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Tahoe’s Top Summer Lovers

Tahoe’s Top Summer-Lovers readers say these community members embody the season of sun
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Katie and Kevin Hickey, Tahoe Adventure Company

Adventure lovers Katie and Kevin Hickey met while skiing at Alpine Meadows in ‘99. Their now successful business, Tahoe Adventure Company (TAC), is in its 15th year. On its website, you’ll find what seem the typical Tahoe adventure options — paddleboarding, hiking, biking, and more — but a closer look reveals a rich educational component and portrays their sincere reverence for this place.

Kevin started TAC after outdoor guiding for many years in the West, when one of his main focuses was wilderness education for youth. “It’s really important that we impart the amazing natural history of the region,” he says. The couple divvies up business duties: Katie covers the office; Kevin works in the field.

“We feel passionate about educating people about appreciating the environment and what it can teach us,” Katie says. “I’ve always seen a strength in [Kevin]. He wants to always learn something new in his world in the outdoors, and it’s inspiring to watch. I love what we do and I love what we offer.”

Engaging with the community is one of their favorite parts of the job.

“People around here are happy and inspired by life,” Kevin says. “Being around so many like-minded individuals who are just going after life is inspiring in itself.”

Together, the two enjoy mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and skiing, to name a few activities. Kevin is also a patroller at Alpine Meadows. Plus, they are raising their two small children to love the outdoors just as much as they do.

Gary Romano, Sierra Valley Farms

Much of North Lake Tahoe’s access to fresh food is thanks to Sierra Valley resident Gary Romano’s dedication to making whole foods available through local farmers markets. Listening to the earthy tones of his voice, it’s evident this farmer holds great wisdom.

Romano was raised in farming, but quit for a period through high school and college. In 1989, his aunt and uncle asked if he might want to buy the family’s dairy farm in Sierra Valley.

“I started talking to the famers and looking at the farm my grandmother had,” Romano says. “I could see the soil was beautiful soil. Growing vegetables and flowers as a kid, I knew how to farm. It was just a matter of experimenting to see if it was viable here. And then I got hooked.”

Romano sold the house he owned in the Bay Area, and eventually went on to quit his job working in parks and recreation in Tahoe City. He went back to farming full time in 1995, and that’s when Sierra Valley Farms was reborn.

In summers Romano hosts Dinners in the Barn, a farmers market every Friday, and a live music outdoor concert series called Food, Blues & Views.

“Being exposed to a farm creates a community aspect,” he says. “You get to meet the person who’s growing your food.”

Romano has always been inspired by the outdoors, and it’s in his blood. His uncles, early pioneers in the Sierra Valley, hunted, fished, and trapped there.

“I’ve always had my hands in the dirt,” he says. “To me there’s no better way to live your life. You’re outdoors, you’re your own boss, you’re working with the soil, and you’re growing food.”

Brendan Madigan, Alpenglow Sports

The 15-year owner of Alpenglow Sports, known for its community outreach, says he is “standing on the shoulders” of many who came before him. During 40 years, many, including Alpenglow’s previous owner, have helped the business become what is.

“We feel a big loyalty to support those who have supported us for that long,” Madigan says. “That’s at the root of all the events we do.”

Plus, in a day and age where people are flooding into the backcountry, he feels a responsibility to give newcomers important skills for the mountains, including ethics and safety.

Madigan grew up playing professional soccer. He lived in the Netherlands for five years before taking a break for college, where he discovered running and climbing. In 2003, he arrived at Lake Tahoe to ski, and never left.

“With climbing or skiing you invest a lot of love and responsibility in your partners,” he says. “I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of some really seasoned backcountry people. The community events started to come from that. A lot of the greatest ideas we’ve come up with have been hatched in the skin track or on a long run.”

Today, Madigan and his team are responsible for the twice-a-year Mountain Festival, which features more than 50 individual outdoor sports events, allowing people to try sports they might not have the means to otherwise.

Outside of the office, Madigan can be found backcountry skiing on the West Shore in the winter, and trail running in Desolation Wilderness in the summer.

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March 14, 2019