Ski History Anyone? Requiem for the Reindeer Lodge

After I wrote the last history bit on the Reindeer Lodge Kim Henrick contacted me and “showed me the error of my ways” by gently correcting some of my grievous historical inaccuracies from the post entitled “The Reindeer Lodge: Down for the count?”  and also providing much more information regarding the lodge from what I learned later was an “eye witness account” in its very early days. Kim was also kind enough to forward an article she had penned in 2008 specifically on the history of the Reindeer which was published in the historical journal Footprints Vol. 11, No. 1 Winter 2008 by the Historic Reno Preservation Society.

The Reno Ski Bowl had opened in ’56 and utilized the Bum’s Gulch chairlift as the winter highway dead ended at Sky Tavern due to snow. At that time the highway ran right up through the Sky Tavern Bowl. If you have ever wondered what the one remaining chairlift tower is on the Mt. Rose Highway a mile or so below the main parking lot. Unfortunately for the lift, the all weather highway was opened up the next year so the lift became superfluous. With an all weather highway connecting Lake Tahoe with Reno and the convenience of parking next to a lift at over 8000 feet at Slide Mountain, business was brisk in 1957 on the Mt. Rose Highway.

Kim Henrick’s parents, Harry and Jessie Vonderheide had a dream of opening a lodge on the wide curve just below the Christmas Tree restaurant. That dream quickly turned into a reality when Harry found some barracks for sale from the Herlong Army Depot and moved six large barracks on big trucks up what was then a very small and curvy Mt. Rose Highway and cobbled them together into what was to become the Rosemount Lodge. The lodge opened on December 20th, 1957. The opening made quite a splash in Reno  with a professional chef and offered Lobster Tail for $3.75 and Filet Mignon for $4.50. The drinks were flowing and food fantastic and skiers and Slide Mountain employees found a second home around the bar and fireplace. After too many drinks many Slide Mountain employees found a room upstairs easier than their cars and a room was always left for them to “crash” by the Vonderheides. Kim Henrick was 5 at the time and remembers helping her parents out as best she could by setting out candles (left below) and other small tasks trying to keep everyone happy. Her best memories though are of her skiing almost every day rather than go to Kindergarten in Reno and buzzing around on skis with a few other kids who lived up here in the Mt. Rose area. Kim was

was (according to self report) one of the first Tahoe Ski Bums and was in love with her life in the mountains. The picture at right was taken on Easter Sunday, 1958 after seven feet of snow had fallen during the night. Just like today, there was a lot of shoveling to be done if you lived in the mountains over 7000 feet. That year Kim’s Mom, Jessie Vonderheide had to stage her great Easter Egg Hunt indoors for guests and family.

The lodge has passed through quite a few folks hands in the last sixty years including Harold and Margaret Luce, Franklin Mowery, Charles Mercer, Leon Phillips up to its current owner Gary Schmidt. It was known as the Rosemount Lodge up until 1970 when it was renamed The Sundance Lodge, up until 1983, when it was renamed The Reindeer Lodge. According to local skier Ron West it should be renamed one more time to “Broke Ass Lodge” in its current state.

As most of you know, The Reindeer suffered a major roof collapse this winter and according to anyone with knowledge in the building business its “totaled.” In fact it seems to be sinking further into the ground as the months go by. What does the future hold for the Reindeer Lodge and its oddball typewriter collection, musical instruments and Gilligan’s Island lunch boxes?  A rebuild to its glory days, an out-of-control bull dozer run by a crazed neighbor, a well placed flaming arrow… No one but Gary Schmidt knows and according to sources, he isn’t talking at this point. But I think we can all agree that currently its a sad and ghostly sight when so much joy was shared under that roof for so many years. We can only hope that spurs Gary Schmidt to action…


Thanks to Kim Henrick for sharing her memories, photos, article and wealth of knowledge about a grand old mountain lodge.



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