Christmas a gift for area business |

Christmas a gift for area business

Doug Slater/Sierra SunA customer is attended to at La Galleria on Saturday afternoon on Commercial Row in downtown Truckee. Heavy snowfalls have helped area retailers gain some ground lost after a dry fall and economic woes.

While an exceptionally large, early season snowpack has washed away talk of drought, its effect on the local economy has been mixed.

Some resorts and hotels have reported their busiest December in years, while others had to wait until the beginning of high season for business to pick up.

Still, most retailers said they were at least doing normal levels of business over the Christmas holiday week, and for some, a normal year would be just fine following the dry fall and gloomy economic forecasts.

“[So far], it’s not a record year, but I don’t think anybody was expecting any kind of growth whatsoever,” said Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort Marketing Director Jane Dulaney.

Dulaney said business at the resort this month is on par with previous Decembers, as were occupancy rates at its hotel, the Rainbow Lodge.

But the early snow has been a boon to other resorts and hotels, with some reporting the best December in recent years, and citing the snow as the reason.

“October and November were probably two of the slowest Octobers and Novembers in years,” said Laura Ryan, the manager of the Best Western Truckee-Tahoe Inn on Highway 267. “But this month has been a real shot in the arm. This early snow has made a big difference E this is the busiest December since 1994.”

Ryan said the hotel is currently filled to capacity.

“This is always a real busy time of year, but the bookings for the whole month are definitely up,” she added.

Ditto for many of the resorts.

Earlier this month, Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, for the first time in its history, had to turn away skiers before Christmas.

“We have already had two sell-out days prior to Christmas, which we have never done before,” said Sugar Bowl Marketing Director Greg Murtha.

Murtha and others are breathing a collective sigh of relief following a foreboding fall.

“There was some real concern within the industry about the implosion, the Bay Area economy, Sept. 11 and the ramifications it would have on the ski season. Once we got the snow, everyone was waiting with baited breath to see what the numbers would look like,” Murtha said. “But our numbers are really strong. This has been one of the best openings ever.”

But more and more of those numbers may be packing their own lunches as a way to save a few bucks.

“We were kind of slow until the holidays,” said Cindy Drake, who works at the Squeeze In on Commercial Row.

But Drake said that was no reason to panic.

“Every year is so different. There is no rhyme or reason to the restaurant business,” she said.

Back at the Truckee-Tahoe Inn, Ryan said she thinks the snow, coupled with more Californians vacationing closer to home this year, will eventually help all businesses.

“You can drive here. And we think that is going to help all season long. As long as the snow doesn’t turn to rain,” she said.

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