‘Drive that economic engine’: Snow is big business for Lake Tahoe

Heavenly team members were busy digging out Tamarack lift and others following heavy snowfall.
Provided/Jack Morris

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lift lines are long and businesses are reaping the benefits of abundant snowfall at Lake Tahoe.

With plenty of snow falling in the basin from a series of storms in December and January, resorts are seeing tons of skiers and riders while dealing head-on with difficulties.

Palisades Tahoe is reporting great business since the slow down of the recent storms, and are trying to push people to come up midweek in order to avoid longer lines and delayed wait times.

“Now that the storms have kind of calmed down, people are able to get up here,” said Palisades PR Manager Patrick Lacey. “We really want to push people to be skiing midweek. Take a sick day here and there, because obviously, parking can be an issue here … or, if they do come on the weekend, come early and stay late. Stay in the Village, come early, grab breakfast here, you know, you’re going to have a much more enjoyable day if you do that.”

Heavenly Mountain Resort Director of Communications Sara Roston reported that Vail Resorts are working tirelessly to bring a great experience to every guest on the mountain, while they faced challenges throughout the heavy snowfall periods. 

“The Heavenly team has been working day and night to recover from the challenges caused by the weather,” said Roston. “In particular, we experienced a power outage on the Nevada side of the mountain, which created some unusual operational difficulties this holiday period.” 

The outage took out three lifts, leaving California Main Lodge as the only access point throughout the holiday weekend and led to massive traffic and parking issues, the Tribune previously reported. Fortunately, power was restored and services continued on the mountain. 

The large storms and huge number of people visiting the basin come in waves, and depend on the weather and advisories from agencies around the basin. 

“When a storm is coming most travelers have heeded the advice of Caltrans, NDOT, and Highway Patrol about road conditions to monitor and delay travel until safe,” said Lake Tahoe Visitor Authority President and CEO Carol Chaplin. “When the roads have been cleared and it’s safe and easier to get here, winter enthusiasts have been enjoying the powder-filled conditions.” 

Although the visitor authority does not have formal statistics compiled for South Lake Tahoe, they’ve communicated with the lodging, dining, and attractions here in the basin and understand that while peak periods were temporarily impacted, there has been a surge during the post-holidays due to snow creating ideal conditions on the mountains. 

“There was a temporary hit while the storm was here,” said President and Chief Strategist of SMG Consulting Carl Ribaudo. “Typically [tourism is] impacted while we’re getting pounded by snow and digging out and all that. But I think it helps over the long run of the winter. People know we have terrific outdoor recreation conditions, so it’s a short term hit. But you hope that you can make it up over the course of the winter season.” 

Upsides of heavier winter snowfall are longer winter seasons for outdoor recreation.

“It’s a balance,” said Ribaudo. “We don’t really have a choice.” 

There are many looking forward to a longer ski season this winter.

“We believe the outlook is so positive for a longer ski season, we’re placing our bets on it and announcing a ‘Midweek Spring Skiing Lodging Offer’ on Friday, Jan. 27,” said Director of Sustainable Tourism for Visit Truckee-Tahoe Siobhan Kenney. “Antidotally, we know from past big winters that when ski areas stay open longer, it has a positive revenue impact on Truckee’s local shops, retailers, and restaurants.”

Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar are all reporting that staffing isn’t a problem currently at their resorts, but Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau President and CEO Andy Chapman said that some places are still trying to find their footing with their teams. 

“There’s definitely still issues with labor and getting workforce,” said Chapman. “But I think businesses are very adaptable. They are looking at different ways of how they are scheduling and doing common days off where the business might have historically been open seven days a week, and now maybe they’re only open six or five days a week … The storms help drive that economic engine here in the wintertime for Tahoe.” 

Tourism in the basin is always a topic of conversation, and was especially after Lake Tahoe was added to Fodor’s No List for 2023 of places to visit, due to an overcrowding/people problem. 

While the name of the list gives the impression tourists shouldn’t visit the area, Chapman reinforced that rather than telling visitors to stay away, it’s important to teach people how to visit responsibly. 

“We are always making sure we’re pushing out real-time, accurate information about what’s going on up here,” said Chapman. “We post on our social channels and our websites about any kind of storm warnings that are coming and links to road reports, because it’s critical that our guests both coming from a drive … as well as our fly market guests are aware of what’s happening.” 

Along with providing accurate information for tourists, Chapman and the other travel agencies in the basin provided an opinion piece to the Tribune that outlined how to practice being a steward while visiting the basin. 

Some of the ways travelers can help is through using the free, public transportation options that are available all around the basin, including TART and TART Connect on the north shore, Lake Link the South Shore, and Mountaineer in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows. 

Being a steward also means leaving Lake Tahoe better than you found it, by properly disposing of trash, choosing re-usable products over single-use plastic, and being mindful and respectful of the environment. 

For more information about traveling to Lake Tahoe, visit or

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