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Resorts, businesses report mushy end to season

David Bunker

The ski season is melting to a slushy close, and area resorts and merchants report the snowless end to winter had business down markedly during the last couple months.

“We were going gangbusters and then about March 1 it turned to spring and it hasn’t turned back,” said Eric Brandt, director of marketing for Squaw Valley, which plans to close for skiing May 16.

While last year may not have been an exceptional ski year, it did end with several big spring storms. This year, big storms during January and February loaded the slopes for the season, but the winter fizzled to an end in March and April.

For Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, the two area resorts still open, the warm and dry end to the season has had mixed results.

“Driving was really easy. Even though there was a lot of snow on the slopes, the highways were quite navigable,” said Rachael Woods, spokeswoman for Alpine Meadows, which will close for skiing Sunday. “Now our competitions are things like the beach and the lake.”

Kirkwood Mountain Resort closed for the season on May 2, while Heavenly Mountain Resort, which closed in mid-April, reopened May 1-2 as part of a celebration marking the three-day grand opening of Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina at Harveys Resort Casino.

Sierra-at-Tahoe also closed in mid-April. Sierra and Heavenly both reported increases in skier visits over last ski season.

Local businesses are now looking ahead to Memorial Day weekend and then to the Fourth of July, when tourist volume will again be high. That is also when many of the second homes will fill back up.

While the end of winter means the close of the traditional season for ski resorts, it also signals the beginning of summer events that increasingly draw visitors to the slope-side ski villages.

Squaw Valley has a lineup of festivals and concerts scheduled, and is already seeing a stream of visitors to the high camp pool. Heavenly’s sightseeing gondola opens for summer season on June 11.

“It will probably be our biggest summer we’ve had ever,” said Brandt.

– Tribune City Editor Jeff Munson contributed to this report


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