Up in the mountains, architecture has to do some heavy lifting. Sugar Bowl, one of the oldest Lake Tahoe ski resorts and where this home is located, gets more than 40 feet of snow annually. Steeply pitched A-frames and boarded-up ground-floor windows have been the simple answer to the extreme conditions, but leave it to a group of city slickers to bring in an updated, innovative way to create shelter from the snow.
When John Maniscalco was asked to design this home for a San Francisco-based family, his immediate challenge was designing a home that could stand the eight-to-nine-foot snow packs that midwinter brings. But instead of choosing a style that would shed the snow quickly, as steeply angled roofs do, Maniscalco built a house that could shoulder it. The result is a super-strong flat roof reinforced with glulam (or glue-lam) beams and steel, angled ever so slightly to the rear, so snow sheds gradually, but otherwise is allowed to pile up, creating a pillowy white berm that would put a smile on the face of any snow-starved Californian.
As for the snow drifts that have been known to barricade doors and trap people in their homes for days on end, Maniscalco looked to beach houses for a solution: a plinth made of hollow concrete blocks that lifts the house five to eight feet above the ground. A channel through the center of the plinth even lets a river of melted snow run beneath the structure as the weather warms.
The interiors are meant to provide a comfortably edited version of the great outdoors. All the windows on the first floor are set deeply into the walls and are protected by overhanging steel frames that extend out just beyond the Western red cedar facade. The home’s second floor has floor-to-ceiling walls of glass that can slide open to a large wraparound porch.