In 1974, USA Cross-Country Ski Olympian Debra Waldear started the Echo to Kirkwood Backcountry Ski Race and tour. The course ran along the Pacific Crest Trail from Echo Summit on US 50 to the Kirkwood Cross Country Ski Center on State Route 88 at the Kirkwood Ski Resort. The 13-mile event regularly occurred in March and grew in size and fame over the years. In the early 1990’s, sponsorship of the Event expanded to include fundraising for the El Dorado Nordic Ski Patrol (EDNSP). EDNSP was a backcountry winter search and rescue organization, sponsored by the United States Forest Service (USFS), El Dorado national Forest (ENF). The race discontinued in the 2000’s after sponsorship of the EDNSP moved from USFS to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office (EDCSO). .
On August 14, 2021 a wildland fire was reported near Caldor, southeast of Somerset in southern El Dorado County, CA. This quick moving fire burned eastward, crossing the north fork of the Cosumnes River before destroying the residential neighborhood of Grizzly Flats and moving north toward Pollock Pines, CA. This fire then turned west and east and rapidly burned towards Lake Tahoe, burning large portions of the ENF in El Dorado County as well as portions of the Amador Forest in Amador County.
By August 30, 2021 the Caldor fire had consumed 180,000 acres with 14% containment. On August 30, 2021, John Rice, General Manager of the Sierra at Tahoe Resort, stood on the roof of his office at the Resort and watched the fire consume the lifts, runs, trees and shop building of this beloved Lake Tahoe Resort.
The fire continued its eastern march, jumping over the town of Meyers and burning towards the Heavenly Valley Ski Resort.
The Caldor fire eventually burned 220,000 acres over a 55-day burn and was only the second fire in State history to crest over the divide of the Sierras. Damage was extensive, and in a climate changed world, likely permanent for this climax forest’s distribution, density and variety. S@T, known in Tahoe as the ‘Queen of the Trees Resort’ lost over 50,000 trees, 3 lifts, 2 tracked groomers and its Shop.
Over the five years before Covid, James Cahill, US Air Force Veteran, High School Special Education Teacher and Sierra at Tahoe Ski Patrol began implementing events at the S@T resort benefitting disabled athletes and Veterans, including Paralympics Ski and Snowboarding qualifying races, winter sports accommodations and training for disabled veterans and fundraising events for Operation Rebound (OR) and the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). James has also recently established a challenged athlete’s program at the Kirkwood Resort Cross-Country Ski Center. As jim often quips “..we all become challenged athletes, eventually.”
In the aftermath of Covid and Caldor, James and his logistics Director, Jeff Crovitz (EDNSP, S@T Mountain Host) conceived of a resurrection event to benefit challenged athletes, Operation Rebound and the S@T Resort by holding a Race/Tour (R’our) event traversing the ridge of the Sierras from Kirkwood to Sierra at Tahoe.
The plan will provision all participants with tree seedlings, to be carried from Start to Finish for early spring planting at S@T.
The R’our will start near the Schneider Camp Parking lot north of Caples Lake, circle behind the Kirkwood Cross Country Center up to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) near Little Round Top where Cookie Station #1 (cookies, water, encouragement) will be located. The R’our will continue along the PCT, past the headwaters of the South Fork of the American River and Sayles Canyon to Cookie Station #2. From Cookie #2, the course will traverse west along the rim of Huckleberry bowl before entering the S@T resort near the top of the Grandview Chair lift. Skiers will complete their race by any open run to ‘Ring the Bell’ at the north end of the Solstice Plaza.