Outside with Charlie: Star Wars at Sierra

By From page A11 | February 24, 2012


Right up the hill sits an El Dorado County jewel in Sierra-at-Tahoe, the closest place to ski if you live around here.

It’s been around for quite a while. Convenient, reasonable, this is the place where many county residents learned to ski and still the place county snow enthusiasts head to with their little ones when it’s time to strap on the skis for the first time.

It’s also the only ski resort in the Tahoe area that has Burton’s Star Wars Experience.

Sierra-at-Tahoe’s John Rice has been working with Burton’s Jeff Boliba for the last 10 years in designing and enhancing the snowboard experience at Sierra. The terrain park, half-pipe and other features are a result of their hard work.

About a year ago, John and Jeff were talking about snowboards and young children. Somewhere in their brainstorming Star Wars came up.

It seemed a natural connection to put young children, snowboards, and Star Wars into the same conversation. After all, the way of the Jedi involves a boatload of learning, lots of practice, and great gear — all things that appeal to young children.

I spent 24 years teaching Kindergarten. In those 24 years, Star Wars was always present as Yoda, Luke, Obe Wan Kenobi, Chewy, R2D2, C3PO all had a place in the fertile minds of my students.

Jeff had contacts at Lucasfilm, and they got excited about the project. The collaboration grew and took on the energy needed for a rather ambitious project.

They got to work. Downed trees were salvaged and used to build everything. Used parts at the resort was tapped into, steel was cut, shaped and fabricated for whatever was needed.

The Burton Star Wars Experience and Yoda’s Riglet Park is geared to children from 3 to 6 years old.

Jeff Boliba says that any 3 year-old who can fit into Burton’s smallest boots can learn to snowboard.
The 3 and 4 year-olds are known as Younglings and they wear a C3PO vest. The 5-6 year-olds are Padawans, and they sport an X-Wing fighter vest. Everyone wears an R2D2 helmet.

Instructors are specially trained . One instructor works with three children as they learn basic snowboard skills and on-slope etiquette.

Yoda’s Riglet Park features stunning Star Wars figures that were carved, with a chainsaw, by Bob King, a renown sculptor from Washington.

The Star Wars Experience is located right by the Wild Mountain children’s area. The price for the day, which runs from 9-4  p.m. includes gear, snacks, lunch, games, instruction, and inside time as needed. Reservations are best, as available slots fill quickly.

It’s an amazing thing to see. Sierra-at-Tahoe, Burton, and Lucasfilm have done an extraordinary job, right here in this galaxy.

May the Force be with you, especially while you are outside!

Charlie Ferris

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