Resorts, businesses report mushy end to season
The ski season is melting to a slushy close, and area resorts and merchants report that the snowless end to winter had business down markedly during the last couple months.
“We were going gangbusters and then about March 1 it turned to spring and it hasn’t turned back,” said Eric Brandt, director of marketing for Squaw Valley, which plans to close for skiing May 16.
“It was by no means a great season for anyone,” said Brandt. “We’re up over last year, although last year was not a benchmark.”
While last year may not have been an exceptional ski year, it did end with several big storms during spring. This year, big storms during the January and February loaded the slopes for the season, but the winter fizzled to an end during the last couple of months.
For Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, the two area resorts still open, the warm and dry end to the season has had mixed results. While easy traveling and sunny conditions have attracted many snow lovers to the slopes, the unusually warm temperatures have many other would-be skiers hiking, biking or fishing in the summer temperatures, resort employees said.
“Driving was really easy. Even though there was a lot of snow on the slopes, the highways were quite navigable,” said Rachael Woods, spokeswoman for Alpine Meadows, which will close for skiing this Sunday. “Now our competitions are things like the beach and the lake.”
Truckee Downtown Merchants Association President Jerry Wood said that Commercial Row has felt the pinch of the warm end to winter, although he said overall business was pretty average.
“[The shoulder season] seems to have been a little longer and a little harsher,” said Wood.
Business volume is down, but not dramatically off from last year, he said.
Laura Ryan, manager at Truckee’s Best Western hotel, said that the warm weather has Bay Area residents finding other activities in their area.
“April was not very good. There were very few skiers that came up and construction hasn’t started yet, so we’re kind of in between,” said Ryan.
Local businesses are now looking ahead to Memorial Day weekend and then to the Fourth of July when tourist volume will again be high. That is also when many of the second homes will fill back up.
While the end of winter means the close of the traditional season for ski resorts, it also signals the beginning of summer events that increasingly draw visitors to the slope-side ski villages.
Squaw Valley has a lineup of festivals and concerts scheduled, and is already seeing a stream of visitors to the high camp pool.
“It will probably be our biggest summer we’ve had ever,” said Brandt.
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