Sunday, January 3, 2010

Donner Ski Ranch

Donner Ski Ranch is one of the oldest ski areas in the western United States. The area was first utilized for skiing in 1937. It is located near the scenic Old Highway 40 which was the transcontinental route before I-80 took its place in 1964. It is 45 miles west of Reno and 10 miles west of Truckee.

The history of this area is both interesting and deadly. Native Americans traveled the Summit thousands of years ago leaving the evidence of their presense in petroglyphs and grinding rocks. Wagon trains began crossing the Summit in 1844 headed for California. The ill fated Donner Party attempted to cross in 1846, but was unable to conquer the Summit. They had to turn back and spent a tragic winter on the shores of what is now Donner Lake. Untold numbers of chinese laborers were killed during the building of the first transcontinental railway through this area.

Changeable weather conditions are common in the Lake Tahoe Basin throughout the year. Winter storms may occur from September through June, with heavy snow accumulations.  Sunny, summer skies may cloud over quickly with thundershowers, catching some people by surprise. Weather may also vary or change rapidly from lake-level (6,225 ft) to mountain peaks (10,880 ft).

The Donner Ski Ranch has changed little with the passing of years. It has wooden floors throughout, maintaining a rustic look and feel. We arrived at dusk. Keith, the caretaker and his wife were there to greet us.  Keith gave us a little history on the area and the ski lodge. We asked for a tour of the lodge and Keith obliged.

Since we were standing in the bar area, Keith pointed out a spot near the large window overlooking the parking lot. According to Keith, one night around 3:00 am, he saw a large shadow figure in the shape of a man standing by the table nearest the window. As he approached, the figure disappeared.

Keith then took us downstairs where the ski rental shop and lockers are located. He told us how he and a friend were standing in this area one night when they both heard footsteps walking on the deck above them. Since they were the only ones in the lodge at the time, Keith figured it had to be someone looking for an entrance. He headed back upstairs and went out onto the deck. There was no one there; no footprints either, although there had been a heavy snowfall during the day.

Keith believes a former ski instructor who committed suicide might be making his presense known, because he has heard sounds coming from the room the guy worked out of.

Kieth showed us the snack bar area, skiers lounge, and upstairs lounge and offices. He then left us, he planned to stay in the bar area with his wife until our investigation was over and lock up.

We began our investigation in the lower level. We had already spent a few minutes in the far back storage area of the basement, but the machinery and power panels gave off such a loud hum, recording was an impossibility. We decided to spend some time in the ski instructors room. We took up positions around the room and alternately asked questions, and took pictures. At one point, Paula asked if any spirit present could give us a sign. Soon after, she got the sensation of a puff of air on her hand. She asked me to switch places with her to see if I could repeat her experience. A sign was asked for, and suddenly the EMF meter I was holding in my hand lit up. Just one blink. It did not repeat. Paula has that piece of film on her MySpace page. If you would like to see it, go to:

We next headed upstairs to the dining room. This is a large area containing a cafeteria, a fireplace seating area, a main dining area, a smaller dining room in the back and restrooms. While exiting the restrooms, Paula caught sight of movement out of the corner of her eye in the back dining area. As I was sitting in the large dining area, Paula thought Mona was in the back area, but Mona was upstairs. A digital recorder was left in that area and we continued with our investigation. Later, while reviewing the data we collected, Paula caught an EVP in this area, which sounds like a whispered, "Can't wait".

We spent some time upstairs in the snack bar. We sat down in the kichen and set up our digital recorders. Both Mona and Paula were filming with their camcorders. Paula caught a few light anomalies on her camcorder, but it's hard to say if its bugs, dust or something else. I'm going for bugs. Her KII meter went off too, but I don't have a lot of faith in KII meters, I have seen where a passing car can set one off. Both Mona and Paula caught screams on their recorders. Unfortunately, Keith was on the next floor down, watching TV. We can't rule out the possibility of contamination from that.

We ended up our night back in the small dining area on the main floor to retrieve the digital recorder left there. Upon hearing that Paula had caught sight of a shadow, Kieth excitedly told us that he had also seen movement and hear voices in this area, something he had not mentioned to us previously.

We have plans on going back, hopefully overnight. This is an interesting place with such a great history, it deserves to be investigated further.

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