The North Shore Nordic community is reeling today after the death of Kevin Murnane, the general manager of the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area and a fixture in the Tahoe City community. He died last night on the trails of the Nordic center, a place that he helped build into a world-class cross-country ski destination and a community gathering place that was central to both his life and the entire North Shore. Murnane was 44 years old.

“He was the glue for the Nordic community in a lot of ways,” said Brendan Madigan, owner of Alpenglow Sports and a close friend of Murnane’s. “He created a meeting point for the community at large. His influence will always guide that in how it moves forward.”

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office received a call around 5:30 p.m. last night from Murnane’s wife of 18 years, Valli, who said that he had not been seen since she left for work that morning and he left for a walk near their home on the Nordic trails. A neighbor had reported that the dogs were out, which raised alarm bells for Valli. Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue was brought in, and more than 30 people set out on foot, bike, motorcycle, and ATV to search for Kevin.

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“It was the biggest turnout of searchers in my whole career,” said Doug Read, a member of Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue for 38 years and, like many of the searchers, a close friend of the Murnanes.

Around 9:30 p.m., Kevin’s body was located near the Blue Trail. The cause of death is currently under investigation by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office pending an autopsy.

Kevin, who started managing the Tahoe Cross Country Center in 2000, knew the trails at the Nordic center like the back of his hand. 

Tim Hauserman, the director of the popular children’s Strider Gliders program at the cross-country area and a good friend of the Murnanes, said he is devastated by the news of Kevin’s passing. He says it is made even harder by the fact that the cross-country area is not open due to lack of snow, depriving the tight-knit community of a gathering place to mourn.

“It’s really hard because [the Nordic center] is not there; I am used to being there skiing everyday,” he said. “It was a tribute to Kevin that the fundraiser [for the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association on Feb. 10 at Hacienda Del Lago] had 300 people.”

Kevin, along with Valli, who is the director of the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association, shared their passion for Nordic skiing with innovative programs like new junior development and competitive teams, Strider Gliders, a biathlon program for kids, the Winter Discovery Center that brought school children to the ski area for environmental education, and a children’s mountain biking program that started two years ago.

“Kevin was a very astute and caring person. Between him and his wife, they developed incredible programs for the community … that have been picked up by the ski industry,” said Read. “This is a real personal tragedy. It’s a real loss to me personally, and a real loss to the community.”

Madigan echoes Read’s sentiments.

“They turned Tahoe Cross Country into something really special. It was not only a Nordic center but a community cause. What they created is something pretty magical,” he said. “For me, it’s a tragedy. I lost a friend and a really special person in the community.”

Madigan has faith that the community will come together to support Valli, their two children Lily, 11, and Kai, 8, and the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area, which is now weathering its fourth low-snow year.

“The community will rally undoubtedly,” he said. “We live in a special place with special people, and where there is adversity is when this stands out and the community comes together.”

Author

  • Melissa Siig

    Melissa Siig ditched international politics in Washington, D.C. in 2001 to move to Tahoe, where she quickly found her true calling — journalism. She has written for regional and national publications, and enjoys writing about community issues and quirky human interest stories. When not at her keyboard, she is busy wrangling her three children, co-running Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema, or playing outside.

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