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Businesses concerned about lack of snow for holidays

Dylan Silver
dsilver@tahoedailytribune.com
Dylan Silver / Tahoe Daily Tribune
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With no snow and not even a chance of precipitation in the 10-day forecast, South Lake Tahoe is in for a blue Christmas.

Businesses around town are concerned the lack of snow will impact the amount of visitors who come to the area this holiday season. And without the holiday boom, some business might be in for a tough year.

“Of course we’re concerned,” said Phil Cianci, who manages The Ski Renter. “We’ve got two things against us: the economy and the snow.”

John Shearer, owner of Sierra Mountain Sports, said the business is losing snowmobile rental business each day without snow.

“We’re fixing sleds and I’ve been selling some machines, but the rentals are a big part of business.”

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.

“We’re making a huge investment to ensure people will have a great experience,” said Heavenly Mountain Resort spokesman Russ Pecoraro.

With snowmaking machines running nearly 24 hours a day, Heavenly has opened 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.

“We’ve put a lot of time and expense toward creating the best possible ski and snowboard experience for our guests,” said Heavenly general manager Pete Sonntag in a press release Friday. “We’re extremely excited to have the California side of our mountain open in time for the Christmas holiday.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort opens Saturday with their Broadway Express chair running. Conditions are not ideal, said general manager John Rice.

“Sierra is very dependent on natural snow, and with the lack of snow to date it will present some challenges to our operations,” Rice said in an email. “People seem to understand that we are making an effort to make the best of the situation.”

Sierra has just two snow guns. The latest the mountain has ever opened was Dec. 18, Rice said. This year it will kick off operations just one day earlier, Dec. 17.

Some business owners remain hopeful that a bounty of snow will still fall this winter. After all, winter officially doesn’t start until Dec. 22.

“We’re still in the process of maintaining tractors and plows and taking in contracts,” said Rob Kalbs, owner of All Clean Snow Removal. “As far as I’m concerned this is a typical winter.”

There are also businesses who seemingly would rely on heavy snowfall, but have found a way to stabilize the up and down conditions. Alpine Smith Snow Removal charges a seasonal contract price that’s not dependent on the amount of snow that comes down.

“We’ve found a way to isolate ourselves from those variations,” said owner Daron Smith. “But I do sympathize with the folks in town who rely on the tourist-based economy.”

Unfortunately, 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.

“We’re all tapping our foot and hoping this doesn’t continue too long,” Chaplin said. “This is one of those times where we begin to be challenged to have a really robust season.”


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