1973.

Andrea

“My husband and I fell in love skiing at Homewood the Spring of 2008 when we were living and working in San Francisco. The next April (2009) he proposed on the side of Homewood mountain and we’ve been happily married ever since! Homewood will always hold a very special place in our hearts and although we now live in Portland, OR we hope to bring our 3 children to ski at Homewood with us next spring! “

Alex

“My wife and I moved to Tahoe City in 2012 and built our lives around skiing. Homewood is our go-to mountain. We’re powder chasers. If there is fresh snow, you have seen us out there. Typically Kiwi gets first chair, but we are always one to two chairs behind him. 

We’re obsessed. And we are obsessed with Homewood. There is no place like it.”

Kathleen

“I learned to ski at 50, which is awfully late in life! By now I have skied all over Tahoe, but my favorite resort is Homewood. You cannot beat the friendly, down-to-earth crew, the views, and the amazing runs! My favorite spot on the PLANET is Homewood’s Rainbow Ridge.”

Aidan

“Me and the boys were shredding down quail face when a writer for a ski website snowbrains want to take photos of for the article!!!”

Nancy

“My Dad and his friends from Tahoe Pines loved to ski at Homewood.  They loved the powder in the trees. Homewood was the one resort that let them ride the ski-bobs.  We still have them at the house today!!”  

Picture from 1974. Don and Randy 

Dave

“1978, my first run ever. “

Kenneth

“I started skiing Homewood in the early 60’s. Homewood has been our family ski area for three Shuler family generations now. We are bringing our grandkids skiing at Homewood – this will make for the fourth generation skiing Homewood. When dating Linda in High School I brought Linda to Homewood to teach her how to ski. That was in 1972 and we are still skiing Homewood.  We will be skiing Homewood until we can no longer ski.

Bill

My family LOVES and has been skiing Homewood Mountain since the early 70’s, I have been on the Homewood/Ski Bowl slopes for over 50 years. My mother Eleanor Hollywood before that. We started taking our 3 children in the mid 80’s. Some days it was dumping snow BIG so we would drop Matt and Kelly off at the daycare on the Skibowl side.  Matt was on skis at age 3. One day while at daycare one of the counselors asked Matt to draw a picture of his family skiing on the mountain. About 2 months later it was used for this add in CitySports Magazine. A copy of this has been on the fridge in our Tahoma Cabin for 30 years. God Bless Homewood and the West Shore/Best shore.

Skye

“Homewood has been my home for as long as I can remember. My childhood is filled with memories of ski patrol Dave helping my very accident-prone little sister, petting Scout the ski patrol dog, spending hours with “Coach Gary” learning to ski, or hanging out in the North Lodge watching Scott frost cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. Despite being a young adult now, I still squeal like a child every time the mountain comes into view during winter trips to Tahoe.

Here’s to all these memories and many more.”

Photo: Me, about 13 years old, on The Face with my sisters

Ryan

“Some of the last 9 years with my kids. 

Nancy

“I was a ski instructor in the 1970’s for about 4-5 years.  It was one of the best times of my life. The people at Homewood were family to me.  I have skied at Homewood and had a pass since about 1964 with my family, then with my children, and now my grandchildren.” 

Photo from 1977.  Pictured is Dennis (Ski School Director) Tom, Jaime Schuler, Sandy, Gwen, Billy, Mary, Nancy, Mike, Cady and George.

Albert

“Spring skiing at Homewood was always great. In 1976 four friends decided to visit Homewood for a corn snow day including a lot of sunshine and enjoying some chenin blanc while lounging on this rock. Ten years ago we decided to return to the rock and reenact these pictures. Problem: we don’t remember exactly where it is! I made this poster to get help finding it. No one has claimed the reward.

Three of the four people in the picture are still skiing in their late seventies.”

Derek

So many amazing memories skiing Homewood since the early 70’s with my family.

Denise

“For the past 10 years, our kids grew up skiing the mountains at Homewood. In fact our dear friends’ kids have too!!! The annual Rod-Prit & family ski trip to Homewood. It’s like home to us, the resort & mountain have evolved over the years as well as the kids talent… black Diamond runs & freestyle the rage!!! Away from the crowds & the BEST bartenders (❤️Bloody Mary’s ) our lives just wouldn’t be the same without the Homewood fam!!!.”

Bud Rosenberg

“The painting of the old warming hut was done by my mother-in-law. She’s an artist & was visiting & wanting to paint the lake. I took her to work the day we were cutting The Shaft access run to the Quad being built that summer. I think that’s why she had the logs laying in the foreground.”

