Lake Tahoe snow levels, high or low, present challenges for area snowmobilers |

Lake Tahoe snow levels, high or low, present challenges for area snowmobilers

Dylan Silver/Tahoe Daily TribuneA snowmobile sits near Sierra Mountain Sport's track in Meyers. Melting snow leaves patches of grass showing.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; Six weeks with little precipitation has left Tahoe snowmobilers with little to ride on. Commercial operations on the South Shore have had no choice, but to either close tracks or move snow to replenish them. Private riders have found the conditions boring, difficult or down right dangerous.

and#8220;I’m really tired of not being able to ride,and#8221; said Meyers resident Hannah Bernard. and#8220;I’ve only been out four times this year, which is very little.and#8221;

Bernard said now is a good time for beginners to go riding and get off the trails because it’s unlikely the sleds will get stuck in the compacted snow.

and#8220;If you just want to go out and go just about anywhere, it’s perfect. But for us who want to get powder and go into the backcountry it’s hard,and#8221; Bernard said.

For experienced riders, the snowpack doesn’t pose much of a test, Bernard said.

and#8220;It’s too easy for experienced riders,and#8221; said Bernard. and#8220;It’s no challenge to ride on snow that’s all packed down.and#8221;

But going riding as a beginner might not be as easy at it sounds right now. Sierra Mountain Sports had to close its track at Edgewood a month ago due to lack of snow, said owner John Shearer. Its track at Lake Tahoe Golf Course in Meyers has to be closed on weekdays to save what little snow it has for busy days, Shearer said.

and#8220;It’s a lake out there some days, and you can’t run a business on a lake,and#8221; Shearer said.

Tahoe Paradise Snowmobiles has been able to keep its track open but have had to spread the snow around with its Snowcat. Up at Zephyr Cove Snowmobiling, the business had to do the same to maintain its mandatory 6-inch snow depth in accordance with its agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, said Chris Burke, director of operations at Aramark Lake Tahoe.

and#8220;We’re doing OK. But we are looking forward to some new snow,and#8221; Burke said.

Snowmobile rentals for self-guided tours have stayed consistent, said Dan Wallis. who works for Sierra Mountain Sports, as he loaded up a pair of rental Arctic Cats for a couple of customers on their way to Blue Lakes.

and#8220;The track is the problem. The rentals aren’t the problem because they’re going to a higher elevation,and#8221; Wallis said.

At higher elevations, the snow isn’t as thin, but it can be icy, especially on north-facing slopes, said Bernard. The ice can be dangerous, said Doug Dawson, president of the Tahoe Sierra Snowmobile Club.

and#8220;It’s makes it outright dangerous if you’re doing any kind of climbing,and#8221; Dawson said. and#8220;Safety is a very high priority. Simply one wrong move out there and things can go from a fun afternoon to a life-threatening situation.and#8221;

Riders are waiting for another dump, but new snow might bring more than they asked for. Backcountry avalanches are the No. 1 danger for snowmobilers, Dawson said.

and#8220;The potential (for avalanches) is there if we get a 6 to 8 foot dump on top of this glacier we have,and#8221; Dawson said.

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