Fritz Buser, principal owner of Mt.Rose Ski Tahoe was born in Hemmiken, a small farming village in the northern part of Switzerland on April 29, 1921. Growing up with the daily hardships of survival on milking cows and harvesting apples and potatoes, his entrepreneur spirit was ignited at an early age to break out and seek more.
After the obligatory first eight years of schooling which he spent in a single class-room with the same teacher who taught all eight grades, he pursued an apprenticeship with a bank in a nearby small city called Liestal. Still in his teens, on the eve of World War II, he began his first business venture - trading sardines. Some of the start-up capital came from the money he saved by riding a bicycle 20 miles every day instead of taking the train.
In his early twenties – at the end of World War II – he decided it was time to think bigger …. America. He secured agreements with various prominent Swiss manufacturers to represent their products in the United States as a salesman, including the ski boot company ‘Henke’ – the first company that produced buckled (vs laced) boots. He set up an office in New York City which he managed from Switzerland where he continued to reside and raise a family in Liestal. That wasn’t enough to satisfy his ambition. He started a linen distribution company in Liestal called ‘Loyal’ which turned into the headquarters for all of his future business ventures. Along the way he also acquired principal ownership of the Henke boot company.
In the 1960’s he joined in with his childhood friend Ernst Rieder to form a very successful real-estate development company called ‘Himac’. The two of them remained best friends for decades, would conduct several trips across the United States and support each other’s business ventures.
In the late 1960’s, Fritz launched the two business endeavors that would become his main for the next forty years. One was in Switzerland, the other in the U.S.
In Switzerland he formed ‘Sunstar’, a mountain resort hotel group, which grew out of his real-estate ventures with Rieder and began in Davos. When Sunstar was sold in 2009 it included seven four-star hotels all located in major winter resort towns in the Swiss Alps.
In the United States he became an early investor at Mt.Rose after meeting some of the founders at the ski shows which, promoting the Henke boots, he attended annually for the prior twenty years. Since 1971 Fritz has been the company’s majority shareholder and thus controlling the direction of Mt.Rose ever since.
The History of Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe
Since the1930's, long before the present Mt. Rose Highway was built, or even chairlifts were constructed, Reno and Washoe County locals have been skiing in the area currently known as Mt. Rose - Ski Tahoe. In 1939 Wayne Paulson built and operated the Mt. Rose Upski and the Ski School Tyrol. Shortly after World War II, a lodge called Sky Tavern Sky Tavern was, and continues to be located on the Mt. Rose Highway (SR 431), 11 miles west of US 395, just south of the City of Reno. Eventually this historic ski lodge would be sold to the City of Reno where it still operates the city’s Junior Ski Program.
From Sky Tavern, devoted skiers hiked up to the 9,700’ peak of Slide Mountain and skied in the location of the present Mt. Rose - Ski Tahoe. By widening the existing logging trails for better ski terrain, these former powder hounds were cutting some of the first ski trails in the Sierra Nevada. In 1950, the old Mt. Rose Hwy was merely a summer road connecting Reno with beautiful Lake Tahoe. As the years marched on, the old SR431 continued to be improved allowing winter travel to higher elevations; therefore more ski terrain became easily accessible. The original Reno Ski Bowl was constructed on the east slope of Slide Mountain (currently the East Bowl of Mt. Rose), and at one point was connected to the Sky Tavern area by the old “Ringer Chair.” This lift spanned “Bum’s Gulch” taking it to the base of the Reno Ski Bowl. Remnants of this lift can still be seen on the highway about 2 miles below the Mt. Rose main lodge where a lone, rusty lift tower remains standing. When Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, the Reno Ski Bowl was actually chosen as an alternate site for skiing events if Squaw did not have adequate snow coverage.
The 60’s saw large changes on the slopes of Slide Mountain. The Reno Ski Bowl evolved into the Slide Mountain Ski Area and in 1964, the north face of Slide Mountain became Mt. Rose Ski Area. The Mt. Rose Development Company was formed to direct the future of the ski resort. Over the years, “Slide” and “Rose” operated independently, each expanding in their own ways with more lifts and lodge improvements. The Mt. Rose lodge rented 42 hotel rooms until they discontinued lodging guests in 1984. In 1980, 180 acres of new trails were cut at Mt. Rose between the Sunset ski trail and the Mt. Rose Hwy. Also, the Lakeview chair was built, offering spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and increasing uphill capacity. The 1984-85 season saw the 20th anniversary of operation and two new chairlifts. The existing Northwest Passage double chairlift was replaced with a new triple chair, and the Galena triple chair was installed providing increased terrain for beginner and novice skiers. In 1985, “Around the World” was cut adding a new 2.5-mile long ski run for long relaxing cruising.
The “Iron Curtain” between Slide and Rose finally came down in 1987 when Mt. Rose acquired the Slide Mountain Ski Area terrain under a lease agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. The “Slide Side” (affectionately referred to by locals) became the East Bowl of Mt. Rose. Combining the two ski areas increased the overall terrain of Mt. Rose to 900+ acres, now making Rose a significant player in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
As Rose moved into the 90’s, improvements continued to take place on the hill with the upgrading of the Zephyr chair to a quad lift in 1989, and later the Ponderosa lift also evolved from a double to quad chair in 1993. Both new lifts vastly increased uphill capacity and aided in boosting the overall image of the resort. The expansion of U.S. 395 to SR 431 created a six lane freeway now extending to the Mt. Rose highway providing high speed, non stop access for the 22 mile trip from Reno. 1994-95 shined as the 30th anniversary for Mt. Rose and this landmark year produced some of the most significant facility improvements in the resorts history including a 2.5 million dollar remodel of the main lodge, which included a monster outdoor BBQ deck and a 300% expansion of the indoor dining area. Over 550” of snow blanketed Mt. Rose that season putting an alarming end to the eight-year draught and rewriting the record book with the most snow in history for Mt. Rose. Top to bottom snowmaking was also introduced to the resort in the late 90’s giving the mountain the insurance policy it needed to have consistent early season openings.
Mt. Rose screamed into the 21st century with its first high speed lift when the Northwest triple became the Northwest Magnum 6. Following in its wake was the upgrade of the Zephyr quad lift to the Blazing Zephyr 6 high speed chair in 2004 giving Mt. Rose dual high speed, base–to-summit rides to the top. But big fast chairs were the only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Separating the east and north slopes of Slide Mountain lives the extreme terrain known as The Chutes. After 10 years of groundwork, Mt. Rose officially adopted these 200 acres into its trail system including the addition of the Chuter lift providing an exit back to the Slide lodge. There was a time when skiers were allowed in the Chutes area at their own risk. Shuttle busses actually ran from the Slide Mountain Junction to the base of the Reno Ski Bowl from the late 1950’s to the mid 60’s transporting everyone who ventured over to the backside. The mid 1960’s saw the closure of this area until it’s official opening in 2004.
Spring of 2009 saw the last days of the Slide Lodge, a facility that had evolved from the Reno Ski Bowl days. From a simple warming hut through 6 additions, the old lodge desperately needed an overhaul and going w/ a completely new building was the best option. Now located on the back edge of the lot, the new lodge took a steel and glass design to bring the mountain into the facility, and included a large deck to maximize seating on those beautiful sunny days. 2009-10 season will also see the addition of lights on the Show-off run to provide extended hours w/ park activities near the main lodge. Also new for the season will be improved access between the main lodge and the upper parking lots with the construction of the grand staircase to lot 3.
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