Once a thriving logging community serving the old Nevada mining towns of Carson City and Virginia City, Incline Village has been launched on a new existence through the impetus of sport. Covering 9,000 acres, spread along three miles of Lake Tahoe's north shore, Incline's architecture is in keeping with the mountain landscape, and the houses and apartments, designed in natural wood, are built into the sheltering trees. The trails of Ski Incline curve down the side of a mountain where a 4,000-foot-long railed tramway once took shoring timbers 1,400 feet up from Lake Tahoe. The golf course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, is green through Tahoe's rainless summer, watered by a thousand sprinklers. There are tennis courts, riding trails and protected beaches with swimming pools; the lake itself, at 6,225 feet, provides a chilly swimming hole.
DEVELOPMENT VS. DESTRUCTION
Tahoe is one of the clearest lakes in the world, a glacial and volcanic marvel. It is so big—21.6 miles long, 12 miles wide, one-third of a mile deep, with 75 twisting miles of shoreline—that until recently it seemed immune to despoliation. But already its great green shore is being bulldozed by big-time developers and its blue waters are threatened by spreading algae. The chief problem at Tahoe is the vulnerability of the surrounding land to erosion. Every time a tree is cut down the exposed soil is washed into the streams, and thence into the lake, where the nutrients the soil contains disturb the ecological balance and favor the growth of algae.
Although it is only a couple of miles from the raucous California-Nevada line, with its stucco high rises and neon pizza-and-pancake screams, Incline Village stands as one development whose master plan pleased even the most ardent conservationists. Incline is the brainchild of Art Wood, president of the Crystal Bay Development Co., who hopes to make it the best family recreation area in the world. Wood began by commissioning an 18-hole golf course, now one of the prettiest, greenest and highest in the U.S. It cost $1,700,000 to build, and maintenance comes high, too, since one million gallons of water must be poured over it every night.
Pursuing his goal of "total sport," Wood decided that Incline Village needed a ski area of its own. He called in Luggi Foeger (left), who had headed the Yosemite Ski School and landscaped the lodge there, and had just designed the entire lift layout at neighboring Alpine Meadows. The area that Foeger picked out for Ski Incline had a couple of streams crossing it, and one, Incline Creek, had to be moved. This required putting in a 3,000-foot-long culvert to carry the stream underground. The culvert contains small dams throughout to help fish make their way back upstream for spawning. "It cost a lot of money," says Luggi. "But Art said to go ahead and do it—it was just about as easy to do things properly as to do them halfway." By the time Ski Incline opened for business last November, doing things properly had cost $3 million.
Ski Incline is a family resort, with easy trails designed for beginners and intermediate skiers. There are no unpleasant surprises. This spring Luggi planted grass and wild lupine seeds he brought from Yosemite so that the trails would not be bald patches on the mountainside in summer. Slim Davis of the U.S. Forest Service in San Francisco, not normally given to complimenting commercial projects at Tahoe, has said: "Anyone going into a ski venture and layout had better look at Ski Incline first."
With water sports, golf, tennis and horseback riding in summer, skiing in winter and gambling nearby for rainy days, real estate at Incline Village has been selling briskly—at the rate of $1 million a month. A lakefront lot with 100 feet on the water costs $47,500. Half an acre off Lake Tahoe, but with access to it, runs about $35,000. Alongside the golf course a lot costs between $18,500 and $22,500, and the cheapest, in the village itself, are $8,000. Condominium apartments start at $21,500 and go up to $50,000, with a four-bedroom unit costing $34,500.
Wood is deeply conscious of the problems involved in developing Lake Tahoe and severely limits the number of trees that may be removed for building. "You can't build without destroying something," he insists. "But remember, we have more at stake than anyone else."
The Tahoe area, at present administered by two states, five counties and no fewer than 64 governmental departments, undoubtedly will one day be placed under the jurisdiction of one regional planning agency. Until that time, the most hopeful development in a noisy new boom is Incline Village.