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Greg Gavrilets, General Manager of Mt. Rose, Nevada
November 27, 2023
About Mt. Rose
View the mountain stats overview
Owned by: The Buser family
Located in: Incline Village, Nevada
Year founded: 1964
Pass affiliations: None
Reciprocal partners: None
Closest neighboring ski areas: Sky Tavern (:03), Diamond Peak (:15), Northstar (:28), Homewood (:44), Palisades Tahoe (:45), Tahoe Donner (:48), Boreal (:49), Donner Ski Ranch (:51), Sugar Bowl (:52), Soda Springs (:53), Heavenly (:56). Travel times vary considerably given weather conditions, time of day, and time of year.
Base elevation: 7,900 feet (bottom of Chuter lift)
Summit elevation: 9,700 feet
Vertical drop: 1,800 feet
Skiable Acres: 1,200+
Average annual snowfall: 350 inches
Trail count: 70+ (10% expert double black, 40% black, 30% intermediate blue, 20% beginner green)
Lift count: 8 (2 six-packs, 1 high-speed quad, 2 fixed-grip quads, 1 triple, 1 carpet, 1 “Little Mule”)
View historic Mt. Rose trailmaps on skimap.org.
Why I interviewed him
There’s something so damn dramatic about skiing around Tahoe. The lake, yes, but it’s also the Sierra Nevada, heaving and brutal, pitched as though crafted for skiing, evergreens loper-spaced apart. It’s the snow, piled like pizza boxes in a hoarder’s apartment, ever-higher, too much to count or comprehend (well, some years). It’s the density, the always knowing that, like some American Alps, there is always another ski center past the one you’re riding and the one you can see from there and the one you can see beyond that.
Mt. Rose is one of just three Tahoe ski areas that sits fully on the Nevada side of the lake (the other two are Diamond Peak and Sky Tavern; Heavenly straddles the California-Nevada border). That whole Nevada thing can sap some of the Tahoe mystique. What is Nevada, after all, to most of us, but desert, dry, wide-open, and empty? I once slipped into a hallucinogenic state of borderline psychosis on a 122-degree drive Vegas-bound across Interstate 15. I was dead sober but sleep-deprived and in a truck with no air-conditioning the rippling distances tore my soul into potpourri and scattered it about the alien planet I became convinced I was crossing.
But Nevada is a ski state, and Mt. Rose is its finest ski area. As the truest locals’ bump on the block, it is a crucial piece of the Tahoe Zeitgeist, the place that tourists don’t bother with, and that locals bother with specifically because of that fact.
There are a handful of communities in America that count as their home bump a big, thrilling ski area that is not also a major tourist attraction. Bogus Basin, outside of Boise; Mt. Spokane, Washington; Montana Snowbowl, looming over Missoula. Where you can mainline the big-mountain experience sans the enervation of crowds. Mt. Rose is one of those places, a good, big ski area without all the overwhelm we’ve come to associate with them.
What we talked about
Early-season openings; assessing the Lakeview chairlift upgrade after year one; why Mt. Rose doesn’t operate into May; extending the ski day after Daylight Savings; could night skiing ever work at Mt. Rose?; living through 668 inches of snow; Ober Mountain; the upside of starting your career at a small ski area; the brilliance of Peak Resorts; where Vail went right and wrong in their acquisition of Peak; the existential challenges of Paoli Peaks; the Very Bad 2021-22 ski season at Attitash; fortress mentality; convincing Vail to upgrade the Attitash Summit Triple; what Gavrilets found when he showed up at Mt. Rose on Saturday of President’s Weekend; how the Busers built Mt. Rose into a first-rate ski area; why the family considered selling Mt. Rose around 2017, and ultimately reversed course; committed to independence; “We’re over $100 cheaper than Palisades for a full-day lift ticket”; how Slide Mountain, Mt. Rose, and Sky Tavern settled into their modern footprints; Mt. Rose’s potential expansion; whether a ski connection between Sky Tavern and Mt. Rose could exist; future lift upgrade priorities; how The Chutes changed Mt. Rose’s profile; slopeside lodging; destination potential?; the potential for a tram up to the ski area from Reno; and why Mt. Rose hasn’t joined any multi-mountain passes.
Why I thought that now was a good time for this interview
Few ski areas have more aggressively modernized since the turn of the century than Mt. Rose. The mountain dropped its first sixer (Northwest Express), in the ground in 2000, and opened its second (Zephyr), the year it opened The Chutes, one of the most singular terrain pods in the American West. In the intervening years, Rose has shuffled around and modernized the remainder of its lifts, and last year dropped a high-speed quad in place of the old Lakeview triple. The snowmaking system is one of the best in Tahoe. Next up: an expansion across the highway to intermediate terrain that would hang over Sky Tavern.
