Northstar resort’s vision for improving skier experience gets final board approval

Published on February 22, 2017

The Placer County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a series of actions to guide upgrades and improvements to the Northstar California ski resort for the next 20 years. The resort, which is between Truckee and Lake Tahoe, is a major destination for winter and summer recreational activities.

The board’s approval of the Northstar Mountain Master Plan will guide the project developer in upgrading the resort amenities in the next 20 years through expansion and improvements of the existing mountain resort. The plan would allow for expansion of existing ski terrain including six new ski lifts and associated trails, a high-speed gondola extending from the Castle Peak parking area to the Northstar Village, new snowmaking and associated infrastructure, additional trails and trail widening, five skier bridges, four new skier service lodges and facilities, improvements to existing skier service sites, relocation of an existing cross country ski center, and two new campsite areas. The proposed gondola is intended to relieve traffic congestion. The entire Northstar resort covers 8,000 acres with about 5,500 used for skiing.

Before the project came to the board, it received unanimous approval from both the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council and the Placer County Planning Commission. Some elements of the plan will also require approval by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

The project applicant took the unusual approach of producing a habitat management plan that did environmental analysis for many environmental concerns. That document was submitted to the county, which then submitted it to the project’s  environmental consultant for peer review.  The analysis set out guidelines and management measures that determined the most suitable locations of proposed land uses. It also identified habitat types, wildlife corridors and endangered species, in addition to protecting and preserving sensitive environmental resources.  

The master plan will guide the resort’s development for the next 20 years and allow it to adapt to changing market conditions. As the resort expands its ski activities and amenities, additional employees will likely be needed and the plan includes housing for the equivalent of 55 full time employees.

“The developer did a good job in addressing many of the concerns that the public had including environmental stewardship and workforce housing,” said Board Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery. “We now have a project that, when built, will continue to elevate the Tahoe area’s internationally recognized reputation.”

Initially, Northstar development was guided by its 1971 master plan, which was then superseded by the 1975 Martis Valley General Plan and updated by the 2003 Martis Valley Master Plan. Currently, the Placer County General Plan, Martis Valley Community Plan, Martis Valley Community Plan Land Use Diagram and Placer County Zoning Ordinance guide development at Northstar.    

In addition to approving the master plan, the board also  approved zoning changes, which included relocating commercial zones from one side of the resort and a zoning change allowing ski-related improvements.