A British defense technology company, QuinetiQ, recently asked the board of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District (TTAD) for permission to flight test new rotor blades for the Royal Navy Sea King helicopters. The tests would have included approximately 70 hours of flying over a three-month period, seven days a week. The company was looking for high-altitude airports with predictably calm morning winds and the Truckee Tahoe airport was at the top of the list.
When storms whip the Sierra Nevada they can throw a strong wind down from the mountain peaks through Shirley Canyon into Squaw Valley. Old timers call this western wind the 'Shirley Zephyr.' On April 15, 1978, the Shirley Zephyr was more than a stiff breeze. Its gale-force winds aided in causing one of the ski industry’s most historic lift accidents.