Operations, Patrol and Trail Director from 1973 to 1980

Paul

“We enjoyed Homewood for the first time last year and realized what a gem it is- I Wishingpo we would have found it 15 years ago.  Enjoyed so much we bought first ever season passes last year and renewed this year.  Can’t wait for the snow to fall.  Btw have enjoyed it in the summer as well.  What a wonderful place. I realize it’s not the history you’re probably looking for, but it’s our history and it’s one that we will remember forever..”

LORIE

After college, I worked at Homewood with my husband to be, Rick during the winter of 1977/1978. We are still a skiing family and have held Homewood passes for years.  Lots of great memories!

Rachel

“Best Place To Learn!

Bryan

“Last season my daughter and I skied with my parents, it’s was the first time we have had the three generations all on the mountain together. All of us learned to ski at Homewood. To me the resort is all about family and good times. Can’t  beat it!!!”

Phillip

“Over Christmas, my two daughters and I came
together for an incredible ski day at Homewood! What a wonderful memory!”

Derek

I lived on the west shore for Almost 25 years and Homewood was always a big part of my life. We live in Santa Cruz now but still love to come up to our house just down the road and ski our favorite mountain!

LORIE

My family bought our cabin in 1965 in Chamberlands and became a skiing family. Back in the day, my parents used to bring us kids over for night skiing while they enjoyed themselves around the firepit at the base lodge.

“I have some fond childhood memories like we’d come set up a blanket on the grass right in front of the stage, and bring a picnic basket and eat there and there were, summer music festivals like a live orchestra. It was really just a fun venue. A good place to grow up as kids,” recalls Topol.

Where the Mountains Meet the Lake

They were able to move forward with building the Marina in 1966. Inspired by a design he saw in Florida, Rupp built the first dry rack storage Marina in the area with a large showroom that fit a full sailboat. They offered boat sales and storage for about a decade until Ms. Alrich sold the marina to Nate Topol in 1977.

“My dad buying the marina meant we got to work summer jobs as dockhands, washing boats and pumping gas to driving the forklifts, and being a boat mechanic for a couple of summers,” said David Topol, current Marina Director at Homewood High & Dry Marina. “In the wintertime, we grew up in Tahoe Pines just down the way, so we were on the Tahoe Ski Bowl ski team and so we’d spend weekends and free time skiing on the T bars and surface lifts down there.”

The purchase of the marina included a 1000 ft strip of lakefront property that housed the Grubsteak Cafe a seasonal bar & grill, along with a snack shack at the end of the pier. The snack shack grew into its own business serving ice cream and barbeque lunches as the first iteration of the West Shore Cafe. Topol also constructed the Topol Pavilion, named for his father Sydney, the Pavilion was an outdoor music venue next to the Marina.

“I have some fond childhood memories like we’d come set up a blanket on the grass right in front of the stage, and bring a picnic basket and eat there and there were, summer music festivals like a live orchestra. It was really just a fun venue. A good place to grow up as kids,” recalls Topol.

Homewood waterfront, Courtesy of the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society

Two resorts become one

“I started working here in 1983, when Helen Aldrich owned the resort,” says Nancy Gimbert, Senior Accountant at Homewood Mountain Resort and one of the mountain’s longest-standing employees. “I worked at the Hofbrau We had breakfast and lunch and we would just make good breakfast for the ski patrol and all the groomers would come in. It was fun. I remember it was a big winter that year, because we were open for thanksgiving.”

In those days, Gimbert says it was common to pitch in wherever it was needed. Bob and Nan Martin were in charge at the time and they left a legacy of creating a community at Homewood.

In the late 1980s, the Tahoe area saw a series of dry years that were hard on the ski industry in the area. Tahoe Ski Bowl in particular fell on hard times, and Helen Aldrich bought the ski hill and combined it with Homewood. Tahoe Ski Bowl required a lot of work to continue running so Rupp and the team got to work clearing new trails, upgrading the grooming fleet, and making repairs. Unfortunately, a couple more years of dry winters proved to be too much to revive the two resorts, and in 1991 Aldrich filed for bankruptcy and sold Homewood to Steve Wyler.

“We were very proud of what we accomplished. We worked on a shoestring budget but it was a labor of love,” says Cooke.

A new era

Though things seemed dire, Stephen Wyler took a chance on the resort. Wyler went to work purchasing a new fleet of grooming machines, including the mountain’s first winch cats, installing new snowmaking systems, and completing summer trail maintenance to ensure the resort would be able to operate the next time a dry winter hit. His investment paid off a few seasons later with 36 feet of snow falling in the winter of 1993 bringing a record -number of skiers and riders to the hill.

