West Shore ambulance service not settled | TahoeDailyTribune.com

West Shore ambulance service not settled

Residents of the West Shore of Lake Tahoe have an emergency on their hands – or at least they will, if something isn’t done soon. On Tuesday, Fifth District Supervisor Dave Solaro spearheaded the creation of a citizens committee to explore ambulance service options to the West Shore. The ambulance dilemma was one of the main items on the agenda at the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting at Tahoe Paradise Park on Tuesday. Currently, the communities of Meeks Bay, Rubicon and Tahoma are under service with the North Tahoe Fire Protection District. But NTFPD is raising its fees in June – from $38,000 per year to $113,000. If West Shore residents decide they want to keep NTFPD, they must somehow come up with the money. One idea is a sales tax, which would go before voters in June. Another option is increased parcel fees. Or, West Shore communities could contract with Lake Tahoe Ambulance in South Shore. “Contracting with South Lake Tahoe is not really not an option for us,” said Edward Miller, president of the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District Board of Directors. “There are distance and weather concerns. You can’t say to people who call 911 that it’s going to take two hours for an ambulance to get there.” Solaro and Second District Supervisor Ray Nutting will be working with West Shore communities to plan their next move. “Ultimately it will be up to these communities as to what the final outcome will be,” Solaro said. “But we’re here to help.” Solaro indicated that one solution could be for a contract with South Lake Tahoe for ambulance service, using NTFPD as a backup during times when the roads are closed due to snow.

Tahoe regional planners approve logging project to remove dead and dying trees

Lake Tahoe regulators have approved the logging of 270 acres north of Bliss State Park on the lake’s west shore to remove dead and dying trees and thin thick stands of fir. It’s the first logging operation approved since last year, when 113 acres owned by the Tahoe City Public Utility District were logged. TRPA fined Menasha Corp., the logging contractor on that job, $160,000 after agency officials said at least 49 old growth trees were felled in violation of regulations designed to protect trees greater than 30 inches in diameter. Company officials maintain they did nothing wrong. The matter is being argued in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. In approving the latest project Wednesday, TRPA officials said they’ve taken steps to guard against similar problems, including the hiring of a full-time forester who will mark trees to be felled and monitor the over-the-snow logging operation this winter. Jesse Jones, the forester, said he has already surveyed the property owned by Tamarack Mutual Water Co. ”There’s a lot of mortality out there and that’s a lot of wood that’s basically firewood,” Jones said. ”I see the project as moving the forest toward a more natural condition.”

