Coronavirus shuts down resorts: Truckee tells tourists to stay home | SierraSun.com
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Coronavirus shuts down resorts: Truckee tells tourists to stay home

Nearly every Tahoe area ski resort has suspended operations or closed for the season. The closures coincided with storms dropping several feet of snow in the Sierra and also when many children and young adults would be on spring break. The losses in terms of revenue due to the effect of the coronavirus, according to the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, are difficult to quantify at this point.
Submitted photo by Michael Kennedy

Ski resort status

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows – Suspended operations

Northstar California Resort – Closed for season

Heavenly Mountain Resort– Suspended operations

Kirkwood Mountain Resort- Closed for season

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe – Closed for season

Diamond Peak – Closed for season

Tahoe Donner – Suspended operations

Granlibakken Tahoe – Open

Donner Ski Ranch – Digging out with plans to reopen

Homewood Mountain Resort – Closed for season

Boreal Mountain California – Suspended operations

Soda Springs – Suspended operations

Sugar Bowl Resort — Suspended operations

Sierra-at-Tahoe – Suspended operations

Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area - Open

Response to the coronavirus has brought with it disruptions to normal life for those living in the Truckee and Lake Tahoe communities as schools, several businesses, and nearly every ski resort have closed.

Events have been canceled, and local law enforcement, government, and public health officials have been forced to adjust their day-to-day approach.

Locally, Truckee is encouraging visitors to stay away for now, following the recommendation of health officials to practice social distancing.

“Right now, for those who love Truckee, some of the best ways to support our community and tourism-based economy is to purchase gift cards and/or shop online from afar. Re-book lodging for a later date. Reach out to businesses you enjoyed in the past. Send an email, post a photo and tag encouragement. Consider making donations, pre-orders, and asking for credit versus refunds,” said Colleen Dalton, director of tourism and economic programs, VISIT TRUCKEE, in a news release. “We need your help and will be here to welcome visitors with open arms on a sunnier day when happy times are here again. And they will. Have hope, stay in place, scroll througwh pictures of the good times in Truckee and plan to come later. Our mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and trails are here to welcome you back again, and so will our shops, restaurants, lodging, and recreation services.”

The announcement from the town comes after a weekend in which nearly every Tahoe area ski resort suspended operations or closed for the season. The closures coincided with storms dropping several feet of snow in the Sierra and also when many children and young adults would be on spring break. The losses in terms of revenue due to the effect of the coronavirus, according to Liz Bowling, director of communications and public relations for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, are difficult to quantify at this point, “but many of our businesses are tourism-reliant so this has obviously had significant impact.”

“The North Lake Tahoe resort community is feeling acute impacts of COVID-19. Over 60% of jobs in North Lake Tahoe are within leisure industries, while visitor spending averages over $835 million annually. The region relies on several sources of visitor traffic, including conference and group sales, special events, and our primary visitor, outdoor enthusiasts, who enjoy an abundance of natural resources,” said Jeffrey Hentz, CEO North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. “The destination has seen large-scale events cancel and a majority of ski resorts are closed. The impacts will be far-reaching for months… years to come. To support the local businesses reliant on tourism, we are asking people to consider making donations, purchase gift cards, and support with words of encouragement on their social pages. They are also asking that current reservations not be cancelled altogether, but rather postponed to when travel is viable again.”

Closings

Truckee, according to the town’s Visitor Impact Report, had nearly $150 million in visitor spending in 2018.

Carl Ribaudo, president and chief strategist for SMG Consulting, said it is too soon to quantify how bad the economic hit to the region will be.

In a paper released Wednesday, SMG Consulting, which recently worked on projects like the 2019 Truckee Visitor Profile Study and the 2019 Opportunity Cost Analysis South Lake Tahoe Events Center, estimated most of impact on the tourism industry will occur in the next six months, with potential effects lasting up to 15 months.

“It’s going to take a long time for people to adjust to a comfort level, whatever that is, with crowding and so forth,” said Ribaudo. “We’re entering into this at a much steeper decline, and we’ll probably exit it at a slower path.”

