Published On December 27, 2017 | By Mike Carroll | KCRA-TV, Mike's TV News Stories, Shooting News

For the third year in a row now I have volunteered to work the big holidays and give somebody a break for this Christmas. And for the third year in a row I have done a reporter-photographer package at Donner Ski Ranch on the snow and business conditions.

Last year we had the largest snowfall and accumulation on record. In fact, I reported a story that aired in July about Squaw Valley still offering skiing on the very top 8,000 foot mountain–for the Fourth of July weekend.

But that was then. This is now.

This fall and early winter has been the least amount of precipitation in years.

Thin crust of snow and patches of dirt/mud. (Frame extract, shot with GoPro Hero 5 Black on Karma Stabilizer.)

When I started out from KCRA on Christmas morning, I was originally planning to mix it up and go to a different ski resort this year. However, on attempting to make other calls, I could not get through on the phone. So I called Donner and spoke with owner Janet Tuttle and was given a warm welcome to come back for three-in-a-row.

I told Janet that now, for me, going up to Donner Ski Ranch on December 25th had become my version of coming home for Christmas.

Donner is the smallest ski resort in the area and the only one not to have snow making machines. They rely entirely on nature. So they have had to be resourceful. The limited snowfall has not been accumulating in the areas where they need it, so they have been moving the snow to their beginner slope and children’s tube hill. They call themselves “snow farmers” and they do what they have to do to make it work.

With Janet Tuttle, whose family owns the Donner Ski Ranch Ski Resort. (And one of my favorite people!)

Donner is also privately owned by the Tuttle family, who have always welcomed KCRA to cover them. And their welcome has been as warm on the heavy winters as well as the lean ones.


I did not get up there until nearly noon and shot until almost 1:30, using my GoPro Hero 5 with the Karma Stabilizer whenever I could.

I then had to jump to work logging & writing because the story was airing in the 5 o’clock news. I stayed in the parking lot, working out of my news vehicle, sitting in the passenger’s seat where there is more room, and did all the work there. And was surprisingly comfortable.

I shot interviews judiciously, and let my shots run long in case I was in a bind and needed to let shots roll.

Usually I write a long script of over 2-minutes, then have to edit it down in the video editing to meet the minute-and-a-half or so TRT. (Total Running Time)

In the passenger’s seat of my KCRA news vehicle, editing the story in the Donner Ski Ranch parking lot on Adobe Premiere. (Photo taken with GoPro Hero 5 Black)

In this case, I came in short, so added more natural sound of skis in snow and snow mover to let the story breathe.

I even had time to string almost two-minutes of footage together, and include a short sound bite, and uploaded it back to the station for tease video and bump shots. (This is all detailed in Breaking Into TV News)

This was useful because it gave me a chance to see how fast the wifi was. Which was blazing!

While I was editing a snow mover bringing fresh snow over to the tube run came up–and I jumped out of the car, pulled out my camera and got the one shot for the story that I had not gotten yet!

In all, it could not have been a better working day, easy and no stress. A perfect Christmas Day.

I do very strongly hope for the snow to get here soon. For the good people at Donner and for all the resorts and the skiers and the state for our water supply.

Below are the stories from Christmas at Donner Ski Ranch in 2016 and 2015.


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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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