Like Arapahoe Basin, whose oldest chairlift is a 2007 Leitner-Poma fixed-grip quad, Mt. Rose has quietly modernized amid the giants that were destined to destroy it. This isn’t supposed to be the story. The story is supposed to be Corporate Conglomerates Are Killing Skiing!!! But they’re not. Mt. Rose proves that in Tahoe like A-Basin proves it on the I-70 mainline.
Skiers in Reno could easily drive up to Northstar or Heavenly or Palisades Tahoe. But Gavrilets tells us that Mt. Rose is doing better than ever, in spite of the fact that the ski area has no slopeside lodging, no megapass affiliation, and no name recognition outside of a couple-hundred mile radius. Why do you suppose that is?
Mt. Rose is a counterintuitive case-study in why so many assumptions about modern skiing are wrong. A place in the market exists for a family-owned and -operated ski area that focuses on delivering a good product at an inflation-adjusted price that would not make a time traveler from 1965 gasp with horror “But that costs more than my car!”
I can’t always tell you what’s wrong with skiing, but I usually know what’s right when I see it. And just about everything that Mt. Rose is doing feels exactly right.
What I got wrong
I mispronounced the name of Mt. Rose’s owners, pronouncing “Buser” like “Bus-er” (wrong), rather than “Boozer” (right).
Why you should ski Mt. Rose
Well there are The Chutes:
And all the beefcake lifts:
And the 30-minute drive from the airport, meaning that when you fly in to ski Palisades or Heavenly, you can stop and clock a half day at Mt. Rose for $69:
And the manageable liftlines, and the parking right at the base of the lifts, and the 350 inches of average annual snowfall. This may not be your ski Narnia, your endless empty, but it’s a less-frantic version of whatever they have down the road.
On three ski areas that were once one ski area that are now two ski areas
Lift-served skiing on Mt. Rose started with a chairlift strung up from what is now Sky Tavern ski area to what is now the Slide Bowl area of Mt. Rose:
Mt. Rose broke off from the lower-mountain area by the time it opened as a separate entity in 1964. The lower-mountain became a non-profit, volunteer-run, learn-to-ski center called Sky Tavern, which continues to operate today:
The larger ski area’s modern-day footprint was, for several decades, two separate ski areas – one on the Slide Peak terrain and another in Mt. Rose proper:
They combined in the late ‘80s:
Then, in 2004, The Chutes opened, giving us the Mt. Rose we can ski today:
On Ober Mountain
Gavrilets began his career at Tennessee’s only ski area, which sits above Gatlinburg. You can access it via tram from downtown, or you can drive up. It’s a tiny place, but still has a respectable 600-foot vertical drop. It’s an Indy Pass partner. Here’s a trailmap:
On Peak Resorts and the Peak Pass
Gavrilets spent a good part of his career at Peak Resorts, which Vail purchased in whole in 2019. Here’s what their portfolio looked like at its height. The New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania ski areas were included on the Peak Pass outright. You could ski the Midwest ski areas with the pass, but it was one of those “stop by the customer service desk to get a ticket” deals.
On the Attitash Summit Triple
Gavrilets spent a good part of his tenure at Attitash making the case to Vail that the company needed to upgrade the Summit Triple. This past summer, the company finally did it, putting a high-speed quad in its place. That lift is scheduled to open soon, and I went into great detail on the project with Attitash General Manager Brandon Swartz at the 6:12 mark of our recent podcast conversation:
On the density of Lake Tahoe skiing
The Tahoe region may have the densest concentration of ski areas in America, with 16 lift-served Alpine ski areas circling the lake. Here’s a statistical breakdown of each:
On Mt. Rose’s history site
Mt. Rose recently re-vamped the resort history page of its website. Check it out.
On reconfiguring the trails around the Lakeview lift
When Mt. Rose upgraded the Lakeview chairlift from a triple to a high-speed quad last year, they also reconfigured several trails around it:
On Galena ski area
Mt. Rose’s trailmap shows a potential expansion down across the Mt. Rose highway. Gavrilets tells us that Powdr had attempted to build a standalone resort called Galena down there. I could’t find any information on this, but it would be cool if Mt. Rose could activate this terrain:
On Shane McConkey crushing The Chutes
On connecting Mt. Rose to Reno via tram
While it hovers over mild-weather Reno, which averages 22 inches of snowfall per winter, Mt. Rose sits at a monstrous 8,260 feet. Bridging that distance requires navigating one hell of a winding access road:
We discuss a potential aerial lift up from town in the podcast, but I’m not sure if it’s feasible, cost-wise, as it’s 13 air miles from the airport to the ski area. That’s about the same distance as the main strip of casinos. Like Gavrilets says in the pod, “if this was Europe, it would already be built.”
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The Storm publishes year-round, and guarantees 100 articles per year. This is article 111/100 in 2023, and number 496 since launching on Oct. 13, 2019.