Boreal Ridge Corporation needed a day-use ski lodge for a new ski area at a 7,300-foot elevation at Donner Summit, between Auburn and Truckee, California. The site and climate demanded a rugged structure capable of withstanding heavy snow loads and high winds: In midwinter, the ground-snow depth averages more than 20 feet and can be as much as 40 feet.
The lodge also had to easily accommodate multiple phases of building expansion. Boreal Ridge planned at least four stages of growth that might expand the building in any direction—to the back, sides, or on top.
In addition, the project included four ski lifts (since expanded to eight), parking areas, and master planning for a year-round recreation area.
The architects based their lodge design on mining stopes, an excavation method that creates stepped chambers as ore and rock are removed. The resulting lodge is composed of modular cubed bays, 18 feet on each side, that provide maximum strength against snow coming from above and from the side. This modular construction system also created a structure that’s easy to extend in any direction: Since all structural loads bear on beams and columns, the walls—both interior and exterior—are easily removed for expansion or renovation.
The architects also designed the lodge with a flat roof. Although many believe that flat roofs are unsuitable for heavy snow locations, the opposite is true at this site. A flat design allows wind to strip snow off the roof, maintaining maximum depths of three to five feet regardless of ground-snow depth. The lodge roof’s.