Across the Universe: More winter* woes for Tahoe, Truckee region
February 18, 2015
TAHOE-TRUCKEE — I moved to the Tahoe in July 2007, meaning this is my eighth winter* here. "Winter" has an asterisk next to it because even I know, with my meager experience here, that what we're currently enduring is (hopefully?) some sort of anomaly.
I found myself this week looking back four years ago. In 2010-11, we got a doozy of a Tahoe winter, with some areas reporting more than 800 inches of snow. Ski resorts were happy. Business was booming. Locals were loving it.
Life was good as the Great Recession mercifully began to fade, we reported.
Three years before that was the winter of 2007-08, my first at Tahoe. I still remember marveling at how all the snow was piled in the middle of the road through Kings Beach and Tahoe Vista.
And I also remember, not-so-fondly, of all the snow I had to shovel that winter.
Those two winters were my biggest, although they're only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to epic Tahoe-Truckee winters of yesteryear. You only have to chat with a decades-long local (or read some of Mark McLaughlin's Storm King articles) to get an idea of what it used to be like.
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Back to reality, the past few days of heavy rainfall and some wet snow up top was nice, but if the extended forecast has anything to say, it'll be moot next week as we experience temperatures into the 60s — yes, THE SIXTIES — this weekend.
Simply put, the news is not good.
Anyone can look back at the headlines from four and seven — and beyond — years ago and tell you that this winter's snowfall totals and conditions reports are nowhere near comparison.
Now, as I write this, I can imagine ski resort managers and tourism officials across the region cringing. Odds are, this is not the kind of news that's being promoted among those circles, many of which revolve around the concept of drawing more visitors to the region so they can spend money at our businesses, increase our transient occupancy tax take, help provide for our service industry, and so on.
So goes the conundrum that comes with my job as a newspaper editor. My life is one surrounded by reader commentary and criticism, tips and ideas from sources looking for me to write the next big story, spirited debates among staff and the community about journalism ethics, and … spreadsheets.
Yes, spreadsheets. As much time as I spend researching stories and editing community items, I'm also looking at the numbers.
This newspaper is a business, after all, and while I always separate the business side of my job vs. the editorial side when we put out the news, I'm no idiot, either — businesses buy advertisements in our print edition and online, and if a business relies on a lot of winter tourism to make money, and if those revenue projections aren't there, the odds of said business not advertising tend to increase.
With that in mind, lately, I've gotten plenty of comments and feedback from community members questioning why we seem to only focus on the negative side of the weather, that our articles aren't telling the real story of how snowmaking is helping make for some of the best groomed terrain in the Tahoe Basin, and even that some of our content, albeit accurate, has been bad for business.
This news is not an easy pill to swallow, and I'm just as hopeful as our business owners and skiing enthusiasts when we see a big snowstorm in the forecast — and just as disappointed every time (it sure seems like every time lately, huh?) it falls through.
But it's our duty as a newspaper to report what's happening when it comes to weather — even if there's a "negative" perception to it.
My friends and I this weekend watched the rain fall, instead of snow, and while we bemoaned another bad winter, we said, "well we needed the ran. At least there's that."
Yes, there's that.
But at the same time, if all we did was dwell in silver linings, then we'd only be focused on reporting and promoting a false reality.
And that, in the long run, is what's truly going to be bad for business.
— Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Reach him for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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