California Currents

Historic homestead of Squaw Valley Ski Resort founders up for sale for $15 million

By November 6, 2018 No Comments
(Photos courtesy of Engel & Völkers Truckee)

With the steady, all-season activity of vacationers, skiers and tourists around Squaw Valley Ski Resort, it’s hard to imagine a spot where one can still feel remote and secluded.

Yet, 325 Squaw Valley Road — the historic homestead of the resort’s founders, the late Wayne and Sandy Poulsen — is a breath of fresh Tahoe air, nestled in meadows and among aspen and pine groves on 30 acres right at the foot of the resort.

And the estate is up for sale, for $15 million.

Owned and lovingly tended by the Poulsens and later their eight children since the 1940s, it’s the last large parcel of land available at Squaw Valley, an area popular with well-heeled Bay Area buyers. Nearly 70 percent of homes in the region are second homes and vacation rentals, said Valerie Forte of Engel & Völkers Truckee, the listing agent on the Poulsen property.

“In our market, the majority of owners are from the Bay Area, and we have lots of tech and business executives buying what’s considered bonus homes,” she said. “They already have a primary residence, so these are luxury purchases,” she said. Though the Tahoe market does not mirror the frenzied Bay Area real-estate boom, it has indeed seen a surge since bottoming out in 2012. Now it’s back to peak 2006 prices and climbing, Forte said.

The Poulsen property is centered around the main redwood-clad lodge, a 5,435-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home designed by the couple’s son, Wayne Poulsen Jr., and built in 1976. Inspired by the Poulsens’ many trips to Europe, the design has the feel of a classic chalet with stone fireplaces, wood paneling, massive clear-heart redwood beams and wrought-iron accents.

In a wing off the lodge is an indoor swimming pool and hot tub. In the back, on a path through the aspens, is the Poulsen’s meditation garden, made up of eight large boulders — one for each of their children, set next to a tranquil duck pond.

Spectacular snow-capped mountain views surround the land in all directions. The ranch is a mix of open meadow of grasses and wildflowers, dense stands of pines and aspens, creeks and ponds. In another time, the Washoe Indians summered on the property along Squaw Creek where a grinding stone remains and arrowheads have been discovered.

Today, all this is just a short walk to the ski lifts and the bustling Village at Squaw Valley.

“Even so, when you’re on this property, it feels separate from the rest of the world,” said Poulsen Jr.

The elder Wayne Poulsen, an avid skier, first dreamed of building a ski area on the granite peaks above the valley while on a camping trip there in the 1930s. In the mid-1940s, he partnered with lawyer Alex Cushing and investor Laurance Rockefeller to create what would become the world-class resort where the Winter Olympics were held in 1960, Poulsen Jr. said.

“I was 2 or 3 when we got there in the ’40s, and at that time there was no road into the valley, no electricity,” Poulsen Jr. said. “Even now, it still retains a lot of the early feeling of the area, the stream, the ponds. It’s a diverse, special piece of property that has a lot of environmental character.”

Poulsen Jr. recognizes the potential for development, but holds out hope a buyer will preserve the landscape and use the property for community-based activities like a museum or a film festival, with appropriate hotel accommodations. Of the 29.6 total acres, 15 acres are zoned high-density residential, 14 acres of conservation preserve and open space and a little over one acre of forest recreation. Forte says there’s potential for a private home, a corporate or private retreat, weddings or other events.

“The property provides a truly rare opportunity to define and craft the last remaining significant property in Squaw Valley,” Forte said.