Norm Nicholls: There’s no business like snow-business |

Norm Nicholls: There’s no business like snow-business

Norm and Alan Nicholls
Wednesday Column
By Norm and Alan Nicholls

Being preoccupied with our weather seems to be inherent with most folks who live up here. The members of the Nicholls’ family are always interested since we are avid skiers, and our recreation in the summer is very much tied into the amount of run off from the snow pack. We also want our lakes and rivers full and our forest green.

In our last column, we mentioned a weather blog,, and requested that its creator, Bryan Allegretto, contact us. Bryan did call us and took the time to explain his background and his intense interest in the weather.

Bryan grew up in Ocean City, N.J. His father worked for the Garden State Parkway and was in charge of calling out the plow drivers during winter storms. Bryan figures he was about 5 years old when he took interest in his father’s research of weather maps and models of pending storms. Bryan became preoccupied with weather forecasting and many of his friends called him “the Weather Man.”

Bryan was so obsessed by weather that he even chased storms including the severe eastern snowstorms referred to as “Nor’easters.”

“I took weather related courses my first year of college, but never earned a degree. I read everything I can in books, on line, weather service computer models, other peoples observations, blogs, etc,” Bryan went on to say, “My past experience has allowed me to see weather patterns which I then try to interpret. I also try to put positive spins and focus on our local area in my forecasts, and I hope the readers of my blog enjoy the result.”

He also explained that weather patterns, models, etc. are much different on the East Coast. So why did he decide to move to the Tahoe area? “I wanted to move here since this is where the biggest snowfalls in North America occur.”

Thanks again … Craig Dunkley, a long time seasonal snow removal operator for Cal Trans, took the time to call us after reading our last article. He said how appreciative he and his other Cal Trans friends were for our show of appreciation for their efforts and for that of other snow removal professionals in our area. Thanks Craig for your acknowledgment, and thanks again to all who serve our community storm after storm.

Last week’s question … I was quite surprised when Sheri McDaniel called in with her answer to the question of the week on Tuesday morning, one day prior to our normal publication in Wednesday’s newspaper.

An inquiry of Sierra Sun Editor, Ryan Slabaugh, revealed that now that the Sun is published in newspaper form only 3 days a week, they post all news items to their website within a day of receipt “-even columns like ours.

Sherry identified the “sled dog races” as the former Truckee Lions Club annual winter time fundraiser. Other winners who answered our question correctly included: Ron and Kelly Wulff, Denny Anderson, Keith Mickelson, Lou Rasso, Ron Rettig, Mary De Lisle, Jerry Blakeley, Dianne Kiser, Sandy Watters, Bill Mullins, Ruth Yerkes, Charlie White, Julie Akers, Pete Kolp, Steve Ascher, Robin Waters, Beth and Bob Cushman (from Buenos Aires), and one of the founders of the race and long time Truckee Lions Club member, Don Casler.

Don loaned me the program from the 1997 Sled Dog races and shared his insight and background on the Truckee Lions “Sierra Sweepstakes Sled Dog Races.” He also reminded me that they were “sled dog races, not dog sled races. It’s the dogs that race, not the sleds!”

“In 1960, local mushers formed the Sierra Nevada Dog Drivers Association. They raced their teams over old trails surrounding town. There weren’t too many spectators then as the races were in remote areas and the weather conditions were frequently unforgiving.”

In 1978 the Truckee Lions Club decided to host sled dog races as an annual fundraiser. In January of 1979 the first “Sierra Sweepstakes” race was held and mushers from all over the western states entered and vied for the $3,000 purse.

By 1989 the popularity of the annual race was such that the purse had been raised to $10,000 and the fundraiser had generated a following of sponsors and spectators which raised a lot of money for the purse and the Lion’s many charitable programs.

In 1993 the purse reached its maximum of $12,500 and the International Sled Dog Racing Association deemed the Truckee Lions Race the “Feature Race of the Year.”

During the 20 or so year period covering these local races, there were years of great snow coverage, and other years where the races were forced to be cancelled due to lack of snow. Unfortunately the races were discontinued in the late 90s, but for those of us that were able to view the races, the mushers, and the incredible dogs, we will never forget.

Perhaps, some day, one of the local ski areas may pick up on the idea of reinstituting the races and will find that, with snowmaking, it could again be a very popular annual event.

This week’s question: For some years the California Highway Patrol had a special team of officers who accompanied the CHP airplane around Northern California to site speeders. Besides announcements in the Sun, what was the first indicator that the team was in town?

Call us at (530) 550-5035 or email us at with your answer. Norm and Alan Nicholls of the Nicholls Real Estate Group are affiliated with Dickson Realty at 11500 Donner Pass Rd. in Truckee.

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