Challenge the Inevitability of Snarled Traffic


No one was immune to the crippling gridlock experienced the weekend of Jan. 21. A bluebird weekend after weeks of snow. It was bound to happen. But should we not learn from it?

Even armed with insider’s wisdom, Ink staff was in the mix. It took Juliana’s husband and daughter two-and-a-half hours to get to their weekend job, normally a 20-minute drive. Kyra spent an hour crossing Tahoe City, trying to get to the West Shore, with traffic backed up at least 4 miles east from the Highway 89 turnoff.

Sarah shared photos of a lift line at Palisades Tahoe that was so long she had to hike up the hill just to find the end of it. She was happy to have made it to the resort at all as it was widely reported that it took many people five hours to get there from Truckee. Upon arrival, scores were turned around because there simply wasn’t room to park.


Road snarl-ups are more than inconvenient. Leaving Palisades, Sarah witnessed what many of us fear on days like this — an emergency services vehicle struggling to cut through the crowds. The van blared its sirens, but had to timidly navigate its way though Olympic Valley as it drove on the opposite side of the road. What happens when someone needs emergency care or goes into labor and the road is completely clogged to the hospital? At press deadline we received word that Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue was delayed looking for lost skiers at Sugar Bowl because of traffic.

A video captured, mostly on the following weekend, and compiled by Truckee photographer Court Leve (see cover), has been circulating on the internet, showing the stalled traffic up I-80 ramps, down 89, and across Truckee in all directions.

The bird’s-eye view is telling. It is time to listen.

For a community dedicated to its environment, it’s a heart-hurt to view idling vehicles lined up as far as the eye can see. There is a carrying capacity inherent for any system, and clearly we are exceeding ours here. The truly sad part is that it’s being done in the name of money, for companies headquartered thousands of miles away.

Remember the buying spree of ski resorts around the country by conglomerates Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company in recent years?

Palisades’ parent company, Alterra, now boasts an annual revenue of $1.2 billion, thanks to a 360% growth from 2019 to 2021, says Zippia. Tellingly, the company began selling the what-a-bargain Ikon pass in 2018.

To be fair, those going to Palisades were not the only ones on the road. Also, the resort did just release a guide to ease busy weekends in which they recommend not coming at 9 a.m., and further, avoiding the 4 p.m. mass exodus by staying to dine at resort restaurants and bars — and spending more money.

Yet this same resort relentlessly solicits people to come to the mountain and seems to schedule coveted lift openings for weekend hordes. Not moves intended to calm the masses or support the community’s requests for moderation. As Palisades pushes forward its Village development proposal, one wonders what it takes into account for its vision. Imagine waterpark summer hordes trapped during a wildfire evacuation.

The local community has the right to assert its right to be here, to ask that it not be usurped by corporate greed. That stewardship of this land and this community carry more weight than company profit.

We want to be clear: This is not a call for “locals only.” If that were the case, we’d say make way for the Washoe. (Hmm … now that you mention it.) It’s a plea to heed the lesson that the breaking point is here.

As we review our community planning docs, engage in conversation, and make decisions about our future, let’s remember that hamstrung EMS vehicle, our neighbors, the land, our sanity. Until we make meaningful shifts in our decisions, the things that are bound to happen … will.


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