“I was talking to the new owner, and he needed an IT guy,” remembers Collier Cooke, who took the job and worked as a Marketing Director and Resort Services Director. “They had two computers in the whole resort at the time,” Cooke saw the need for more than an IT person and worked on building the sales department at Homewood with the Marketing Director at the time, Becky Moore.

Cooke describes the same all-hands-on-deck team vibe at Homewood with a willingness to try new things to get people to the mountain. In the summers, the crew operated a paintball course, a farmers market and built a few bike trails.

“We were very proud of what we accomplished. We worked on a shoestring budget but it was a labor of love,” says Cooke.

  • 1976

    ELLIS CHAIR

    Ellis was the last aerial lift to be manufactured by the company Thiokol before they switched to producing booster engines for NASA in 1976.

  • 1977

    HOMEWOOD HIGH & DRY MARINA

    In 1977,  Aldrich sold 1000 feet of the lakefront property including the Homewood High & Dry Marina to Nate Topol.

  • 1987

    TWO RESORTS BECOME ONE

    The two resorts continued to operate separately until 1987 when Aldrich purchased Tahoe Ski Bowl and combined the two resorts into Homewood Mountain Resort.

  • 1991

    A NEW OWNER

    A series of dry winters takes a toll on Homewood. Helen Alrich files for bankruptcy and sells the resort to Steve Wyler.

  • 1996

    LORD OF THE BOARDS

    In 1996 Homewood hosts Lord of the Boards, an event founded by Chris Ernst which leads to Skier Cross as an X Games and Olympic Sport.

  • 1998

    JEFF YUROSEK

    In 1998 the resort was bought by Jeff Yurosek and the name was officially changed to Homewood Mountain Resort.

  • 2002

    WEST SHORE CAFE

    In 2002, Topol broke ground on the current West Shore Cafe building.

Bud Rosenthal – Mountain Ops Manager and Ski Patrol Director

1980s West Shore Cafe pier

Homewood Through The Decades

Click through the slider to view Homewood’s journey through time.

1960s

The 1960 Winter Olympics put Lake Tahoe on the map as a winter destination. Ron Rupp has an idea to put in a ski resort near the Homewood Hotel. He builds the first rope tow, but he is called to duty to serve during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He sells the rope tow to Max Hoff who used it to open Tahoe Ski Bowl. After just a month in service, Rupp is released and returns to Tahoe. He builds two more rope tows and opens Homewood ski resort. The Alrich family purchases Homewood and support Rupp in building his master plan which includes expanding the resort up the mountain, and building the Homewood High & Dry Marina.

1970s

The Alrich family had recently purchased Homewood and supported Ron Rupp in executing his Master Plan for the resort. They aquired the surrounding property allowing them to expand the resort up the mountain including breaking ground on  the Quad Chair. The Homewood Volunteer Ski Patrol is formed with Hal Bechtle at the helm. In 1977 Hele Alrich sells the Homewood High & Dry Marina to Nate Topol.

1980s

The 1980s brought both feast and famine in terms of snowfall at Lake Tahoe – the decade started with some of the deepest winters that folks can remember. However a series of dry winters towards the end of the decades spelled trouble for the ski industry. Tahoe Ski Bowl was heavily impacted and faced closure until Hele Alrich purchased the resort and combined it with Homewood.

1990s

Unfortunately the dry winters of the late 1980s continued to have an impact on Homewood and in 1991 Helen Alrich filed for bankruptcy and sold the resort to Steven Wyler.  The purchase paid off for Wyler when 36 feet of snow fell during the winter of 1993 bringing a record breaking number of skiers to the hill. The 1990s saw the resorts first snowmaking system, improved grooming, new terrain parks, and summer operations including a paintball course and mountain bike trails. In 1998 Wyler sold the resort to Jeff Yurosek.

2000s

In 2006 JMA Ventures purchased Homewood Mountain Resort and went to work upgrading the existing Quail chair, and Quad Chair along with expanding the grooming fleet.  On the lake front, the Nate Topol broke ground on the West Shore Cafe and began constructing the restaurant and inn as it exists today.

2010s

In 2010 JMA Ventures purchased the West Shore Cafe. In 2013 Nate Topol passed away and his youngest son David jumped back into the family business. He sold Homewood High & Dry Marina to JMA ventures in 2016 and was hired back on to continue leading the marina into the future. In 2016 the South Lodge of Homewood Mountain Resort was destroyed in a fire. Thankfully no one was in the building during the fire but the loss was still a major hit for the resort wiping out many of its administration offices, and the historic bar and restaurant.

