How a Resort with the Logo “Smile, You Are at Homewood!” Made Me Cry

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By Olja Mihic

Having escaped the corporate takeover at another resort, I sought refuge at what seemed like one of the last small ski resorts in Tahoe — Homewood. Homewood was my Shangri-la. It was one of the last places I felt like I was still a customer and not a commodity to parade to the stockholders. Passes were affordable, it never closed, and there were morning and evening passholder parties. I didn’t even like their free burritos, but it felt nostalgically good to be appreciated.

However, even my beloved Homewood eventually succumbed to a corporate takeover. The second the announcement was made that Homewood would privatize, the ski industry’s new normal of getting maximum profit for minimal offerings began: pass and ticket prices skyrocketed, there were constant mountain and terrain closures citing safety, appreciation parties stopped, and so did clearing snow off the chairs.

Then under this new administration, I had the unthinkable happen. My husband’s and my passes were suspended using video surveillance. But this story is not about our passes getting suspended; rather, about the change of the relaxed attitude at Homewood to one of aggression that greeted us by the new administration, and what transpired after.

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Season passes were $800 this year, a nearly 35% increase from last year, but the mountain didn’t open until mid-January. When it did open, a vast amount of terrain was being kept closed, including the entire front of the resort, the area that gets you off the mountain, with claims of safety issues due to protruding bushes, so you were forced to take a blue run down. The day we got our passes suspended alleging we were in a closed area, which was already mid-February, the snowfall was too great for Homewood’s gentle slopes, and it became impossible to snowboard without getting stuck. Because there was now enough snow and the bushes were gone, there was no reason to suspect the front of the mountain was still closed. It wasn’t roped off, and there were only two orange disks, usually used to signal caution, blowing sideways in the distance. As it was a physical impossibility to snowboard down the blue run without walking the whole way down, many people before us had gone down the front of the mountain and cut a track into the hill and, naturally, everyone followed as there was no other way down and no reason to suspect it was closed. By that point, there were hundreds of tracks in the area, and more people skiing down.

As all the other people who skied the area suffered no consequence, I became suspicious of the reason it was just me identified in a video during a blizzard when they were not bothered by the hundreds of other people in that area. I say “me” because the patrol manager, Mike Betty, with apparent newly acquired authority, walked right past my husband — a man whose pass he suspended by allegedly identifying him in a video — and didn’t recognize him. But I was both recognized and told that they were certain it was me because, and I quote, “they had been watching me for years.” Mr. Betty knew everything about me — my outfit changes, name, and whereabouts, and I had never seen this man before. I thought maybe my suspicions of being intentionally segregated as a woman were exaggerated and he knew everything about everyone, so I asked him for my husband’s name, and he didn’t know it.

The fact that an on-mountain safety manager left his post not to rope off the problematic area that continued to be skied by men but to watch video surveillance of one woman he felt undermined his authority, testifies to the fact that that this had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with asserting dominance over a woman. I could have been the tall blonde bimbo I am always expected to be, but I chose to stand up for myself. After 8 years of utmost support for Homewood, and never even utilizing the open boundary policy let alone poaching closed areas, having our passes suspended for a full season just didn’t fit the crime. The whole interaction felt like something was amiss, and attempting to speak to Mr. Betty three times after and being refused, confirmed it.

I appealed to the newly appointed vice president that he at least investigate the claim. Alas, no response came for weeks, and when it did come, there was an email left in the thread advising him to lie to us about how he was too busy to respond. I ignored the lie and, at his request, took time to carefully elaborate on why I felt targeted as a woman. The letter was polite, it only explained my feelings and why I felt sexually discriminated against, and it didn’t request anything.

To my amazement, the response banned both my husband and me for another year of skiing at Homewood! It stated that skiing at Homewood was a privilege and not a right, which was curious as only last year when appealing to the county to privatize, they said it was mandatory due to declining visitors. For this privilege, we paid $1600 and were refused a credit.

As a woman, I am constantly reminded that I am to occupy less space than men, but this heedless response came from a place of power and has left me mildly worried for my safety and the future of Tahoe.

~ Olja Mihic left a life and career at BBC TV London after falling in love with Tahoe. She is a Tahoe/Truckee real estate broker, an avid snowboarder, herbivore, and animal lover. She has lived on the West Shore for 27 years close to Don Corleone’s TV residence and is sending regards to the Family.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like you deserved to lose your pass, and then pulled your husband down with you. You just admitted you were in a closed area and your complaint is about safety…doesn’t that mean you shouldn’t be in closed areas? Do you not understand how being able to recognize someone on video means tying you to what you did wrong? Maybe you stood out more than others. Were you wearing neon? Was your hair waving in the wind as you went out of bounds? I highly doubt he was like oh there’s a woman let’s banish her! This is the same ole poor me poor me feel bad for me bs that’s ruining Tahoe and the world. Seems like maybe you should just abide by the rules instead of complaining about someone doing their job? I’m excited to come by and see you and your husband out there protesting with your pitchforks and Covid masks on, get a life.

  2. It would be nice to hear Homewood’s side of the story, but banning for skiing in a closed area is standard operating procedure at all the resorts. Why just the author if many were skiing down the closed run? Maybe she was the only one that could be ID’d, or maybe others that the author doesn’t know about were banned as well.

  3. I’m a big fan of Moonshine Ink but I would have expected that Homewood’s response would have been printed or at least a disclaimer that they declined comment or that their response would be published in the future.