Packing them inn: North Tahoe reports 21% increase in winter occupancy rate

Hannah Jones
Squaw Valley reported more than 300 inches of snow in February, and a total of 676 inches for the season. That heavy snowfall had led to a surge in occupancy at area resorts and hotels, according to the North Tahoe Resort Association.
Ben Arnst/Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows


21% — reported increased occupancy rate over 2017-18 in North Tahoe.

15% — reported increased Transient Occupancy Taxes collected July-December 2018, over 2017.

$1.4 million — estimated additional TOT revenue in July-December, year over year.

138% — growth in TOT collected in October-December, over same period in 2008.

183% — growth in TOT collected in April-June, over same period in 2008.

Source: North Lake Tahoe Resort Association

Winter storms in the Tahoe area not only brought multiple feet of snow this winter but higher occupancy rates as well.

Occupancy in North Lake Tahoe are up 21 % from last winter which includes data from hotels and property management companies, according to data from the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

Data collected from the resort association also shows that Transient Occupancy Taxes collected between July and December in 2018 are up 15 % from the same period in 2017, which equates to an additional $1.4 million.

“It’s very significant,” said Cindy Gustafson, chief executive officer of the resort association. Though the amount of occupancy taxes collected the past few months is not yet known, Gustafson said the revenue is likely to climb due the increase in lodging throughout the winter.

“North Lake is enjoying sometimes too much snow, but it’s a good problem to have.”— Tom FoleyInntopia senior vice president

She said the resort association tends to focus on the second quarter of the fiscal year, which runs from October to December and the fourth quarter from April to June, which are essentially the “shoulder seasons.”

“We know we have great peak visitation numbers, and our emphasis is really to drive more business in those two quarters,” she said. “We’re at capacity during the other quarters.”

In the last decade Gustafson said there has been steady growth in TOT collection during every quarter, with larger increases during the shoulder seasons. Tax collected between October and December is up 138 % from 10 years ago, while revenue collected between April and June has increased by 183 % in the same time period.

“We’re looking for destination visitors to come here during the shoulder season,” said Gustafson. Not only does the resort association try to even out occupancy throughout the year but during the week as well, especially during the high seasons.

Gustafson said this winter saw an increase in mid-week visitation compared to last winter.

“Trying to even out that occupancy really helps the hotels, food and beverage, and the retailers,” she said. “We all need to even out that impact and keep the income for the businesses and work for the employees more stable.”


Throughout the year, the resort association sends its lodging data to Inntopia, a company that tracks lodging performances in destination areas across the country.

At the end of March, Inntopia released a report on winter destinations in the West that included 290 property management companies in 18 mountain destinations across Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho.

The report, which includes data from North Lake Tahoe, showed that occupancy rates in ski towns across the West for the month of February were up 5.7 % compared to February of last year, leading to an 8.1 % increase in revenue. Compared to last winter occupancy is up 5.5 % so far, with data from March and April yet to be counted.

“It’s good everywhere right now. Years like this are phenomenal for the industry,” said Tom Foley, senior vice president of business operations and analytics for Inntopia. “North Lake is enjoying sometimes too much snow, but it’s a good problem to have.”

In 2019, Tahoe City has received 205 inches of snowfall, the National Weather Service reported Tuesday. Squaw Valley totaled 313 inches for February, which broke a record of 196 inches at Squaw’s upper mountain, set in 2017.

While higher snowfall levels encourage people to return to the Tahoe area, Foley says its attracts people who have never been.

“For people who only pay attention to what they see in the media from time to time,” Foley said, “what they’re seeing is the Sierra.”

Record-breaking snowfall followed by a less than average winter last year is a recipe for higher visitation in North Lake Tahoe, Foley said.

“That’s a story now and you can’t buy that kind of marketing,” he said.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or

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