Some in Tahoe concerned, others optimistic during current bout of no snow
December 21, 2011
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; With no snow and barely a chance of precipitation in the 10-day forecast, it appears the Truckee/Tahoe region is in for a blue Christmas.Businesses around the region are concerned the lack of snow will impact the number of visitors who come to the area this holiday season. And without the holiday boom, some businesses might be in for a tough year.andamp;#8220;Of course we’re concerned,andamp;#8221; said Phil Cianci, who manages The Ski Renter in South Lake Tahoe. andamp;#8220;We’ve got two things against us: the economy and the snow.andamp;#8221;John Shearer, owner of Sierra Mountain Sports, also on the South Shore, said the business is losing snowmobile rental business each day without snow.andamp;#8220;We’re fixing sleds and I’ve been selling some machines, but the rentals are a big part of business,andamp;#8221; he said.Luckily for Shearer, who also owns Tahoe Sport Fishing Company, the fishing has been decent and, with sunny weather, charter groups are still getting out on the water.
The ski resorts, which draw a lot of traffic to other businesses, are fighting to open as much terrain as possible and to let as many people know about that terrain as they can.At Northstar California, more than 25 percent of the resort’s trails andamp;#8212; equaling 15 miles and more than 200 acres andamp;#8212; are open, according to a Dec. 15 press release, and the resort anticipates its 22-foot Shaun White Signature Superpipe will be open by Christmas.andamp;#8220;The investments we’ve made in our snowmaking system over the years continue to allow us to offer our guests the best snow surface and the most open terrain in Tahoe,andamp;#8221; said Bill Rock, chief operating officer, in a statement. andamp;#8220;The feedback we’ve been hearing from our guests is that the snow quality and experience are far superior to anything else currently offered in the region.andamp;#8221;Sugar Bowl Ski Resort Spokesman John Monson said those looking for a more intimate skiing experience at a smaller resort can be assured snowmaking is in top condition on Donner Pass.andamp;#8220;We’re doing actually pretty darn good,andamp;#8221; he said Monday. andamp;#8220;It’s essentially top-to-bottom skiing over here.andamp;#8221;So far, the resort has opened five lifts and 21 trails, offering 1,500 vertical feet of groomed terrain.The story over at Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline Village is similar.andamp;#8220;The cold temperatures are allowing us to make snow 24 hours a day. We’re open top to bottom with 4 lifts running,andamp;#8221; said resort spokeswoman Barb Collier in a Monday email. andamp;#8220;We were able to open another run today … I’ve been out there a couple of time and the snow is amazing.andamp;#8221;Heavenly Mountain Resort has been able to open the Nevada base and two California bases, with lifts running on each side, though there’s not enough snow to connect the two states. The mountain has also been working to let people know there is some snow and the skiing is good.andamp;#8220;We’ve put a lot of time and expense toward creating the best possible ski and snowboard experience for our guests,andamp;#8221; said Heavenly general manager Pete Sonntag in a statement. andamp;#8220;We’re extremely excited to have the California side of our mountain open in time for the Christmas holiday.andamp;#8221;South of Lake Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort opened Saturday with its Broadway Express chair running. Conditions were not ideal, said general manager John Rice in an interview last Friday.andamp;#8220;Sierra is very dependent on natural snow, and with the lack of snow to date it will present some challenges to our operations,andamp;#8221; Rice said in an email. andamp;#8220;People seem to understand that we are making an effort to make the best of the situation.andamp;#8221;
Some business owners remain hopeful a bounty of snow will still fall this winter. After all, winter officially doesn’t start until Dec. 22.andamp;#8220;We’re still in the process of maintaining tractors and plows and taking in contracts,andamp;#8221; said Rob Kalbs, owner of All Clean Snow Removal on the South Shore. andamp;#8220;As far as I’m concerned this is a typical winter.andamp;#8221;There are also businesses that seemingly would rely on heavy snowfall, but have found a way to stabilize the up and down conditions. On the South Shore, Alpine Smith Snow Removal charges a seasonal contract price that’s not dependent on the amount of snow that comes down.andamp;#8220;We’ve found a way to isolate ourselves from those variations,andamp;#8221; said owner Daron Smith. andamp;#8220;But I do sympathize with the folks in town who rely on the tourist-based economy.andamp;#8221;In terms of resort reservations, Andy Chapman, tourism director for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, said advance bookings in October were up 35 percent year over the past year for 18 different North Lake Tahoe properties.andamp;#8220;Last year was phenomenal, no doubt, and now we are on the other end of that and are seeing below normal precipitation,andamp;#8221; Chapman said. andamp;#8220;The good thing is that cold temperatures have allowed resorts to make a lot of snow. Given the fact that we have had limited natural snowfall, the resorts still can put a nice product on the ground.andamp;#8221;On Monday, Squaw Valley spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said cold temperatures and diverse terrain have provided strong ski conditions despite limited snowfall.Judging the season collectively, Richmond said she’s confident more snow will eventually fall, considering the region is known for its andamp;#8220;feast or famineandamp;#8221; winters.Adam and Scott Kmitta, co-owners of Truckee’s Black Tie Ski Rentals branch, said Monday their revenues this month are 95 percent of last year’s, and the company has had to hire more staff to accommodate the demand in current and future reservations.andamp;#8220;We’re actually very busy right now,andamp;#8221; said Adam Kmitta. andamp;#8220;People have booked in advance and we’re running at full capacity right now.andamp;#8221;The company that offers private delivery ski and snowboard rentals has noticed a change in the length of ski reservations, Adam said, with bookings typically lasting 3-4 days versus 6-7 days compared to last year. While booking are shorter, he said the amount of reservations has increased to fill the gap in revenue.andamp;#8220;People are waiting to find out what is going to happen with the snow,andamp;#8221; Adam said.A lag in snow this time of year could have repercussions for many businesses further down the line, said Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Carol Chaplin.andamp;#8220;We’re all tapping our foot and hoping this doesn’t continue too long,andamp;#8221; Chaplin said. andamp;#8220;This is one of those times where we begin to be challenged to have a really robust season.andamp;#8221;andamp;#8212; Rob Sabo of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly and Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.