No Tahoe snow = no Tahoe dough

LAKE TAHOE — A bright, flashing yellow sign warns motorists driving on Highway 28 around Lake Tahoe to be aware of icy conditions. Not likely for most of this winter — and small businesses are scrambling to avoid going into a skid themselves. For the Central Sierra region, the snow water equivalent — the amount of water produced if all the snow melted — for late January was just 14 percent of the 50-year average, the California Department of Water Resources reports. Before the storm that arrived late last week, the most recent real snowfall outside of a 1-inch dusting in January was 1 to 4 inches that fell on Dec. 19. Many of the small businesses, eateries and ski rental shops around the lake that depend on revenue from skiers and snowboarders are feeling the drought with empty cash registers and near-vacant stores. Some shifted their focus to springtime activities or are buoyed by a strong local following that's keeping revenue flowing. Businesses that rent skis and snowboards clearly are among the hardest hit. On the South Shore, Shoreline Adventure Center in Stateline displays a sign in its front window telling patrons to call store employees if they need help. "We can be here in five minutes," the sign says. The shop's parking lot was empty of cars on a recent sunny Sunday. Businesses around the gondola operations at nearby Heavenly Village fare slightly better than those outside that large visitor hub. Managers at Up Shirt Creek in the Heavenly village say business has been soft, but there's been no cutbacks in hours for employees. A few storefronts away at Powderhouse Boot and Demo Center, master boot fitter and store manager Bobby Trask mans a nearly empty store just a stone's throw from the Heavenly gondola. During a normal winter, the store would be full of patrons looking to demo high-end skis and boots. Its location has helped with boot and ski sales and demo packages, Trask says, but total volume at Powderhouse for the year is down significantly from years past. The shop has scaled back on employee hours in response to reduced customer traffic. "Most times in the middle of winter, when we have a ton of snow, it is cranking in here," Trask says. "Our store, we really get a lot of the destination customers, people coming up from the Bay (Area), and not a lot of people are coming here because of the lack of snow." Other small businesses have given up on winter and moved into spring/summer mode. Borges Sleigh and Carriage Rides, the venerable business across the street from the Montbleu Resort Casino, is closed. Borges sleigh operators instead have been giving visitors to the lake carriage rides along the California side of South Lake Tahoe. Owner Dwight Borges carries on the family business started by his father in 1967. He says Borges Sleigh and Carriage Rides typically has carriages running on good weather days even during snowy winters so despite not running the sleighs business has been stable. "There still are quite a few people coming up to Lake Tahoe; it is still a destination for tourists, and offering a fun activity, whether it's on snow or not, is what they are looing for," Borges says. "If we weren't doing carriage rides, we would be doing something else in order to survive," he adds. "One way or another we would adapt. You do what you have to in order to make things work." In Incline Village, businesses catering to locals are treading water. T's Mesquite Rotisserie, a North Shore institution, still sells out of its mouth-watering chicken on busy weekend days. Alyssa Aninos, store manager at Dress the Part(y) in Incline Village, says the lack of snow hasn't hurt business as much as it's hit the ski resorts or sporting goods shops, but business still is down from last year. The 4,000-square-foot store sells costumes, makeup and party goods. "We are lucky that we have our locals. I feel fortunate that we cater to locals versus someone who might cater to the tourism industry," Aninos says. Kyle Davis, owner of the The Crest Café and Catering at Alpine Meadows on the California side of North Tahoe, says business is off, but not terribly so, mainly because of dedicated local clientele that has kept the doors open the past eight years. Winters normally are busier than summers, Davis adds, because The Crest is open later to accommodate skiers coming off the slopes at Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. Despite a poor snow season for 2012-2013, The Crest had its best year on record, Davis adds. Much of that spike in revenue could be attributed to huge snowfall totals in December of 2012 that set resorts up with a good base of snow for the season. "It's all about the holidays," he says. "If we can get enough snow to get people excited to come up for the holidays we all do pretty good. "This year, we are OK. It hasn't really been terrible, surprisingly enough. I have friends that are in business here, and some are 80 percent down — that is make or break — but I don't know if the restaurant business is little different. People still need to eat and are looking for other things to do when the snow is not that great." On the flip side, business is booming at Sierra Mountain Sports tubing hill and snowmobile rental facility at Lake Parkway on the South Shore. Last year, Sierra Mountain Sports invested in utilities to power seven snowmaking guns and purchased a snowcat with a tiller blade to create a tubing hill. Business this year has been "crazy," says Manager Donnie Pereira. On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, the hill was full of tubers young and old enjoying the artificial snow. "There's nowhere else to go," Pereira says. "We have the only snow play place in South Lake Tahoe. The only people in operation are those who are making snow. People are driving around looking for places to play, but they end up coming back to us." Sierra Mountain Sports rents between 100 and 120 tubes per day. Manager Bill Higginbotham says the poor snow conditions couldn't have been better for the fledgling operation.

