The West Shore community’s uproar over plans to turn Homewood Mountain Resort into a private ski area has paid off — JMA Ventures and Discovery Land Company announced they are no longer pursuing a private model, but instead plan to keep the ski area public while also selling lifetime memberships. They have further dropped plans to build the development in the mountain modern architectural style and instead reverted back to the Old Tahoe style as outlined in the 2011 master plan, once again ceding to community demands. However, Keep Homewood Public, a grassroots advocacy coalition formed earlier this year, remains wary of these promises until concrete assurances are in place that JMA and Discovery will follow through with plans to maintain public access to the mountain.
“The intent remains the same about updating Homewood’s infrastructure and creating a bed base at the mountain, but there has been an evolution,” said Ed Divita, partner at Discovery Land Company, which oversees sales, marketing, and operations of the new development. “We are taking into account feedback from the local community and TRPA [Tahoe Regional Planning Agency] and members of the design review committee.”
Divita said Discovery’s thinking about the project began to change in February, when Placer County’s Tahoe Basin Design Review Committee rejected the mountain modern design of four condominium buildings. Divita, who listened in on the meeting via a web link, said he heard two things from the public — they wanted an Old Tahoe design style that was consistent with the West Shore and was part of the 2011 approved Homewood Mountain Resort Master Plan, and they were concerned about public access to the ski area.
“That’s about when I started getting engaged. We really felt we needed to understand what was going on,” Divita said. “There were a lot of emails sent by the public to TRPA, and Keep Homewood Public was rallying their comments and having a lot of discussion. So we decided to reach out.”
KHP is a coalition of West Shore residents, second homeowners, and business owners formed in February 2023 to fight for public, year-round access to the ski area. A KHP petition, started last spring requesting the TRPA and Placer County to hold Discovery and JMA to the 2011 master plan, now has 2,267 signatures.
Divita said they began by meeting with the TRPA about what the agency was hearing from the community, and then reached out to Keep Homewood Public, Friends of the West Shore, homeowner associations, and local business leaders.
“We evolved in our thinking about the design,” Divita said. “We went back to our architect and talked about it.”
According to Divita, the entire Homewood development will now be in the Old Tahoe architectural style, which is one of Keep Homewood Public’s demands.
“It feels like we are coming to quite a bit of alignment,” he added.
The bigger issue, however, was about who was going to get to ski at Homewood. In 2022, JMA, which is the landowner and partner with Discovery in the development, announced the resort was going almost fully private, with access to season passes restricted to people who buy new Homewood residences as well as full-time residents of a few West Shore homeowners associations. Then in February 2023, JMA said it was moving to lifetime family memberships instead of ski passes. Now, both Divita and JMA President Art Chapman confirm they are switching to a hybrid model that combines both public access and memberships.
“Clearly, there has to be a membership component because of the costs of replacing infrastructure, and we can’t rely on a small commuter ski area particularly because of the inability to get there [due to ski traffic from other resorts],” Chapman said. “We listened to the community, we really did, and I like to think we did 15 years ago. This is an iconic, small, family-oriented ski area. We are going to combine the membership concept with still opening it to season passes and day tickets.”
Chapman and Divita stated they cannot determine how many season passes and day tickets will be available to the public at this time. While the master plan allots Homewood 1,100 persons at one time during the winter, calculating the number of skiers will vary depending on peak days. Homewood will use dynamic ticket pricing, where ticket prices fluctuate (more expensive on weekends and peak days; less expensive mid-week and non-holiday), and a parking reservation system to try to determine how many skiers will be on the mountain at any given time.
“We need some operational experience to determine how many [season passes and day tickets] will be available,” Chapman said.
Lifetime family memberships, which will be open to anyone to purchase, will start being offered for the 2025/26 ski season.
Discovery also said it will offer a West Shore shuttle this season and that the planned 272-car parking garage will be for the public, both requests of Keep Homewood Public. But are these concessions too good to be true?
“The issue for us is that we have been asking for specifics about that, enforceable commitments to public access for about two months at this point, and we have not received any,” said Sean Stebbins, Keep Homewood Public spokesperson. “That’s where we are kind of stuck. We have been hearing all the right things from Ed in particular, but it’s been a while at this point and we have yet to get any confirmation of that.”
In light of some parts of Discovery’s track record, Keep Homewood Public remains cautious. Stebbins points to Discovery’s lack of transparency about its initial plans to make the ski area private, as well as how the company has operated with other projects around the world (such as Taymouth Castle in Loch Tay, Scotland), where, according to Stebbins, they get support from local regulators without getting public feedback, rush permits through, and then “start construction and then there is nothing people can do at that point.”
Keep Homewood Public said until it receives enforceable mechanisms to hold Discovery to its word, it is wary of the company’s stated commitment to keeping the ski resort public.
“It’s great to hear the right things, that’s encouraging and certainly better than where we were at,” Stebbins said. “We just want to make sure we are dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s. We don’t want to end up in a situation where we took our eye off the ball and things didn’t pan out the way we expected them to.”
Besides community pressure, another reason Discovery may have changed its tune about public access is that they submitted their application to the TRPA for a new gondola, which will replace the Madden chairlift, in September. TRPA then gave them an ultimatum.
“We said, ‘we are not going to process any more permit operations under the master plan until we know what your intentions are,’” said TRPA spokesperson Jeff Cowen, noting that if Homewood decided to change its operations, such as making the mountain private, it would call for a master plan update. “We required them to land on their intentions.”