Resorts’ profits down for holiday season
A large holiday crowd chose Tahoe as the place to be at the start of the new century, but with less snow than usual, the turnout at area ski resorts was lower than previous holiday weekends.Local merchants, however, reported their busiest weekend ever.”People had a lot of money to spend,” said Christine Briones, owner of Camila’s at Tahoe in the Boatworks Mall.The wind and the lack of snow kept people inside.Camila’s at Tahoe has been in business for nine years and Briones said that last Saturday was the busiest ever.”There were as many as 25 people here at a time,” Briones said.Ski shops and rental shops seemed to do all right despite the lack of snow.”When compared to last year, the lack of snow affected us,” said Scott Willers, general manager at Dave’s Skis & Boards. “But when compared to two years ago when it rained, we did good. Nobody wants to ski in the rain. Renters like to ski in the sun.”And last weekend’s weather was perfect for that.Although, the lack of snow did pose some problems to their equipment.”Our equipment got thrashed,” Willers said.Sharp rocks damaged some of their equipment beyond repair. But overall Willers said the New Year’s crowd was renting more than the Christmas crowd.What was a prosperous weekend for merchants was not as prosperous for ski resorts.Homewood Mountain Resort announced on Monday that they will operate only five days a week. They will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays until they receive more natural snow.”Without additional skier and rider demand, we feel we’ll see skier visit numbers at levels which just do not make operating on Mondays and Tuesdays feasible,” said Jim Mitchell, Homewood Mountain Resort general manager.Mitchell added that this was not an easy decision to make. Homewood will continue to evaluate their current position based on the weather in the future and skier demand.But Homewood did report that the holiday weekend was fine.”The numbers were down a bit from the years before,” said Collier Cook, Marketing Director at Homewood. “I think we did the best we possibly could with the conditions we had.”Alpine Meadows reported a great holiday weekend.The parking lots were packed, said Rachael Woods, director of public relations at Alpine, and people flocked to the resort.Snow machines have been working overtime to keep Alpine Meadows open.The snow machines produce enough snow to cover 162 acres with an average of 1 foot of snow.”Ironically, the numbers were up the week before New Year’s,” said Robert Olmer, director of sales/marketing at Alpine.”For Christmas and New Years we were down, but still managed to come in with pretty strong numbers overall.”Woods credits the sun as one of the factors the resort did so well.Tahoe Nordic Ski Center, a new operation, was not able to open for the holiday season.”We’re all set up, we’re just waiting for the next storm to open us up,” said Kevin Murnane, ski area manager.Tahoe Nordic Ski Center needs at least 6 inches of snow to open up and a total of 1.5 feet to be able to groom the runs.Squaw Valley USA reported a steady crowd throughout the holiday season – slightly down from the last couple of years.”We ultimately did the business that we had estimated based on the conditions. We knew we were going to be slower than last season,” said Squaw Valley director of sales, Brent McLean. “For us the big thing is it’s not just skiing – we have ice skating, sledding and other snow activities. So we kind of have a leg up on the others.”Katja Dahl, media/public relations director at Squaw Valley, wasn’t sure if the smaller crowd was due to concerns over the Y2K bug or lack of snow.The lack of snow doesn’t seem to be affecting Squaw Valley’s employment situation. They currently report that they are 80 to 90 percent staffed.Dahl said they are “still optimistic” even though this year’s ski season has gotten off to a slow start.Sugar Bowl’s sales manager Bill Hudson reported that Sugar Bowl’s numbers were approximately down 40 percent over the holidays compared to last year.The mountain, however, is 100 percent open and employees are still working hard to blow snow.”Conditions are actually better than people are expecting, especially on the groomed runs,” Hudson said.”We feel like we’re suffering from the perception that there’s no snow up here at all. The important thing is people are still having fun.”-Abby Hutchison contributed to this article
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