Parking not so Heavenly: ‘Perfect storm’ creates gridlock in South Tahoe

Ashleigh Goodwin / Tahoe Daily Tribune
Ski Run Boulevard traffic gridlocks during winter storm and power outages.
Provided/Kris Spevak

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — An unfortunate domino effect closed three quarters of Heavenly Mountain Resort’s lodges on Monday and wreaked havoc on traffic through town, all the way to Stateline from Ski Run as well as Pioneer Trail into Meyers.

Three power lines and a pole were, in part, to blame for the gridlocked traffic Monday morning. An unprecedented “perfect storm”, officials say, was caused by multiple events which led to the chaos, despite best efforts. 

Extreme winter weather, power outages, holiday level traffic and usual traffic put a strain on the city’s infrastructure. 

In response to some comments from social media that Tahoe’s infrastructure is not meant for this many people South Lake Tahoe Police Chief David Stevenson said “It’s unfair to judge the city’s infrastructure on one weekend with record breaking storms during a holiday.”

Due to a surge in skiers and riders attempting to enter Heavenly via the California Lodge the parking lot was full as the resort opened.

“The parking lot full sign was out from 9 a.m. however, drivers may continue into the lot to pick up/drop-off. Also, there are parking areas on the street surrounding the Heavenly California Lodge area which Heavenly has contracted with the City for ski parking. A driver could continue past the ‘full sign’ to look for an available on street parking spot,” said South Lake Tahoe Police Sgt. Scott Crivelli.

Tom Fortune, VP and chief operating officer of Heavenly told the Tribune, “The situation is not normal. The storm New Year’s Eve knocked out significant power on the mountain which powers all Nevada lifts including the Gondola. These outages forced holiday level visitation to the Cal Lodge which is just not set up for this many people.”

Fortune said, “This is a dynamic and unprecedented situation. [Operations] work well when we have it all open but it is something [in need of work], we have started discussions with the City to make it better in the future.” 

Coincidentally, the same day as the Heavenly gridlock, during their standing weekly meeting, City Councilman Scott Robbins asked City Manager Joe Irvin about the parking contract which rents the resort the right to parking along Ski Run Boulevard and several neighboring side streets. 

Robbins said he is committed to addressing the situation head on with city council, in his opinion restructuring the terms may bring some relief.

“The rent is $20,000 in exchange for about 200 parking spaces for the ski season; 150-175 days out of the year depending on ski conditions/weather conditions,” Robbins said and added the contract is public record and has been in effect since 2013.  

“The previous few storms have brought wet snow and high wind,” said Liberty Utilities Senior Manager of Communications and Marketing Alison Vai. “Electric systems are heavily impacted by wet snow and wind, causing trees and tree limbs to fall across the service territory. Our crews may have to use snowmobiles and helicopters, as well as trek on foot through the snow to find the cause of an outage.

“Once the crews wade through 3-plus feet of snow and find the cause, we then need to fix the issues,” Vai added. “This may mean flying in poles via helicopter and using a snowmobile to haul in wire.”

Ashleigh Goodwin is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at

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