North Tahoe’s annual winter tradition, SnowFest!, returns for 36th year |

North Tahoe’s annual winter tradition, SnowFest!, returns for 36th year

The Kiwanis Precision Snow Shovel Drill Team performs a choreographed routine in the 2016 Tahoe City SnowFest! Parade.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

Profiling the Queen candidates

SnowFest! has only three candidates for Queen this year. Here are the profiles provided for this story (a photo for Estrella Sanchez was not provided):

• Bailey Shaw is 17 years old, a junior at North Tahoe High School, and the Tahoe City Rotary’s SnowFest! candidate for 2017. She is an active member in the school through band and clubs such as SAGA, Interact, Youth in Action, Book Club and Peer Mentoring. Her hobbies include soccer, basketball, and track, and helping out in the community.

• My name is Haeden Suter. I am a junior at Incline High School. I am very excited for the opportunity to represent the North Tahoe Firefighters Auxiliary as a SnowFest! Queen candidate. I was both the freshman and sophomore class president and have been on the varsity basketball, softball and track teams. I am also a member of the National Honors Society and was in the IHS Mentorship Program. I’ve been enjoying SnowFest! since age three and have participated in the parades on four prior occasions.

• Estrella Sanchez, of Kings Beach, is a senior at North Tahoe High School where she serves as associate student body president. Her nonprofit is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County and North Lake Tahoe.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — SnowFest! will make its 36th annual appearance in North Lake Tahoe from March 2-12.

Whether you are drawn to one of the traditional favorites like the Tahoe City Parade, Gar Woods Polar Bear Swim or Kings Beach Parade, or are excited to try events making a debut this year, SnowFest! is a chance to get out and party after all the shoveling and sandbagging that kept us busy through much of January and February.

SnowFest! began in the mind of Bob Everson, former Marketing Director at Alpine Meadows, in the spring of 1981. His focus was on getting folks up to Lake Tahoe in March, when ski business back then started to slow down.

An initial meeting to explore the idea was held in June of that year with a variety of representatives of local organizations taking part.

A second meeting was planned for mid-July. In the middle of the night on July 4, however, Everson was killed when the boat he was sleeping on in Lake Tahoe was run over by another boat. The group used his passing as an impetus to plan the first SnowFest! for the following March.


While SnowFest! has always been a popular event that draws crowds, it is organized by a small nonprofit that has sometimes struggled to remain financially feasible.

This year, a five-member Board of Directors is doing the heavy lifting to make the 36th annual festival happen without the expense of an Executive Director.

Dick and Nileta Morton are two of those hard workers, who are putting in the hours because, “we love to see people having a good time,” Nileta said.

“It’s worth it to see the community out enjoying themselves,” she added. “People for many years have been coming to Tahoe just to see opening weekend.”

In addition to the Mortons, the other board members busy putting the last-minutes touches on the festival are Gail Scoville, Dana Tanner Powell and Marni Carr.

“We are working really hard and we are so excited that we are an all-volunteer group, and that we were able to make this happen this year,” Scoville said.


One big change in this year’s SnowFest! is the location of the Friday Night Grand Opening. Instead of Squaw Valley, where it has been held for many years, this year’s fireworks show will be above the Commons Beach in downtown Tahoe City at 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, bringing a touch of the Fourth of July to March.

Tahoe City businesses are planning a variety of events and specials to welcome the guests, including longtime SnowFest! supporter Pete and Peter’s, which will host an after-party.

“The TCDA thinks it is great that the fireworks will be in Tahoe City,” said Stacie Lyons, Executive Director of the Tahoe City Downtown Association. “Having a fireworks in the middle of winter is a great opportunity for us to showcase our community to residents and visitors.”

For those who want to get the fun started the day before the fireworks, the Kick Off Party at Gar Woods in Carnelian Bay on Thursday, March 2, is the place to be.

Gar Woods will do it up right with great food and all the Wet Woodies you can handle. There will be a live band, the crowning of the SnowFest! Queen, and arrival of the Vulcans — a group from St. Paul, Minn., that comes to Tahoe every SnowFest! dressed in red and black capes to spread the love by kissing everyone with black face paint.

All the proceeds from the benefit go to support SnowFest!.


One other important annual tradition is the SnowFest! Queen competition, which is truly a win-win arrangement for the community.

First, the queen candidates sell SnowFest! raffle tickets, with proceeds going to support both SnowFest! and the nonprofit organizations each sponsors.

The candidates are local high school girls competing for college scholarships. Who becomes Queen is based on how many tickets they sell, as well as how they perform on writing an essay and conducting an interview.

Even if they don’t win the scholarship, the process is a great one for the girls.

Helping local nonprofits is not limited to the SnowFest! Queen competition. A variety of fundraising events are planned that will be both enjoyable to the public and bring in some dollars for worthy local causes.

Take the first Saturday of SnowFest! for example: The North Tahoe Firefighters Association holds a pancake breakfast before the Tahoe City Parade, and then there will be a party at Moe’s BBQ supporting Tahoe Community Nursery School.

Later, the inaugural SnowFest! Snowball Drop takes place at the Winter Sports Park in Tahoe City in support of the North Tahoe PTO.

Visit for more information on all SnowFest! events, or to find out how you can support the festival.

Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at

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