Tough Challenges ~ Vegetating Ski Runs

Beautiful Lake Tahoe straddles the California-Nevada border and is situated approximately 40 minutes from Reno, NV, and a little over three hours from San Francisco. Near the north shore of Lake Tahoe, on the California side, sits the historic small town of Truckee, home of the Northstar ski resort.

In the spring of 2008, Northstar built four new ski runs and a ski lift, and Kelley Erosion Control, based in Reno, was brought in to help revegetate affected areas. Owner Kym Kelley describes the process:

"First the loggers came through with mastication of the remaining tree stumps, then we came in and broke up rocks and boulders. We didn’t want any rocks larger than about 6 inches, but we also didn’t want to disturb the subsoil, so we had to chisel down the boulders. Then the snowmaking guys came through, and we followed right behind them. The snowmaking lines were all hydroseeded, each approximately 50 feet wide and 2,000 feet long. In areas where the soil had been turned, we used soil amendments."

Kelley utilized a Finn T-400 HydroSeeder with a 4,000-gallon tank, in addition to a smaller Finn T-90 with an 800-gallon tank, dragged by a bulldozer. “I wouldn’t use anything other than a Finn,” she reports. “These are the most popular machines, and the company takes really good care of us. Parts are shipped out promptly. We get tons of mileage out of our equipment—we use the heck out of it.” Finn offers leasing options, but Kelley owns all of her HydroSeeders.

The Hydroseeding Mixture

  • Biosol as a fertilizer, at 1,800 pounds per acre
  • Kiwi Power, an organic complex consisting of microorganisms and enzymes, humic acid, organic wetting agents and cytokinins, and organic growth hormones, at 5 gallons per acre
  • Mycorrhizae, fungi that help roots absorb nutrients, at 60 pounds per acre
  • Grass seed at 22 pounds per acre
  • Paper mulch at 2,000 pounds per acre
  • Tackifier at 150 pounds per acre

"It took about two to three months to treat about 50 acres; it was very labor-intensive," Kelley says. "In some areas, we were able to take some of the logged trees and produced wood chips for mulch. That was the advantage of following behind the loggers. The availability of these wood chips determined what we used for mulch. Where the chips were not available, we applied hydromulch."

Her work began in May 2008, and she reports that little rain fell at the time, which proved advantageous. "We didn’t want too much rain, so the seed will sit dormant. Germination will take place in the spring of 2009. The tackifier should be sufficient for an active run, to keep everything in place." She typically uses about 120 pounds per acre of tackifier, but increased this application to 150 pounds per acre.

Kelley is a big advocate of hydroseeding and sees its use increasing. "The entire industry is increasing. People are really taking the environment seriously. The ‘green’ movement is definitely more in the forefront now. Hydroseeding tends to be less expensive than other options, and it provides three important benefits: erosion control, sediment control, and dust control. So you get a big bang for the buck. One spray application solves three problems at once."

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