The tides of Tahoe City | SierraSun.com

The tides of Tahoe City

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun

While residents of the North Lake Tahoe area often associate autumn with a peaceful and quiet break between vacation seasons, those in need of employment may not find themselves as comfortable as others.

As activity declines in the area, local business begins to slow down, forcing employers to suspend hiring, causing many people looking for jobs to sit and wait.

“From a population standpoint, this is when you get a transition of people who have been here for the summer and are leaving to do something else for the winter,” said Andy Chapman, Director of Tourism for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

“This is the time when vacation homes are being boarded up for the hiatus between seasons.”

For the retail industry, this down time challenges the patience of both employees and employers.

“It’s pretty wavy,” says Porters’ ski shop manager Andy Menendes. “We can go from two employees to 20, down to five, back up to 20, and for a lot of that we rely on people’s flexibility to work with us.”

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To get through these limited hours during shoulder seasons, it has become normal for many employees to seek second or third jobs.

“The trick is getting people in the door with appropriate pay and the amount of hours they can survive on,” said Menendes, adding they normally offer three to four days of work a week for those with other jobs. “It basically comes down to what is available when it’s slow.”

Equally affected by the lack of activity during the shoulder season, the restaurant industry faces similar problems this time of year.

David Lutz, owner of Evergreen in Tahoe City, regards the shoulder season as a kind of balancing act for business owners. In an effort to condense business, Lutz will begin closing Evergreen one full day a week while trying to provide enough hours for his current staff. Though Lutz is cutting back on hours, he wants to avoid cutting back on employees.

“I would rather cut back on hours and hope people can hold out until business picks up,” Lutz said. “It’s hard to cut back on staff because you lose that training.”

As retail and hospitality business owners batten down the financial hatches for the next few months, they hope employees are prepared.

“People who live in the area year round and work in the hospitality business understand it ebbs and flows,” Lutz said. “If they’re smart they save money to get them through the shoulder seasons.”

While adapting to flexible hours between multiple jobs may seem like a daunting task, it has benefits.

“One of the things hourly flexibility offers is an opportunity to go out and ride a couple of hours before or after work,” Menendes said. “In the winter time, if you’re not out playing in the snow and it’s snowing 10 days straight, you’re going to get a little grumpy.”

Resort job fairs coming soonSki resorts are now beginning the hiring process by making information available to applicants and hosting job fairs in late October. In addition to the job fairs, resorts offer information and opportunities on their Web sites, each allowing you to browse jobs and apply online.

“It’s a great way to effectively manage your time while searching for a specific job,” said Kim Fabel, program manager for the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, suggesting, “It’s always best in my opinion to meet someone face to face.”

“The job fair is a great opportunity for managers from the different departments to meet the applicants face to face,” said Squaw’s public relations manager Savanna Cowley. “It is hard to decipher which applications are serious because a lot of them could be from someone who puts in applications at 20 other resorts.”

While the shoulder season can bring troubling financial times for many in the area, most have faith in the upcoming winter.

“We are clearly weather driven,” says Kelly Atchley of the Tahoe City Downtown Association. “However, Orbitz picked North Lake Tahoe as the No. 1 destination by visitors. We remain very high up regionally, nationally and internationally as a destination resort.”

For those discouraged by the slow nature of business during the fall, employers always welcome applications.

“There is a lot of turnover in the restaurant business and things change quickly, often without any notice,” said Lutz, adding, “We always take your information.”