‘Driving this economic engine’: Snow is big business for Lake Tahoe


Heavenly team members were busy digging the Tamarack lift and others after heavy snowfall.
Supplied/Jack Morris

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lift lines are long and businesses are reaping the benefits of heavy snowfall at Lake Tahoe.

With a lot of snow falling in the basin following a series of storms in December and January, the resorts see tons of skiers and snowboarders while facing hardship.

Palisades Tahoe is reporting excellent business since recent storms have eased and trying to get people to come mid-week to avoid longer lines and delayed wait times.

“Now that the storms have kind of calmed down, people can get up here,” said Patrick Lacey, public relations manager for Palisades. “We really want to push people to ski in the middle of the week. Take a sick day here and there because obviously parking can be an issue here…or, if they come on the weekend, come early and stay late. Stay in the village, come early, have breakfast here, you know you’ll have a much nicer day if you do that.

Heavenly Mountain Resort’s Director of Communications, Sara Roston, said Vail Resorts has been working tirelessly to provide a great experience for every guest on the mountain, while facing challenges throughout the heavy snowfall.

“The Heavenly team has been working day and night to recover from the challenges caused by the weather,” Roston said. “In particular, we experienced a power outage on the Nevada side of the mountain, which created some unusual operational difficulties this holiday season.”

The outage destroyed three elevators, leaving the California Main Lodge as the only access point throughout the holiday weekend and caused massive traffic and parking issues, the Tribune previously reported. Fortunately, power was restored and services continued on the mountain.

Large storms and large numbers of people visiting the basin come in waves and are dependent on weather and agency advisories around the basin.

“When a storm arrives, most travelers have heeded advice from Caltrans, NDOT and Highway Patrol on road conditions to monitor and delay travel until it is safe,” said Carol Chaplin, president. and CEO of the Lake Tahoe Visitor Authority. “When the roads were cleared and it was safer and easier to get here, winter enthusiasts took advantage of the powder-filled conditions.”

Although the Visitor Authority does not have formal statistics compiled for South Lake Tahoe, they have communicated with accommodations, restaurants and attractions here in the basin and understand that while peak times have been temporarily affected , there was an increase during the post-holiday due to snow creating ideal conditions on the mountains.

“There was a temporary hit while the storm was there,” said SMG Consulting President and Chief Strategist Carl Ribaudo. “Typically [tourism is] affected as we get hammered by the snow and dig and all that. But I think it helps in the long run of winter. People know we have excellent outdoor recreation conditions, so it’s a short-term success. But you hope to be able to catch up during the winter season.

The benefits of heavier winter snowfall are longer winter seasons for outdoor recreation.

“It’s a balance,” Ribaudo said. “We don’t really have a choice.

Many are looking forward to a longer ski season this winter.

“We believe the outlook is so positive for a longer ski season, we are placing our bets on it and announcing a ‘midweek spring ski accommodation offer’ on Friday 27th January,” said the manager of the sustainable tourism from Visit Truckee-Tahoe. Siobhan Kenney. “Antidotally, we know from past great winters that when ski areas stay open longer, it positively impacts revenue for local Truckee stores, retailers and restaurants.”

Heavenly, Kirkwood and Northstar all report that staff are not an issue currently at their resorts, but Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitor Bureau President and CEO Andy Chapman said some locations are still trying to find their place with their teams.

“There are definitely still issues with labor and getting labor,” Chapman said. “But I think companies are very adaptable. They’re looking at different ways to plan and do common days off where the business might have been open seven days a week, and now maybe it’s only open six or five days a week…Storms help boost that engine economy here in the winter for Tahoe.

Basin tourism is always a topic of conversation, and especially after Lake Tahoe was added to Fodor’s 2023 blacklist of places to visit, due to an overcrowding/people issue.

Although the name of the list gives the impression that tourists should not visit the area, Chapman stressed that instead of telling visitors to stay away, it is important to teach people how to visit from responsible manner.

“We’re always making sure to deliver accurate, real-time information about what’s going on here,” Chapman said. “We post on our social media and websites any type of upcoming storm warning and links to road reports as it is essential that our customers coming from a drive… as well as our customers from the fly market be aware of what is going on. ”

In addition to providing accurate information to tourists, Chapman and the other Basin travel companies provided an opinion piece to the Tribune that explained how to practice stewardship when visiting the Basin.

Some of the ways travelers can help are by using the free transit options available all around the Basin, including TART and TART Connect on the North Rim, Lake Link on the South Rim, and Mountaineer in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows .

Being a steward also means leaving Lake Tahoe better than you found it, disposing of waste properly, choosing reusable products over single-use plastic, and being mindful and environmentally responsible.

For more Lake Tahoe travel information, visit visitlaketahoe.com/destination-update or http://www.gotahoenorth.com/sustainable-travel-pledge.

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