Snow in Tahoe is good for business

Prospects are bright for winter business in the Tahoe Basin – and they’re getting brighter every day. The slew of recent storms brought thousands of snow-lovers to the region, boosting business beyond expectation, with promises of more to come. “We’ve had to turn people away for Christmas reservations for the last couple weeks,” said Jill Fuerst, innkeeper at Sorensen’s and Hope Valley Resort. “We’ve had lots and lots of calls from people who want to make reservations or just want to be up here for the holiday season. I think all the storms and snow have really reminded people to make their Christmas plans, and to make them here.” Barbara Cunningham, a senior clerk at Lake Tahoe Winter Sports Center, said she began scheduling snowmobile tours five days earlier this year than last. “We’re off to an early start. We opened Thursday before Thanksgiving and we have reservations all the way into February,” Cunningham said. “Overall, our daily business is up over 25 percent.” And ski resorts were off to a glorious start, too. “We have 2 1/2 more feet of snow this year over last,” said Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Public Relations Manager Nancy Harrison. “Now we have 3 to 5 1/2 feet of base depth and 34 out of 46 runs open.” And Sierra is ahead of the game. Harrison said they planned to open the resort Dec. 4, but thanks to the heavy snowfalls they were able to open Nov. 25. “That’s a week earlier than last year. Our business is up and weather forecasters are predicting a whole line of storms bringing more snow over the next few days,” Harrison said. In addition to the 26 inches of snow recorded at South Lake Tahoe Airport since October, almost 20 inches more than last year, weather forecasters say a number of storms are lined up across the Pacific and will hit the Sierra Nevada at 48- to 72-hour intervals over the next few weeks. “We’re expecting heavy snow falls down to 4,400 feet Thursday night,” said Weather Service Specialist Terry Ryan. “The snowfalls should last through Sunday.” Heavenly Ski Resort’s Communications Director Monica Bandows said the storms are pushing Tahoe back to the forefront of the ski resort industry. “I really think Lake Tahoe is going through a ski business Renaissance,” Bandows said. “Lake Tahoe as a region gets more skier visits annually than the entire state of Utah. All the snow we’ve got now really gives us a competitive edge going into the season.” More than 48 percent of Heavenly’s slopes are open, Bandows said, and about 80 percent should open by the weekend, including the Nevada and the California sides of the mountain. “We got just under 3 feet of fresh snow over the weekend. It appears that we’re about 30 percent ahead in snowfall over last year, with a base depth ranging from 12 to 42 inches last year and 30 to 60 inches this year,” Bandows said. “Such a good start should help the entire Basin, this bodes really well for business.” Back to Front Page

Snow puts Tahoe in business

Winter arrived at Lake Tahoe with a bang Wednesday, as a Pacific storm blanketed the Sierra and created a wintry scene in the Tahoe Basin the day before Thanksgiving. Up to 3 feet of snow fell on higher slopes and 4 inches of wet snow fell at lake level, the first accumulation of the season. The snowfall raised the expectations of Tahoe residents for a successful winter season. “I’m happy,” said Dede Riggs of South Lake Tahoe, a Harrah’s Lake Tahoe dealer. “We’re always hoping for a white Thanksgiving. It starts the year off on a good note and helps business.” Snow showers were expected to linger into the evening Wednesday, but the skies should clear today for holiday travelers. Forecasters said another storm system should arrive by Saturday night, but it is expected to lack the punch of Wednesday’s storm. Many of the region’s 16 ski resorts announced plans to open on Thanksgiving Day or the day after. Of the resorts closest to South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Ski Resort opened Friday, but will expand the available terrain, while Kirkwood Ski Resort plans to open today and Sierra-at-Tahoe on Friday. Sierra-at-Tahoe will offer three hours of free skiing today, from noon to 3 p.m. “I was a little worried before this storm came,” said Nancy Harrison, public relations director for Sierra-at-Tahoe. “We were waiting until (Wednesday) to see if we’d open. Now, I can’t wait.” Business was brisk at Heavenly Sports, as visitors and residents alike prepared for their first days on skis this season. “People began rolling into town yesterday and today,” said Chris Thorne, the shop manager. “Today, everybody is buying a lot of accessories – goggles, gloves, that kind of thing. A lot of skiers are also getting their skis tuned up.” On the slopes of Heavenly Ski Resort, early-season skiers suddenly had more terrain open to them. Spokesman Don Evans said the pace of activity picked up as the snowflakes began to fall. “The phones are ringing off the hook,” Evans said. “Let the skiing and snowboard riding begin!” Kirkwood Ski Resort was planning to open today, but the storm will allow the resort to open more terrain, said spokeswoman Tania Magidson. “We’re elated,” Magidson said, adding that the Alpine County resort received 2 to 3 feet overnight. “The early-season snow is important. We’re generally open two out of three Thanksgivings. It’s not crucial, but it’s always good for the season as a whole.” The only local ski area not to open this weekend is Homewood Ski Resort, which received 20 inches of snow on the higher slopes but just 4 inches at the base. The resort plans to open in early December. About the only residents unhappy with the storm were those with travel plans or expecting visitors from out of the area. Most highways remained open, but chains were required much of Wednesday over the passes. Many weather-savvy locals decided to stay home for the holiday. “The best story is we stayed home and stayed out of the storm,” said Steve Mahnken of South Lake Tahoe. “We’ve lived here 21 years; that’s plenty of winters.”

