When I first moved to South Lake Tahoe, I lived in a three-bedroom ski lease with about twelve other weekend warriors from the Bay. At that time I didn’t know any locals intimate with the area, I had no idea who made the best pizza in town, nor had I memorized the side-cuts that avoid traffic piled up on 50. However, I quickly learned what channel Resort Sports Network (RSN) was on and my cabin mates and I often watched Todd Offenbacher doing the morning mountain report before we made the drive out to Kirkwood.
Over that winter we became very familiar with Todd’s on-air antics. Often trying to make an interesting show out of little more than an inch of new snow to report, Todd’s affability, palpable even on TV, overcame the lack of material and made the show worth watching. Before long, the girls at our cabin had taken to calling him “hot Todd,” while the guys heckled the TV yelling things like: “make it snow, Todd!” Or, “c’mon Todd, open the pass!” — as if his report dictated the conditions. Although that winter was the last time I had a TV, it wasn’t the last I saw of Todd O.
Todd Offenbacher does not keep a low profile. Second only to Glen Plake and his mighty mohawk, Todd’s annual Tahoe Adventure Film Festival, his presence at many slide shows and movie premiers, and his day job at Outside TV (formerly RSN) has made him one of the most recognizable faces on the Tahoe mountain sports scene. Conscious of this fact, Todd wastes none of the limelight on self-aggrandizement or ego. Instead, he has taken on a unique role in the community that is most accurately defined as South Lake’s Mountain Ambassador to the World.
Obviously, this is not a formal title. However, it does accurately depict the important role that a leader like Todd plays in the community. Let’s face it, despite being stacked with awesome people who are community-minded and outgoing, South Lake is in large part a transient community that is drawn out over a long highway corridor. There is no downtown to draw us all together and many of us find ourselves fixed in small groups of close friends – especially in the winter. This is where Todd comes in.
See, Todd recognizes that everyone who comes to Tahoe is here to realize a dream. Whether that dream is long walks with the dog or shredding the mountain gnar, the desire for an open community that supports that dream is central to nearly all. Todd is an ambassador of this type of mountain goodwill. His adventures, both here and abroad, have engendered an open and inviting character that is infectious. Everyone I know who has hit the mountains with Todd has a memorable – often humorous – tale to tell.
In a conversation I had with Todd before he left for Antarctica last week, he told me about his life traveling through the world’s mountains. Before he talked about the climbing, the food, or the accommodations, he told me that “mountain people around the world are curious, friendly, and inviting,” no matter what their economic circumstances may be. And, Tahoe is no exception.
Todd often refers to our loose mountain community as the Tribe. Laid-up with a severe rupture in his quadriceps, Todd came up with an idea to bring the Tribe together in one super-charged event that would fire up energy for the beginning of yet another amazing year in Tahoe. That idea has become the Tahoe Adventure Film Festival and it’s coming up on its tenth year running.
In many ways, this film fest is an amplified reflection of Todd’s personality and the energy he brings to the community. Pumped up, silly, weird, funny, and inclusive, the show boasts short films from across the spectrum of outdoor sports, interspersed with attractive dancers, glamorous drag queens, dazzling lights, and aerial stunts. Meanwhile, Todd plays the perfect MC with a sidekick midget in matching attire. Oh, and don’t forget the hyped-up crowd eager for snow. Sounds like a party, no?
Although Todd O. admits that the film fest takes up a great deal of his free time, there’s a lot more to the man than a ballyhoo introducing films – as if that wasn’t enough. Todd still gets after it in a big way. As I write this, Todd is aboard the Clipper Adventurer cruising the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula making Zodiac sojourns to new ski descents.
As you may have figured, this isn’t Todd’s first rodeo. He has climbed across the globe and has partnered with some of the best in the trade. In recent years he’s taken up base jumping, once again pushing the envelope of gravity-driven thrills. Despite a life of adventure, it’s clear that it is the combination of mountain living and spending time with his wife and friends, that satisfies a dream for Todd that he in turn shares with us all.