NORTH LAKE TAHOE, CA - Who has the biggest and the best skiing? Well, Lake Tahoe has some of the country's best skiing, and it could soon also have the biggest.
Creating the largest ski resort in the country would mean more tourism dollars and even strengthen the region's chance of hosting the Olympics again.
It's been a long sought after quest to connect Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Now, a deal is closer than ever before to make it happen. The result: more than 6,000 acres of terrain which would make it the second largest resort in North America behind Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia.
Troy Caldwell holds the key to connecting the resorts.
"The interconnect potential is getting closer and closer and we're excited to be a part of that," Caldwell explained.
Caldwell owns the 460 acre patch of land between the two resorts called White Wolf Mountain. It extends from the Alpine Meadows parking lot, to the peak of Squaw Valley's KT-22 run. From the mountain, you can see 17 towers which will one day cable a chairlift.
"I was just a guy with a dream and people looked at me as if I were pretty much a crazy man," Caldwell said.
A former U.S. downhill skier, Caldwell came to North Lake Tahoe in the late 60s to be a ski bum for a winter, but he fell in love with the Sierra and never left.
In the late 80s, Caldwell and his wife went to buy a small piece of land near Alpine Meadows to build their dream home, when at about the same time, the Southern Pacific Railroad put the entire 460 acre plot up for sale.
Caldwell and his wife jumped at the chance to invest hoping to build a private ski resort. In 1990, they purchased the land for just $350,000, a fraction of what the property is worth today.
"I've had offers in the range of $45 to $50 million, so it's been profitable to say the least," Caldwell said.
Despite those generous offers, Caldwell wasn't interested in walking away; however, things began to shift in 2011 when the company that owns Squaw Valley, KSL Ventures, acquired Alpine Meadows. Caldwell said it was only a matter of time before they reached out to him as a partner.
"We already have a partnership handshake agreement going right now," Caldwell explained.
As a team, Caldwell and the big-wigs at KSL Ventures are still sorting out exactly how they would connect the two sprawling ski areas. However it gets drawn up, Caldwell plans to keep a section of the property private to build a small, high-end ski resort.
Andy Chapman with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association said connecting the two resorts would mean big money for California's tourism industry.
"It would be a fabulous amenity and addition to the area." Chapman explained. "Any time you have a product like that that expands and puts additional infrastructure and capital investment in, and add the ability to take advantage of that and promote it, and get that word out, will certainly be beneficial for the region and for the ski industry as a whole."
Caldwell said they could break ground on connecting the land is the next two years.
While the U.S. Olympic Committee decided to pass on a bid or the 2022 Winter Games, Tahoe is still a top contender for a future bid.
Jon Killoran with the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition said having the largest ski resort in America would be a bonus.