 

2020s

In January of 2020, the original Ellis Chair carried its last skier to the top of the mountain. That summer Homewood crews went to work refurbishing the chair. Using the original foundation and footings, they plan to replace the actual chair and engine. The following season, the first electric boating infrastructure was installed across the street at Homewood High & Dry Marina – a big step in the resort’s commitment to environmental stewardship and a sustainable future.

 

Freestyle at Homewood 

Snowboarding started to really take roots in the 1990s and brought with it a culture inspired by skateboarding and surf. Terrain parks began to be a major offering for ski resorts. In 1999 Ski Magazine called Homewood’s Shredwood Park one of the best.

Homewood balanced a reputation for being the place to take the family with grassroots unique events that attracted athletes and adrenaline junkies to the resort. One such event was Lord of the Boards.

“So people are familiar with triathlons, Triathlons are three different sports that you have to be solid at all three in order to win the title of the triathlon champion. Lord of the Boards would be the triathlon of the three major Alpine sports, which is skiing, snowboarding, and then telemarking, which is arguably the most difficult but also the original form of skiing,” describes Chris Ernst who founded the event in 1996.

After approaching a few different resorts, Lord of the Boards landed at Homewood – which happened to be where Ernst learned to ski when he was a kid.

“Homewood said yes and they were very amenable to the point where they were willing to do anything. They offered us wherever on the mountain we wanted to do it and we picked The Face because it’s right there, everything is easy access for the viewers. Yeah, Homewood was just super accommodating and friendly and Homie – exactly how I remember being a kid there,” said Ernst.

Snowboard cross events had started to pop up at a few resorts at the time. Lord of the Boards modeled the course after that style incorporating bermed turns and jumps into the racecourse, however it was the first time skiers and teleskiers competed on a course like this – and it was a hit. The next season, the event expanded into a series with multiple stops, and eventually, skiercross became a recognized professional event at the X Games with Ernst at the helm as the event’s announcer.

Snowboarding started to really take roots in the 1990s and brought with it a culture-inspired by skateboarding and surf.

“He was wonderful to work for, very very family-oriented,” says Gimbert. “Jeff just really cared about his employees and he knew everyone by name.”

reams of a new Homewood 

 In 1998 Jeff Yurosek bought Homewood Mountain Resort and continued the homie, family tradition of the mountain.

“He was wonderful to work for, very very family-oriented,” says Gimbert. “Jeff just really cared about his employees and he knew everyone by name.”

Homewood was the place to be on the West Shore, with a Mexican restaurant in the North Lodge and the South Lodge was a bit of a community gathering area. Yurosek lead the resort for about a decade before selling to current owners, JMA Ventures in 2006.

“I’ve always said the best part of being in the ski industry is the skiing, and to a degree, that’s correct, but I’ve always enjoyed the interface with employees, our guests, and the social aspects of having the capability to meet people doing what you love,” said Kent Hoopengarner who started as the Mountain Operations Director in 2006 just after JMA bought the resort.   

The new owners went right to work improving the resort starting with installing the Quail Chair which replaced an existing triple chair. Crews also added two new surface lifts at the children’s ski center and expanded the resort’s grooming fleet. The following season, they broke ground on the Old Homewood Quad, the resort’s first high-speed chair.  

“The first big change at Homewood was the replacement of the [quad chair]. It was a low-speed quad that had be built in, I believe, the 70s that needed to be replaced. Building the first detachable chair at Homewood was quite an experience, and then naming it was an experience,” Hoopengarner says. 

JMA introduced a master plan for future development of Homewood Mountain Resort to include expanded lodging, a gondola, and a music pavilion in addition to updating the ski resort infrastructure.  In 2007, JMA Ventures purchased the neighboring Alpine Meadows Resort. The two resorts operated separately, but offered a pass that allowed skiers access to both mountains. 

“They hired a General Manager by the name of Jim Kircher…He was at Alpine for about 2 years I think… and when he left I started managing both places, Homewood and Alpine Meadows. I had the Mountain Manager Scott Swtansky acted as the overall manager of Homewood with direction from me,” recalls Hoopengarner.

The partnership was short lived and in 2011 JMA Ventures sold Alpine Meadows. 

Meanwhile, across the street Nate Topol broke ground on the West Shore Cafe as we know it today and in 2010 he sold the restaurant and inn to JMA Ventures. In 2013 Nate Topol passed away and his youngest son David jumped back into the family business. The Topol family sold Homewood High & Dry Marina to JMA ventures in 2016 and David was hired back on to continue leading the marina into the future.

“With the acquisition of the Marina in 2016, had kind of the trifecta of, ski resort, lakefront dining and lodging, and Marina so able to kind of present all three properties under one ownership and offer the full four season peak to shore offering,” says David Topol.