Ribaudo, who has been a consultant for nearly three decades, added that municipalities which rely on Transient Occupy Tax collections will likely be challenged moving forward.

“We have been through a couple of big recessions, we’ve been through road closures, we’ve been through a variety of things, but this is something different,” said Ribaudo. “It will take awhile to get a handle on what the economic impacts will be, but you can assume they will be pretty significant.”

One of the major drivers in tourism to the area during winter months is the ski industry, which now has several resorts weighing options of whether to suspend operations with hopes of reopening or to call it a season.

Near Truckee, Vail Resorts announced that Northstar California Resort will close for the remainder of the year. Other Vail operated resorts like Kirkwood Mountain Resort will close for the season, and Heavenly Mountain Resort is closed, but may reopen in late April or early May.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has suspended operations until further notice. Tahoe Donner has also suspended operations at its downhill and cross-country areas.

On Donner Summit, Boreal Mountain California, Soda Springs, and Woodward Tahoe suspended operations through at least Sunday, and announced all employees would be paid for their scheduled hours.

Sugar Bowl Resort and Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort announced it will release all non-essential, seasonal staff starting today. Season staff, according to CEO Greg Dallas, will receive 2.5 weeks of severance to help ease the transition from employment at Sugar Bowl and Royal Gorge.

Sugar Bowl and Royal Gorge suspended operations Saturday evening until further notice, but said it plans on reopening if possible.

“We remain committed to reopening a much smaller resort as long as the operation can comply with local, state and federal guidelines to ensure guest and employee safety,” said Dallas in a statement. “We are preparing the resort to safely open to uphill traffic, plus a few kilometers of cross county track for pass holders only … If for whatever reason we feel that guest or employee safety is as risk we will shut down operations immediately. Expect more information to come about this in the next several days.”

Homewood Mountain Resort announced it will close for the remainder of the season.

What’s open

Tahoe City Cross-Country Ski Area remains open as of Monday, March 23.

“In order for Tahoe XC to continue grooming, every single person must follow the CDC’s guidelines of practicing social distancing,” said Tahoe City Cross-Country officials in a web post. “Our intention is that you arrive, exercise, and go home. Do NOT linger in the parking lot or at the trailhead. Do NOT ski or snowshoe within 6 feet of another person. It is not ‘business as usual.’ Our lodge and facilities are closed. We are not offering rentals. Only those who come with their own equipment can use the trails. Do not come if you are feeling sick or at risk of exposing anyone else. We are a small community and we need to respect each one of our residents and visitors.”

Last week, officials from Granlibakken Tahoe pushed to remain open with social distancing practices in place during a North Tahoe stakeholders meeting, stating that Granlibakken’s layout provides for enough space and can accommodate some of the high demand they’ve seen recently in people looking for something to do.

Since then, Granlibakken has suspended winter operations, but continues to maintain minimal hotel operations for homeowners and the safety of current guests. The resort also has its free cross-country loop open to the public. Granlibakken is not accepting reservations at this time.

Granlibakken officials said the resort has already lost virtually all of its tourist business for the next two months, something that Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta said has occurred across the state.

“In terms of forecast, that is such a fluid situation … now in California, it’s a common circumstance in our gateway cities to have occupancies less than 20%, even less than 10%,” said Beteta. “We’re hearing from our trade association that we’re going to experience many closures of our lodging establishments and restaurants.”

In order to help with some of the impact associated with the coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law a package that includes provisions for free testing and paid emergency leave.

Congressman Tom McClintock, whose district includes Truckee, was the lone representative from California to vote against the House-passed bill, stating it was introduced with no analysis, no cost estimates, little debate, and in a state of political panic.

“For the next few weeks, new cases of COVID-19 are expected to increase. But at some point, the infection rate will peak and decline. As it does, factories will reopen, employees will get back to work and life will return to normal,” said McClintock in a statement regarding his vote. “Once the public health crisis is passed, the House bill threatens to postpone the economic recovery by guaranteeing employees up to three months of paid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. In theory, the purpose is to self-quarantine, recuperate or care for family members who are idled or afflicted, but in reality, it opens the door for anyone who wants to game the system.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.


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