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Mixed bag for holiday economy

Sally J. Taylor

Gotta have snow to have a ski resort, but the timing of storms can hurt as much as help. Saturday’s blizzard, which dumped from 8 inches to 2 feet of snow, started the President’s Day Weekend off on the wrong foot.

Closed roads part of the day and chain controls the rest slowed the influx of visitors and kept those who beat the storm tucked inside.

“Saturday definitely, the storm took its toll on everything from the (skiing) experience to the amount of people at the resort,” said John Wagnon, vice president of marketing at Heavenly Ski Resort.

“It seems like in the past, people were more willing to weather bad weather days and go out and ski,” he said.

Sierra-at-Tahoe, benefiting from Heavenly’s wind woes and the closed roads that blocked the way to Kirkwood, had more people than expected during Saturday’s storm, said Sierra’s Nancy Harrison, public relations coordinator. But the day was still not as good as it could have been.

Bright sunshine on Sunday drew the skiers and boarders in droves away from the fireplaces, however.

“For us, it’s been a very good holiday,” Harrison said.

“Everyone who didn’t ski Saturday was out Sunday,” Wagnon said. “Monday (was) a mixed bag. The morning was good but it started snowing in the afternoon.”

Lodging properties also experienced a mixed bag.

Lake Tahoe Accommodations, which specializes in vacation rentals, was sold out for the weekend, according to owner Jim Morris.

“February bookings are up 50 percent,” he said.

Caesars Tahoe’s “hotel was at 100 percent occupancy for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights,” said Trish Gilbert, Caesars marketing services manager.

Holiday reservations are booked for the three-day weekend so people generally came in Friday night, she said, when weather was not a problem.

Caesars restaurants also served full houses. Gilbert said that The Empress Court served double the amount of dim sum than on a typical weekend.

And, contrary to superstition, a video poker player on Friday the 13th came up lucky with a $240,000 win.

Other lodging properties were not as lucky, experiencing merely a “respectable” holiday, said Ed McCarthy, the president of the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association.

“This weekend was full or near full but not at holiday rates,” McCarthy said.

An almost nonstop lineup of winter storms have taken its toll.

“We have been knocked out by snow and rain in the Bay Area on 12 out of 14 weekends,” McCarthy said. “It’s had a dramatic impact on occupancy.”

The storms have also hurt the ski resorts while adding to the snow base.

“What we’d like to happen is snow through the week then it clears up on Thursday and stays nice through the weekend,” Sierra’s Harrison said. “That’s what we’d like.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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