As snowmobiles formed tracks into the dense snow of the High Sierra on Friday, it was easy for riders to forget that Lake Tahoe — a place known for its robust winters — is on the tail end of another drier-than-normal season.
Winter, for the most part, seems to have come and gone without raising much of a fuss this year. But last week, it was still clinging to life in Charity Valley, offering the perfect playground for Lake Tahoe Adventures and its scenic snowmobile tours.
“Winter’s not gone yet,” senior guide Bob Ramirez said, as the tour group took a break on a snow-covered slope. “It’s not over ‘til it’s over.”
Despite a lack of snowfall in many areas of the basin, Lake Tahoe Adventures has been keeping busy providing tour after tour seven days a week. This is made possible by way of shuttle, which transports customers to the powdery promise land.
There, in a region just south of Hope Valley, snow weighs down tree branches and completely covers the ground. It’s a change of pace from what most of South Lake Tahoe has been used to this winter, and tourists seem to be taking notice.
On any given Saturday — one of the busiest days of the week for Lake Tahoe Adventures — Ramirez said the company can send up to 25 people every two hours into the mountains to take the snowmobiling tour.
The number of customers isn’t slowing down either as the season winds to an end.
“Business has been strong still,” Ramirez said. “We’ve been fortunate.”
Friday’s tour began at the Lake Tahoe Adventures location in Meyers, where participants rented gear before loading into a bus. It continued with quick shuttle ride to Blue Lake Road off Highway 88 — a place where snow exists only in patches.
To Sacramento-resident Tamie Ramirez, a participant on the tour, the immediate lack of snow was somewhat alarming. It was the reason why her and her husband, Michael Ramirez, decided to take the tour this season before it’s too late.
“We thought this could be our last chance,” Michael Ramirez said.
Even after participants jumped on their snowmobiles a few short miles later, pavement could still be seen beneath a thin layer of snow.
But powder soon filled up the road, creating snowpack several feet deep. Half-buried signs stuck out of the snow, and the snowmobiles pushed through freshly groomed trails.
It wasn’t long before riders were circling Tamarack Lake and crossing in front of Markleeville Peak. They stopped to take pictures of the all-white scene or lay on the ground to make snow angels.
It may already be officially gone in some places, but winter was still alive at about 8,000 feet.
“It was amazing,” Michael Ramirez said. “I had a great time.”