It will snow, forecasters say

A winter storm packing heavy wind and snow was expected to land in the Sierra today, making for dangerous driving conditions for holiday travelers. The National Weather Service in Reno issued a winter storm warning through 4 p.m. today, with snow levels dropping to lake level and up to 2 feet of snow above 7,000 feet. While the brunt of the storm is expected to hit the northern-most stretches of the Sierra, forecasters say the Lake Tahoe Basin could get its share, with 6 to 10 inches expected at around the 6,000-foot level. Winds were clocked at 90 mph Sunday afternoon at Mount Rose and Slide Mountain, north of Tahoe, as the storm began to make its way into the basin. At least two power lines fell in the Spring Creek area near Camp Richardson. The wind is expected to continue throughout the storm, making for blizzard-like conditions earlier this morning. Motorists are encouraged to carry snow chains today as the storm is not expected to let up until this afternoon. “It’s a pretty good, quick storm. We have a good amount of moisture feed off of the Pacific,” said weather service forecaster Brian O’Hara. “The storms will help bring the snowpack up, which will help with the water situation, and more snow is good for the ski areas.” December has been a wetter than normal month on the books, with more than 12 inches of rain and snow falling in the basin, according to the weather service. However, many of the storms that came through were warm in nature, with snow levels above 8,000 feet. In South Lake Tahoe, 8.33 inches of rain has fallen in December, with 7.5 inches of snow, according to Simon Smith, a National Weather Service weather watcher on the South Shore. Today’s storm, however, could break the rain cycle, which is good news for South Shore area ski resorts. While snow conditions have been decent, they will almost certainly become better if the storms brings cold temperatures. “Conditions are good out here. It’s been more like spring skiing. The groomers have gotten us into great shape and the snow has softened up,” said Tracy Miller, spokeswoman for Kirkwood Mountain Resort. “We’ve gotten through this (warmer weather) pretty well. We’re really now looking forward to powder conditions.” At Heavenly Mountain Resort, the warm weather has brought people to the mountain, where conditions through Sunday morning made for perfect skiing, said John Wagnon, vice president of marketing and sales. “We started out the season with great coverage and the ability to make a lot of snow coming into the holiday. We had the warm storm come in but it didn’t really diminish our coverage on the upper mountain,” he said. “With the storm coming in, we’re looking to adding 12 or more inches to our already 3 to 4 foot base.” Sierra-at-Tahoe reports sizeable holiday crowds, and people on the slopes Christmas day using their new equipment. While temperatures did climb during the week allowing for some melting, the mountain remains 100 percent opened. “Locals are more attuned to the weather. But I think when people plan their vacation, they want to go out and have a good time – whether it is skiing, boarding, ski lessons or trying on all their new Christmas presents, said Sierra spokeswoman Nicole Klay. Another storm is expected to move into the Sierra on Wednesday, also bringing with it more snow, and, perhaps another storm will land in the Sierra by Friday or Saturday, O’Hara said. “It looks like seasonable temperatures through the week which means not too much melting so the snowpack should stick around,” O’Hara said. “We will start off the new year good, water wise.” A year ago, the Sierra received several feet of snow after Christmas and into the New Year, bringing with it enough snowpack through the spring to take the basin out of drought status.

