TOP STORIES OF 2019: Winter wallop, coming grocery stores and a 150-year anniversary among most memorable moments of the year

Sierra Sun staff
Matt Eastman poses with his Grateful Dead themed sign at a rally to support Tahoe's bears, after a November trapping and killing.
Hannah Jones/

Record-setting snowfall to start the year, a celebration of the region’s history that stretched from spring, summer to fall and, oh yeah, the construction of those long-awaited grocery stores in Truckee all were among the top news stories in 2019.

Along the way, the Lakers and Wolverines once again solidified the North Shore as the home of champions, extending dynasties of high school state championships. And the reported trapping and killing of a Tahoe Vista bear sparked outrage and a community rally, serving as a harsh reminder of the importance of being bear aware and respecting the region’s wildlife.

so much SNOW

“I don’t think a lot of people understand how hard it is to (repeat), and especially with the target on your back.”— Jeff MurphyTruckee baseball coach

The third snowiest season on record at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows did not come to a close until early July when the resort finally ended winter operations for 2018-19. The mountain received 719 inches of snow at Squaw’s upper mountain, which included a record-setting 315 inches of snowfall in February.

Winter storms in the Tahoe area not only brought multiple feet of snow, but higher occupancy rates that helped boost the bottom line of the local economy.

Occupancy in North Lake Tahoe was up 21% from last winter, which includes data from hotels and property management companies, according to data released by the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association in April. Data collected from the resort association also showed Transient Occupancy Taxes collected between July and December in 2018 was up 15% from the same period in 2017, which equated to an additional $1.4 million.

At the end of March, Inntopia released a report on winter destinations in the West that included 290 property management companies in 18 mountain destinations across Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho.

The report, which includes data from North Lake Tahoe, showed that occupancy rates in ski towns across the West for the month of February were up 5.7% compared to February of last year, leading to an 8.1% increase in revenue.

“It’s good everywhere right now. Years like this are phenomenal for the industry,” said Tom Foley, senior vice president of business operations and analytics for Inntopia. “North Lake is enjoying sometimes too much snow, but it’s a good problem to have.”

While higher snowfall levels encourage people to return to the Tahoe area, Foley says it attracts people who have never been.

“For people who only pay attention to what they see in the media from time to time,” Foley said, “what they’re seeing is the Sierra.”


After approvals, appeals and a settled lawsuit, construction got underway at two highly anticipated Truckee grocery stores.

Raley’s broke ground on a grocery store at Soaring Way in June, with the project expected to be completed sometime next summer.

According to the project plan, Phase 1 includes a 40,000 square-foot Raley’s with an attached 12,000 square-foot commercial building and a separate 9,250 square-foot commercial building across the parking lot. Phases 2 and 3 include a 9,000 square-foot commercial building, three additional 8,000 square-foot commercial buildings and 150 multi-family apartment units.

On the other side of town, developers have broken ground on a Grocery Outlet, which will sit across Donner Pass Road from Safeway. Truckee Town Council members unanimously approved the construction of a Grocery Outlet in November, following three public hearings and months of deliberation. In April, an appeal was filed against the Planning Commission’s approval of the 16,147-square-foot market, which sparked outcry from residents surrounding the project site in the Gateway neighborhood. While the area is zoned for commercial use, residents were concerned about additional traffic in the neighborhood and on Donner Pass Road with potential parking overflow onto surrounding streets.


“We take the transcontinental railroad for granted; it doesn’t overtly affect our daily lives,” historian Bill Oudegeest wrote in May. “The transcontinental railroad, though, is responsible for the North Tahoe-Truckee-Donner Summit area today. Without the transcontinental railroad this area would be very different.”

The 150th anniversary of the railroad, which has brought travelers and emigrants and made crossing the Sierra relatively painless, was honored with a celebration worthy of its significance by the Truckee-Donner Summit Historical and Railroad Societies, which provided months of historical stories published by the Sierra Sun from May through September.

“It enabled the local lumber and ice industries,” Oudegeest wrote. “Because of the railroad, Truckee (previously named Coburn’s Station) was born. It brought artists and writers to capture the beauties of the area. It brought tourists. It made early winter sports successful and spawned the ski and snowboard industries in the area.”

“One past president of the Truckee Donner Historical Society said, ‘It all started because of the railroad.’”


Community members gathered on the beach at Tahoe Vista in late November to support wild bears that live in the Tahoe area, after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife allowed a bear to be trapped and killed earlier that month.

“It’s amazing to see these people come out and support the bears,” said Megan McClintock, an organizer of the event. “It’s apparent that we care about the wildlife and I hope we continue to do so.”

Despite the negative impact the incident had on some community members, McClintock said the rally was meant to bring people together and educate them. She said she hopes to bring an annual bear rally to Tahoe to spread awareness of how to live properly with wild bears.

According to Ann Bryant, executive director of the Bear League, a trap was set on Wildwood Drive in Tahoe Vista after a bear repeatedly broke into the car of a homeowner. The trap was triggered by a bear around 2 a.m. Nov. 8 and was taken away.

“Killing a bear has never been the solution,” said Bryant. “The bears are fine as long as you don’t invite them by leaving food in your car or your bird feeder out. It’s the simple dos and don’ts of living in bear country.”

The Department of Fish and Wildlife is required by law to issue a depredation permit if a homeowner can show property damage has occurred, said Peter Tira, information officer for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.


The Truckee girls’ soccer team took its place as the best squad in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association in November, capturing a Class 3A-record fourth-straight state championship.

Truckee took a 2-0 victory against rivals South Tahoe at Wooster High School in Reno, which marked the third straight year the Wolverines have defeated the Vikings in the finals of the Class 3A tournament. The four straight titles were a Class 3A record and second most in Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association history. Truckee has had three-peats as state champions two other times, doing so from 1996 through 1998, and again from 2007 through 2009. As a program, Truckee has the most state titles, regardless of class, with 12.

North Tahoe’s Lakers, the most decorated program in the NIAA, added to its trophy case in early November, sweeping the boys and girls’ Class 2A cross-country state championships at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno. The North Tahoe boys’ team raced to the program’s eighth straight state championship, while the Lady Lakers claimed the program’s sixth straight state title. Individually, North Tahoe junior Kili Lehmkuhl took first place, finishing the 5,000-meter course in 20 minutes, 55 seconds.

In May, for the first time in program history, the Truckee baseball team won back-to-back Nevada state baseball championships. The Wolverines rode strong pitching performances throughout the three-day state tournament in Mesquite, Nevada, allowing one run in three games on the way to winning the state title.

The Wolverines finished the season with a 30-4 record, never losing consecutive games, and won the Northern League and state championships. Due to a heavy winter in the area, the team had little time to practice outdoors and didn’t play a home game until the final series of the season.

“It’s impressive what these guys were able to do this year. I couldn’t be more happy for them,” said Truckee coach Jeff Murphy. “I don’t think a lot of people understand how hard it is to (repeat), and especially with the target on your back.”

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