No need for a recount on Presidents Day |

No need for a recount on Presidents Day

Susan Wood

Presidents Day weekend marked a historic holiday this winter season for at least one Lake Tahoe ski resort.

A make-it-or-break-it holiday to many, the three-day weekend gave Sierra-at-Tahoe its busiest day of the season Saturday. Then even more people came on Sunday, the sales department reported Monday.

The resort, located 12 miles west of Meyers off U.S. Highway 50, declined to give specific numbers, but characterized the much-anticipated weekend as a strong showing.

“When you don’t make it this weekend, you can’t make it up,” said Sean Sweeney of the ski resort’s sales department.

Sierra’s holiday business started early, as Friday brought crowds that more closely resembled traffic in Big Bear, where the Greater Los Angeles Basin gathers for skiing.

At the West Bowl Express chair lift, people who were obviously assembled in a group openly talked about standing in the singles’ line, so they could get on the lift faster that morning.

But skiers and boarders alike were smiling as brightly as the sun. One San Jose man described his experience as sweet.

“(The weekend) exceeded our expectations. We couldn’t be happier,” Heavenly Ski Resort’s Monica Bandows said.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort was aiming to break the record crowd of 8,000 that the Alpine County ski area took in for last year’s Presidents Day weekend.

A 2- to 5-foot dumping of light snow that fell around the Lake Tahoe Basin days before the holiday traffic swarmed into town was a “fortunate” plus for tourism-oriented businesses like resorts, restaurants, hotels and casinos.

The marketing department of the Lakeside Inn and Casino described the scene in the casino and adjoining restaurant as “mobbed.”

Chevy’s Fresh Mex Restaurant was so busy during the dinner hours, restaurant managers kept it open longer Sunday night, as waiters weaved their way through the patient, hungry public.

“We really didn’t have a choice in the matter because people were still coming in,” said Emily Hughes. By the end of the evening, the assistant manager “was ready for bed.”

Managers at Marie Callender’s and Riva Grill said they tripled their business during the holiday.

The former could barely keep up with the pies leaving the South Lake Tahoe restaurant. The latter was forced to turn people away Saturday night.

“My biggest problem is not having enough chairs,” said David Marsh of the Riva Grill.

The holiday crowd offered the Beacon Bar and Grill General Manager Steve Polich a taste of summer. The Camp Richardson restaurant was filled from Valentine Day through to Sunday.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” the new manager said. “Our lunches were as busy as dinners.”

When visitors weren’t skiing or eating, they must have been learning about the area.

The Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce reported double and sometimes triple the number of inquiries made at the Round Hill Square Visitor Center.

The center had 143 visitors on Saturday and 157 the following day. The average weekday fluctuates between 40 and 80, with the numbers hovering around 70 on the weekends.

Hotels and motels sold out all over town Saturday night, with some properties filling up over the surrounding evenings too, the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association reported.

Still, the turnout seemed disappointing to association President Charlie McDermid, who runs the Holiday Inn Express.

“It was good but not great,” McDermid said. “I would have preferred all the hotels sold out (over the three-day weekend).”

McDermid was unclear whether the weekend has proved better in other years or whether the business community’s expectations are too high.

Representatives for the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Authority were unavailable for comment because the offices were closed Monday.

Skiers and boarders riding through the rest of the week could benefit from new snowfall.

The National Weather Service in Reno is calling for snowshowers likely today, then a dry Wednesday, with a chance for more showers Thursday and Friday. As it cools down a bit over next weekend, Saturday should remain dry. Another chance of snowshowers may come on Sunday.

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