Sierra snowpack below average after dry month

Almost every year since 1987, Chief of the California Cooperative Snow Survey Frank Gehrke has recorded a mid-winter lull during which fewer storms hit the Sierra Nevada. And 2013 was no exception. The water content at Phillips Station near Echo Summit was 12.7 inches Tuesday, or 66 percent of the long-term average. When Gehrke conducted the year’s first survey at the start of the month, water content was at 101 percent of average. Statewide, the snowpack water content was 93 percent of average for the date and 55 percent of the April 1 measurement –typically the snowpack’s peak. “Unfortunately as we foresaw, we had very little storm activity in January. The storage in the reservoirs is the bright spot, but that’s not to say the snowpack can’t come back. It’s just not as optimistic as before,” Gehrke said. Gehrke said the Northern Sierra Nevada typically experience a mid-winter lull in storm activity that for the past few years has come in January. High-pressure centers build up just off the coast and then act as a barrier that prevents winter storms from moving inland toward California. Instead, the storms get rerouted toward the Pacific Northwest or Alaska. Those systems can even affect the Midwest or the East Coast if they detour to the north. “The duration of the lull is the difference between a good water year and a so-so water year. We typically get water during discrete, intense events. We have storms that come through and dump a bunch of snow,” Gehrke said. SNOTEL data collected over the last decade from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows that snowpack water content tends to flatline for about two to six weeks in January or early February before rising gradually through March or the start of April. While the length and severity of the lull varies, each year since 2004 saw a period of little or no snow. Meteorologists can’t predict how long the high-pressure centers will blockade the coast, nor do they know exactly why they form during the winter, Gehrke said. It’s probably linked to long-term ocean patterns like the ones that cause El Nino and La Nina, but there isn’t enough data yet to piece together the details, he said. None of those massive winter storms that skiers and riders dream about have moved through the region recently. Unless the South Shore gets what Gehrke calls a “miracle March” or another series of powerful storms, snowpack water content will be about what it was last spring, he said. The forecast isn’t entirely negative though. Gehrke said those high-pressure centers seem to be dissipating and important water-storage reservoirs are above average thanks to precipitation in November and December. Lake Oroville is at 113 percent of average for the date and Lake Shasta is at 111 percent of average, according to a Department of Water Resources press release. The DWR estimates that it will deliver 40 percent of the requested water this year to supply 25 million individuals and almost 1 million acres of irrigated farmland. The snowpack normally provides about one third of the water for California. “Those early-season storms also erased the deficit in our reservoir storage, but relatively dry weather this month is once again a reminder that the weather is unpredictable and we must always practice conservation,” DWR Director Mark Cowin said in the release.

