In the early 1970s, a friend handed Skip Reedy a pair of leather boots three sizes too big and wooden 215cm skis. He began free-heeling up Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley) and Alpine Meadow ridges that were untouched by common resort skiers. Skip’s boss, Fred LaTour of LaTour Ski Shop, took some convincing but finally bought 5 or 6 pairs of touring skis.
After Skip’s third time on Nordic skis, he was teaching lessons. Later, he bought 25 pairs to rent out of his VW van and asked Wayne Poulsen about skiing in Olympic Valley’s meadow. Wayne agreed so long as Skip ran the operation through their lodge. Business grew. Skip expanded to Alpine Meadows, Clair Tappaan Lodge, Alpenglow (in Truckee at that time) and Granlibakken Resort. “We were pretty successful,” he recalls and it’s how he staked his claim on Tahoe’s world of cross-country skiing.
In 1975, he proposed to the Tahoe City Public Utility District (TCPUD) that he run a recreational cross-country concession at Burton Creek, which they accepted. He called it Tahoe Nordic Center and waited out a drought year until he could finally open in January. That winter was dismal. He was forced to close in February, canceling the first ever Great Ski Race as well.
He did his grooming by snowmobiles. The parking lot was dirt. A jar sat on the counter for donations, and it slowly filled with nickels and dimes. Skip stored his 25 pairs of rental skis in two plywood boxes he made and the Highlands Community Center (current TXC lodge), which did not have the current fireplace room or rental area, worked just fine.
“And the best part, people were Nordic skiing!” said Skip.
A few years later, TCPUD paved the parking lot and added the west rental area to replace the wooden boxes. By the end of the 1975-76 season, Skip was running the Tahoe Nordic Center full time.
Skip set ambitious goals. He started with used grooming machines and continually upgraded them. He added trails all the way out to the fiberboard freeway, eventually developing the 50+km of trails we enjoy today. He wanted to add another loop every year. Thanks to Skip, we have warming huts—the three originals were themed after different Nordic countries and have since been dispersed (one went to Tahoe Donner, one was bought by Northstar, the third Finnish one is behind Bo’s house still seen from the yellow trail). He designed the runners on which today’s warming huts are dragged on and off trails at the beginning and end of each season.
“When it came to naming the trails, clearly wax colors were the right choice,” said Skip.
“At first it was confusing because of the green, blue and black downhill difficulty system. But that’s been sorted out,” Skip said. Colors made reading and marking the trail map simple and easy to comprehend. He assigned each intersection a letter so skiers would know exactly where they were.
Skip extended this welcoming environment to the local school systems as well. When local elementary school teacher Heather Hardy approached him about starting a youth Nordic ski program, Skip said of course and Strider Gliders was born. Heather organized while Skip provided equipment and free trail access.
Skip was the operational support for a local 3-race series for Nordic skiers. The Tahoe World Championship (named after the Tahoe World newspaper) was a 10k race in December, meant to prepare you for the 15K Alpenglow Race in January, which really was to prepare you for the 30k Great Ski Race in March. All of which culminated in the community SnowFest Parade.
In regards to the Great Ski Race, Skip said, “What a great way to tie Truckee and Tahoe City together and quell competition,” Skip said. Today, the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team runs and benefits from the Great Ski Race, which for many years was run by TCCSEA’s (retired) Vice President and TNSAR volunteer Doug Read.
Skip’s ambition, vision and motivation to make anything happen transformed the woods near Burton Creek into a recreational haven for skiers, runners, bikers and walkers. He created the trail systems we use year-round and he is why Tahoe Cross-Country has the foundation and support it has today.
After many years of investing his own money into grooming machines, paying high rent to the TCPUD and State Parks for the lodge and land use, it had become onerous to continue to run a business with high costs while keeping trail and pass fees low for locals and tourists. When his lease that traditionally had only ever been bid on by Skip came up for renewal, he explained to TCPUD that he would be purchasing new equipment that year and would underbid their minimum. He was outbid by Mike and Rose Wolterbeek, who were new to the cross-country ski business, and Skip’s last year after 18 years was the 1992-93 season.
In 1994, the Wolterbeek renamed Tahoe Nordic Center to Lakeview Cross-Country and tried new ways of running a profitable cross-country ski center. They renamed the trails to match local animals. They saw the community through record winters like the flood of ’97 and ran Lakeview Cross-Country Center for the next 4 seasons.
When the concession agreement with TCPUD came up again, one of the new requirements was that bidders must be a nonprofit entity. As the Wolterbeeks ran a private, for-profit partnership, they opted not to transform into a nonprofit and thus were not able to submit for a qualifying bid. Instead, a new entity was formed: a group of local residents, business owners, coaches and athletes joined together to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Education Association. TCCSEA’s number one goal was to provide free access to the Burton Creek trails for the elementary through high school aged kids of the greater Tahoe community.
It was 1999 and their first action item was to hire a manager, Kevin Murnane. At 29 years old, he accepted the position to manage what was renamed Tahoe Cross-Country. His partner, Valli Murnane, joined him in Tahoe, and for 16 years they ran Tahoe Cross-Country together. Over the years, and with the full support of TCCSEA Board of Directors behind them, they added more nonprofit programs, advertised well and created a feeling of home for cross-country skiing for all ages, abilities and income levels.
They developed new programs that have become solid fixtures in our Tahoe winters, including Free Skiing for Schools, where local elementary-aged children have free access to equipment and trails when their teachers sign up; Winter Discovery Center, a place-based science center for 3rd through 5th graders located in the yurt; support of North Tahoe Cross-Country Middle and High School Teams, providing free season passes to anyone involved; and the Junior Development Team (DEVO), a competitive youth training and skills program. Kevin envisioned mountain biking at Tahoe XC in the summer and full year-round access to the trails we all love.
In 2017, a new Executive Director was hired: Ben Grasseschi, an actively involved community member who boasts a lifetime of cross-country skiing, from the potato fields near his childhood Idaho home to racing in college and as an adult. He coached as a PSIA Level 3 instructor at Auburn Ski Club, leading the ASC Juniors in year-round training to represent the Far West Nordic Division at USSA Junior Nationals. His coaching experience varies from youth to World Cup athletes to Master skiers, and his enthusiasm for cross-country skiing (and snow in general) is contagious.
To date, Tahoe Cross-Country has seen long-lasting managers and staff return year after year to encourage all members of our community, visitors and locals alike, to enjoy what Burton Creek trails have to offer. The sense that cross-country skiing is about being outside, working hard and having fun has been a consistent ethos throughout the 4 management shifts since 1975.
The support of the community has always been a huge factor in Tahoe XC’s success. We expect the same exponential growth due to our solid foundation and our love for cross-country skiing.