No snow doesn’t mean no visitors |

No snow doesn’t mean no visitors

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunTruckee's Commercial Row was bustling with activity Friday afternoon. Both visitors and locals alike came out to enjoy the shopping and dining offered by the downtown businesses.

Wading through a sea of shoppers in downtown Truckee Friday, it was clear it didn’t take snow to bring visitors to the Sierra Nevada over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The long weekend brought a robust tide of visitors to Tahoe-Truckee lodging and to local retail shops for the important “Black Friday” that kicks off the holiday shopping season.

“It’s a very big deal and we’re off to a roaring start,” said Stefanie Olivieri, president of the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association on Friday.

While the charm of a snow-covered town can help, Olivieri said visitors tend to come regardless of the weather.

Andy Chapman, director of tourism for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, agreed that Tahoe’s appeal transcends the weather.

“Folks come regardless of the recreation opportunities like skiing,” Chapman said. “We certainly love to have some recreation opportunities, but I don’t think people just come to ski.”

Several others Friday had different takes on the effect of the weather.

“I think there are a lot of disappointed people whose fall-back plan is shopping, which is not too bad for a fall-back plan,” said Jerry Wood, owner of White Buffalo in Truckee . “We’re keeping nice and busy.”

For Thanksgiving, snow is just the icing on the cake, said Lynn Saunders, president and chief executive officer of the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce.

“Truckee is positioned well to be a shopping destination,” Saunders said. “People like to go to a charming, historic mountain town for Christmas shopping.”

Likewise, Chapman said studies have shown that shopping is one of Tahoe’s biggest tourist draws. But unlike many other areas, Olivieri said Black Friday isn’t the biggest sales day for many local businesses.

“It isn’t make-or-break, but we do a substantial part of our holiday business,” Olivieri said. “The last 15 days leading up to Christmas are more make-or-break.”

For Wood’s store, the Thanksgiving Day weekend makes the difference in November. Compared to other big weekends, Saunders said Thanksgiving ranks with Martin Luther King, Presidents Day, winter break and other school holidays.

But Chapman said in Tahoe, Thanksgiving doesn’t stack up with big winter weekends when snow is more likely is more likely to blanket the ski slopes.

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