Snowstorm forecasted to hit South Lake Tahoe

It seems Mother Nature isn't prepared to leave South Lake Tahoe too high and dry this season, as forecasters predict up to 8 inches of snowfall at lake level by Monday. Snowfall is expected to begin falling this afternoon and continue into Saturday morning, said Jessica Kielhorn, forecaster for the National Weather Service. However, warm air could turn the snow into rain around mid-day. "The problem is, by Saturday afternoon, what's going to happen is we're gong to see the snow levels jump up drastically," she said. In other words, higher elevations will likely experience snow all weekend and receive several feet over the next few days. "Basically what we're looking at is several feet of heavy, wet, Sierra-cement snow," Kielhorn said. Snow will start falling at lake level elevations again Sunday night, she said. As for weekend temperatures, highs and lows are expected to remain fairly consistent throughout the storm. Kielhorn forecasted highs settling around 40 degrees with lows lingering in the low- to mid-30s. She also anticipates winds reaching up to 35 mph later today, but dying down Saturday afternoon. For South Lake Tahoe, the wet weather will arrive about a week after a storm dumped 2 feet of snow on Heavenly and up to a foot in town. Dan Beermann, general manager at the Beacon Bar & Grill, said the benefits of snowfall are already easy to see. "On the weekend after a storm," he said, "you can see a big influx (in customers), and it definitely does help business." "In the long term, it's white gold for the town," Beermann added. Mike Frye, event and media relations manager at the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, seemed to agree. "There's nothing we can say ourselves that a good storm can't say better," he said. Business and reservations around town are up, which bodes well with the arrival of snow, Frye said. The excitement level has also spiked among potential visitors since last week's storm. "What that says is people are stoked," Frye said. South Lake Tahoe came close to getting its average amount of January precipitation this season, pulling in 2.27 inches for the month instead of the average 2.67 inches, according to the National Weather Service. February precipitation is falling behind, too, as the Weather Service reports 0.06 inches in the first six days of the month instead of the average 0.26 inches.

