Malfunction Junction

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Back in 1986, Troy and Sue Caldwell were looking to buy a few acres of land to build a small guest lodge near Tahoe's Alpine Meadows resort. The land they wanted was owned by Southern Pacific Railways, but it turned out the county wouldn't let SP sell them just a few acres; they would have to take the entire 460-acre section. But the railroad execs liked the young couple and decided to cut them a deal: $350,000 ($526,000 today), or $760 an acre. And so, at 30-something, the Caldwells suddenly owned all the land between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski resorts, including the top of Squaw's famous KT-22 peak, which the resort now has to lease from them.

Now the Caldwells' plans for a new resort, White Wolf¿which might, someday, include a Squaw-Alpine interconnect¿have ground down. Though they've secured a private-resort permit and cut a deal to exchange their KT-22 land for Squaw's old Headwall chair (including installation), they've run smack into a lawsuit from Alpine homeowners.

The Caldwells seem baffled by the enmity ("We're just skiers," says Troy) but think that with a little more luck, they'll be able to start digging this fall. Feel free to envy them.