Snowmaking saves spring | SierraSun.com

Snowmaking saves spring

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/ Sierra SunGabriel McGuire snowboards wearing shorts and a T-shirt at Homewood Sunday morning. The resort closed for the season on Sunday.
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In spite of a mild winter, many Tahoe area ski resorts will attempt to stay open nearly as late as in years past, due in part to early-season snowmaking efforts.

“I’d have to say that the season went really well ” considering we didn’t have a whole lot of natural snowfall, we were able to supplement it with our snowmaking system and saw some great conditions out there,” said Northstar spokeswoman Jessica Van Pernis.

Alpine Meadows officials said the resort created a firm base much earlier in the season in an effort to extend spring skiing, particularly lower on the mountain where lifts are accessed.

“There’s a long-term plan when it comes to that snowmaking. As long as we can supply good, solid runs from the top to the bottom, we’ll do it,” said Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Rachael Woods.

Homewood Mountain Resort stayed open through Easter Weekend, and closed only a bit earlier than usual, officials said.

“The season was fairly good,” said Homewood Mountain Resort director Kimberly Shaw. “Obviously, skier counts were down due to the mild winter, but the snow was actually better than people perceived it to be.”

“Overall the season was down and slower than usual, but the holiday periods were actually very good,” she added.

“We’re snow farmers, and the crop didn’t come through like we hoped. The glass was closer to half empty than half full,” said Sugar Bowl’s director of marketing and sales Greg Murtha. “It’s been trying on everybody … everywhere.”

And while some resorts acknowledged the difficulties of running a snow-dependent business during a snow-less winter, they remain hopeful for next season.

“That said, you have to be an optimist to be in this business … one of the beautiful things about the ski business is you get a fresh start every year,” said Murtha.

But the ski resorts that are staying open still are not ruling out a late-season storm.

“The bottom line is you never know what’s going to come out of the sky this time of year,” Woods said.

Even though the resorts reported fewer skiers on the hill this year than last, taxes tell a different story. Both the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association and the Town of Truckee reported an increase in transient occupancy tax monies for the October through December quarter.

The taxes were up by about 14 percent in Truckee, said the town’s administrative services manager Diane McLaughlin.

And in North Lake Tahoe the TOT’s were up “substantially,” according to North Lake Tahoe Resort Association director of tourism Andy Chapman.

“This year the resorts opened around December fourth or fifth … there was a decent-enough product and the roads were clear, so the holiday season was very strong,” Chapman said.

The increase in tax monies can be attributed to a great autumn, ideal holiday season weather and an increase in lodging properties, said Chapman.

But Chapman said he doesn’t expect to see comparable numbers for the third quarter, January through March.

“If you take last year out … I think it’s going to be about an average third quarter if you look at the last three or four years,” Chapman said.