Ice cream, snow queens and Vulcans: SnowFest! celebrates 34th year

For 34 years, the first week of March has meant SnowFest! for North Lake Tahoe and Truckee. SnowFest! means fireworks and skiers parading to the bottom of Squaw Valley while holding torchlights. It means swimmers attempting to swim faster then any of the other fools in the icy cold water at Gar Woods. And, of course, it means hundreds of viewers cheering their friends and family marching in our charming Tahoe City and Kings Beach parades. It's 10 days packed with dozens of events designed to give folks a chance to have some fun and connect with friends. BOB EVERSON'S VISION SnowFest! began in the mind of Bob Everson, who in 1981 was marketing director at Alpine Meadows. He made a proposal to the North Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and Visitors and Convention Bureau for a March event to attract people to North Lake Tahoe. In those days, the ski areas were busy from Christmas through the end of February, but then traffic began to drop off, even though in most cases the snow depth hadn't yet reached its peak. Everson knew that if you could just entice people up here, they would discover the skiing is usually awesome in March. A group of locals including Everson met for the first time to discuss the idea in June 1981, and 10 days later, Everson tragically died. As he slept on his boat attached to a buoy on that Fourth of July night, a boat plowed right through his vessel. At its next meeting, just a few days after Everson's death, the group was spurred to make the event happen in his honor, and the first SnowFest! was held in 1982. Since, SnowFest! has become an important part of the Lake Tahoe lifestyle. CREATING MEMORIES SnowFest! has always been about a variety of events to satisfy a wide range of folks, whether they want to party like it's 1999, join in a competition or just enjoy being part of something exotic such as the Gar Woods Polar Bear Swim. You can also find lots of good food, and you can dress up Hawaiian and head for the Sunnyside Luau, where you will find delicious aloha concoctions, a hula pie-eating contest and Hula Hoop contest. You can find stick-to-your-ribs fare at the Bridgetender's Rib Fest. Or for seafood, you can head to the Za's Clam Bake. SnowFest! also specializes in the quirky. Like any winter festival should have, there is a Snow Sculpting Contest, but SnowFest! also has a Snow-making contest, a Dress Up your Dog Contest, Paint the Bear Contest, Dog Pull and that ever-popular Ice Cream Eating Contest. Oh yeah, and don't forget the Polar Bear swim. There really is something for everyone. But for those of us who have been around for years, what SnowFest! is really all about is a gathering of community and the creation of new SnowFest! memories. It's a time to hang with your Tahoe buds and be reminded of the wonderful place we live. It's a chance for generations to join together to have fun. And, since it's been around for 34 years, it's a chance for the children of young parents to experience what their parents experienced as children. 'CRAZY, COMPETITIVE FUN ENVIRONMENT' If you grew up in North Tahoe, SnowFest! is in your blood, long after you left town for college and life in the big city. My 22-year-old daughter, Hannah Hauserman, who now lives in Los Angeles, remembers as a small child, "catching the candy and watching the Queen" at the Tahoe City parade. She remembers "the guys with the shovels" (The Kiwanis' synchronized snow-shoveling team that will appear again this year) and "hiding every time the scary guys with black paint came close." Those scary guys were the Vulcans from the St. Paul Winter Carnival, who would come to the event sharing good cheer and a healthy dose of black paint, which they reserved for the faces of females of all ages. "I also walked in the parade a few times as a Girl Scout," Hannah says. "We felt a little famous in our small town." While Casey Canino, who now lives in New York, also remembers how important it was to avoid those guys with the black paint, what she remembers most was the Ice Cream Eating contest. "I don't think I've ever been in a more crazy, competitive, fun environment then when those hilarious parents were egging their kids on to eat so much ice cream," Casey says. One of the biggest ice cream eaters was one of Casey's classmates at Tahoe Community Nursery School, now-25-year-old Eric Holman, who says, "I will never forget the elated feeling of hoisting the hard-earned first place plaque held between still sticky fingers, even though I had a wicked brain freeze." THE VULCAN CREWE So who are those guys with the black paint who those Tahoe girls remember so well from their childhood? They are members of the St. Paul Winter Carnival Krewe, and this year the seven of them will be the grand marshalls of SnowFest!. The Krewe — or Vulcans to many of us — are a group of guys from Minnesota who have traveled for 30 years to be a lively and fun … and a memorable part of the parades and events during SnowFest!. For the Vulcan named Sparky, also known as Steve Frattalone, this will be his 23rd year coming out to Tahoe to be a part of SnowFest!. "The community of North Lake Tahoe are very, very dear friends," he says. "We love to help them celebrate SnowFest!, and we are so glad when we see the people there." Every year the Vulcans travel at their own expense, paying hefty sums for airfare, lodging and the cost of attending every event they can stuff into their busy schedule. But for them, it is money well spent, because they are invested in North Lake Tahoe. How did they start coming here in the first place? Frattalone blames it on current SnowFest! Executive Director Ruth Schnabel. When she was a child, Schnabel loved attending the St. Paul Winter Carnival, the home base of the Vulcans. As SnowFest! director in 1985, she was attending an International Event Festival in Milwaukee and met a Vulcan, who she convinced needed to come out to SnowFest! with some of his Vulcan buddies. Thirty years later, they are still at it, including one of the originals, Bob Matson, who has been coming to North Tahoe each of the last 30 years. Every few years, the Vulcans bring along a rookie, whose indoctrination ceremony is swimming in the famous Gar Woods Polar Bear Swim. Of course, to a true Minnesotan, that's like taking a dip in the warm waters of the tropics. 'IT'S GOING TO BE FUN' Schnabel has been the Director of SnowFest! off and on for 19 of its 34 years. Every year the SnowFest! Queen candidates are interviewed by SnowFest!, and she says that one question always asked of the girls is: What is their favorite SnowFest! memory? Schnabel says that invariably they answer the parade and the Ice Cream Eating contest. But the girls running for SnowFest! Queen also vividly remember the moment they decided they wanted to be SnowFest! Queen. For most, it was when as little girls they looked up at the Queen wearing a tiara smiling and waving at them as she rode by in the parade. And, while SnowFest! certainly brings fun times and great memories, Schnabel says it also brings money to our community. SnowFest! commissioned an economic impact study of the event in 2010, organized by Washington-based survey firm Birchhill Enterprises, and carried out by students at Sierra Nevada College. More than 500 people and businesses were interviewed, and it was determined the impact of SnowFest! on the economy that year was nearly $3.5 million. "I'm excited about SnowFest! this year because I feel like the community is in the doldrums after the winter we've had," Schnabel says. "Not only will SnowFest! bring out-of-town visitors to the area, but it will give locals a chance to celebrate life at Tahoe. It's going to be fun." For a full schedule of SnowFest! events visit http://www.tahoesnowfestival.com. Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at writeonrex@yahoo.com.

