Big winter to impact summer recreation in South Lake Tahoe |

Big winter to impact summer recreation in South Lake Tahoe

Claire Cudahy
High-elevation trails will likely have some patches of snow remaining well into the summer months.
Ben Fish / LTVA |

The nearly record-breaking precipitation experienced in the Sierra Nevada this year is expected to have an impact on recreation in Lake Tahoe this summer.

The Northern Sierra Nevada is approaching its all-time wettest “water year” — October through September — after last week’s spring storms brought another 10 – 40 inches of snow to the Sierra.

As of Sunday, the northern Sierra was less than an inch of water away from the record of 88.5 inches set during the 1982-83 water year, according to The Weather Channel.

Consequently, the lake level is higher than it’s been in years. As of Tuesday, it’s sitting at 6,227.5 feet — 4.5 feet above its natural rim — and the beaches show it.

“Due to our wet winter and the rise in the water level of the lake, visitors can expect most Lake Tahoe area beaches to be much narrower than in previous years,” said Lisa Herron, spokeswoman for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “Beaches may seem more crowded and some areas may be inaccessible due to high water.”

“I know for us our concern is obviously going to be Fourth of July because that’s when you have the impact of that many people on a small beach,” added Lt. Shannon Laney, South Lake Tahoe Police Department.

Things will also be a little tighter at Live at Lakeview Summer Music Series held every Thursday at the Lakeview Commons, said Laney.

But a tighter beach at Lakeview Commons means good things for the city of South Lake Tahoe’s public boat launch, which will be open again after a number of years out of operation due to the low water level.

“I think a lot of people forget we have a boat launch,” said Laney.

With above average snowpack and spring storms, snow is expected to linger at higher elevations well into the summer months, which is something for hikers and bikers to keep in mind.

“During the last big snowpack year in 2011, the lowest trails like Powerline melted off early May, but we didn’t get up into the high country until mid-July — up to the Rim Trail and most places,” said Ben Fish, Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) president.

Deeper snowpack this year could mean some high-elevation trails will have snow patches all summer.

“We try to teach trail etiquette and tell people to go over the snow banks, not around them. Otherwise you end up with shooter trails that are a headache to fix and mess up the natural environment,” explained Fish.

Despite the snow, Fish said TAMBA is on schedule for trail building this summer and fall.

“We are planning to kick off the trail building season in late May with some trail work on Corral,” said Fish. “We have another big trail project up at Angora, and that’s going to kick off in June.”

While mountain bikers might be eager for the snow to melt, the ski resorts are reaping the benefits of a snowy spring.

South Shore resorts Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly Mountain Resort extended their season through April 23 (Heavenly will also open the weekend of April 28) and Kirkwood Mountain Resort through April 16.

Other nearby resorts are taking it a step further.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe is set to stay open until May 29, while Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is not closing until July 4.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.