Season ritual is under way
The famed powder of the Sierra brings full-season winter sports enthusiasts to South Shore that seem to trickle away with the snow melt.
The end of the winter season means the departure of Tahoe’s seasonal employees who come to the basin for the benefits of snowboarding and skiing.
While the U.S. Census Bureau will not begin to track seasonal population until 2003, it is clear Tahoe’s permanent population of more than 23,000 people balloons substantially during the peak winter and summer seasons.
Due to the early departure of many employees this year, Kirkwood Mountain Resort is still hiring in front-line resort positions, despite an estimated closing date of April 29.
“Actually we’ve been fortunate, because even though we are short-staffed, the people that do stay are getting overtime,” said Nicole Belt, of Kirkwood’s marketing department. “People are putting in the extra effort to get through the season. We’ve made a lot happen with a slimmer staff. It is not like if we don’t hire, we’ll have to close down. We’ll manage with what we’ve got.”
Resorts offer incentives for employees who stay through the season such as employee parties, bonuses and the chance to win prizes. Many employees who work at the same resort year after year choose to stay through the whole season to help ensure their job for the following season.
“I think it is about 50-50 people freaking out that they aren’t going to have money in a couple of weeks,” said Sierra-at-Tahoe employee Christian Gericke. “The reason I am staying is I want to come back next year and I want to stay on good terms with the boss. Plus I like it here. Plus you get a bonus.”
Resorts can rely on international workers staying through the whole season. When people from other countries want to work at area resorts they apply for U.S. work visas that will allow them to stay through the entire season.
The departure of Tahoe’s transient residents has left many housing vacancies throughout South Shore, according to Marisa Aguilar of Alpine Reality.
“It gets busier in the winter, and when the season is over we get most of our vacancies,” Aguilar said. “I do have about six one-bedrooms and that is usually skiers leaving. Since the snow started to taper off this month is when we got most of our notices.”
Area businesses have noticed the departure of many semi-permanent residents. Tim McLean, manager of Mulligan’s Irish Pub, said area businesses anticipate and deal accordingly with the drop-off in business during Tahoe’s off-season.
“I think every business in Tahoe is more or less dependent on (the seasons,)” McLean said. “June is kind of where everyone sets their sights until business picks back up. You do whatever it takes to make it until then.”
While McLean acknowledges that business will suffer in the coming months, the smaller crowds will mean more space for Tahoe locals.
“I think come February, March, you kind of look forward to the off-season,” McLean said. “As much as the off-season is a hit in the wallet it is nice to have time to do the things you want to do.”
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