Snow gods shower businesses with green

By Susan Wood Tribune staff writer Anyone in the service industry – including those peddling toiletries to lodging establishments – may be due for a long winter’s nap after enduring the harried pace of the past two weeks. Overall, it appeared holiday tourism sales turned out to be better than last year – despite severe weather conditions that left some people stranded, many indoors and others unable to make it over the mountain passes. Andy Chapman of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association said his agency was forced to quickly find alternative lodging options for motorists who were stuck on Interstate 80 – which shut down last week during the severe storms. When the numbers are calculated, Chapman believes they’ll show longer stays among the majority of visitors. “Generally speaking, I’m hearing it was better than last year. The (severe) weather didn’t seem to impact the hotel side (of business),” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Bill Chernock said Monday. Business was good for the major hotels, and now with the snow and word of improvements at the ski resorts and elsewhere, Chernock said he’s optimistic January will bring out visitors clamoring to ride over the deep snowpack. From Meyers to Stateline, tourism workers had tales to tell. “We were busy the whole period. With traffic backed up, they really hit us hard,” said Margie Daum of the Chevron in Meyers. The slow traffic caused by the weather affected the intake and outtake of the visitors. Those waiting to get in and out of town near her service station descended on the place, buying up merchandise like soda and bottled water. Chevron was forced to put in two portable toilets out back last week when the number of flushes backed up the two station bathrooms. When they realized getting off the hill would become an ordeal, many decided to wait out the series of storms, delaying their departures and creating challenges for hotels and property management firms. Along with Caesars Tahoe and the Accommodation Station, the Viking Motor Lodge accommodated a slew of visitors who wanted to extend their stays. “I think it will be a strong January. We certainly got all the snow we need,” said lodge manager Pete Mac Roberts. Mac Roberts has seen busier times between Christmas and New Year’s, but he noticed a bang-up business over the weekend after the beginning of the year. Long lines at most ski resorts didn’t deter Megan Willis’ quest to board. The Clayton resident went snowboarding on her Double Whammy pass at Northstar-at-Tahoe Dec. 30 and Sierra the next day. She looked out the window of her hotel New Year’s Day. This is when Willis had planned on going home, but she and her friends received no cooperation from the storm gods. “I told them: ‘We’re not going anywhere,’” she said. “We weren’t even sure our friend could get back to the North Shore.” She sacrificed a day of boarding Friday morning to get off the hill. The history major’s first day of class at UC Santa Cruz was Monday. The extended stay cost her an extra $60. Prolonging his departure cost Caretta Williams of Santa Rosa a few hundred dollars more than usual. Williams, who often shells out $300 for a Tahoe ski weekend, had originally planned to leave Dec. 30. With the weather bearing down, he ended up staying on the South Shore until New Year’s Day. Caesars Tahoe was either completely booked or nearly so from Christmas to Jan. 3. Even though a normal three-hour drive took nine, the snowboarder said he was glad he got out when he did. “We had a strong volume. The snow really helped keep people in Tahoe. Our restaurants were busy, our nightclub was busy,” said Sue Hyde, Caesars vice president of marketing. Those who stayed found indoor activities. “When the weather is bad and the traffic is insane, people are looking for something to do,” said Jerry Bocardo of Classic Cue. “We were busy the whole week.” And as always, eating and drinking became sports of choice. Applebee’s restaurant manager Frank Lamaina was glad the distribution truck came through Thursday to replenish the low inventory of food supplies. He said his eatery quadrupled its business over the holidays. Chevy’s Fresh Mex restaurant was also slammed with wall-to-wall people, manager Darena Dunn reported Monday. At one point, the waiting list was four hours. “I think a lot of people were trying to get out of here and couldn’t,” she said. The free-flow of drinks turned into a free-flow of money for servers. One scored a tip of more than $50. – Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com