In 2016 the South Lodge of Homewood Mountain Resort was destroyed in a fire. Thankfully no one was in the building during the fire but the loss was still a major hit for the resort wiping out many of its administrative offices, and the historic bar and restaurant. However, Homewood opened for operations the following day with handwritten tickets. During the same season Homewood’s volunteer ski patrol was honored with the National Ski Patrol’s Outstanding Small Patrol of the Year award.

“Here on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe there’s a long history of logging and mining. Now the focus is on making sure we are stewards of the environment. Making sure the forests are taken care of, the mountain is taken care and also connectivity to Lake Tahoe. Making sure the lake is clear and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the lake for years to come,” said Kevin Mitchell, General Manager of Homewood Mountain Resort.

Today, Homewood continues to embrace that same family friendly ethos that began in the first season that Ron Rupp ran the rope tow with a team that is willing to jump in and make things happen – whether that’s opening the lifts early for passholders during first tracks breakfast, gathering the community for a Pride Ride Parade down Rainbow Ridge, or watching the kids grow into their dreams during a season on Ski Teams.

“Lake Tahoe is an amazing place, and not only that but it’s the people too. Everyone really comes together to work hard and also have a good time. We’re all brought together by a love of the outdoors,” says Mitchell.

In January of 2020, the original Ellis Chair carried its last skier to the top of the mountain. That summer Homewood crews went to work refurbishing the chair. Using the original foundation and footings, they plan to replace the actual chair and engine. The following season, the first electric boating infrastructure on Lake Tahoe was installed across the street at Homewood High & Dry Marina. It was one of many parts of the team’s commitment to environmental stewardship and building sustainable recreation for future generations.

“As exciting the history is of this place, and what’s transpired since the 60s, it’s really exciting about what’s to come too. We have a great team of people that work here. I’m looking forward to where we can go with it. It’s nice to respect the history of where things have been and where they’ve come from, but it’s constantly evolving and changing, and so it’s exciting to think we could be part of the future of where this place goes, and what memories will create for my kids or other people,” says Topol.

 

Thank you to Nancy Stromswold and the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society for providing photos, and assistance in researching this story.  

Thank you to Ron Rupp, Bud Rosenthal, Nancy Gimbert, David Topol, Collier Cooke, Becky Moore, Kent Hoopengardner, Chris Ernst, and Kevin Mitchell for sharing their first hand experiences at Homewood Mountain Resort and for their contributions to shaping the mountain we love today.  

Additional Resources include California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names by Erwin G. Guude, Gold Districts of California. Bulletin 193, “Hometown Hills: A Tahoe Tradition: Ski Magazine, Nov. 1999 

  • 2006

    JMA

    The resort operated under Yorusek for almost a decade before being purchased by current owners, JMA ventures in 2006.

  • 2010

    WEST SHORE CAFE JOINS JMA

    In 2010, Nate Topol sold the West Shore Cafe and Inn and  to JMA Ventures.

  • 2016

    HOMEWOOD HIGH& DRY MARINA JOINS JMA

    In 2016 JMA purchases Homewood High & Dry Marina and hires Nate Topol’s son David to take the lead.

  • 2016

    SOUTH LODGE

    In 2016 the South Lodge of Homewood Mountain Resort was destroyed in a fire.

  • 2020

    REVITALIZING ELLIS CHAIR

    In 2020 Homewood Crews go to work refurbishing the Ellis Chair.

  • 2021

    ELECTRIC BOATING AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

    Homewood High & Dry Marina becomes the first marina on Lake Tahoe to install electric boating infrastructure – a big step in the resorts commitment to environmental stewardship and a sustainable future.

Homewood balanced a reputation for being the place to take the family with grassroots unique events that attracted athletes and adrenaline junkies to the resort.

Lord of the Boards modeled the course after that style incorporating bermed turns and jumps into the racecourse, however it was the first time skiers and teleskiers competed on a course like this – and it was a hit.

THEN & NOW

Roll over each image to compare the past to the present.

QUAIL FACE

THAT WAS THEN

SKI SCHOOL

THAT WAS THEN

GROOMING

THAT WAS THEN

WEST SHORE CAFE

THAT WAS THEN

BIG BLUE

THAT WAS THEN

PATROL

THAT WAS THEN

WEST SHORE CAFE

THAT WAS THEN

THE FACE

THAT WAS THEN

SKI SCHOOL

THAT WAS THEN

OLD HOMEWOOD EXPRESS

THAT WAS THEN

WEST SHORE CAFE

THAT WAS THEN

SHARE YOUR MEMORIES

If there is one thing we learned while doing this story – a lot of people love Homewood and are connected to it. View some of their stories below.