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Ski resorts recover from brutal holiday storms

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / David, foreground, and Jeff Santini, both from South Lake Tahoe, cruise the Skiways Glades at Heavenly Mountain Resort.
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Talk about a recovery.

The three South Shore ski resorts have all but fully gained back the business lost at the end of December and beginning of January when Mother Nature brought on the snow too much too fast, closing roads and chairlifts during the height of the holidays.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort could end up with a record year, President Tim Cohee said Wednesday.



The Alpine County ski area shows a 15 percent increase this season compared to last year. A record year hovers at about 350,000 skier visits in a season.

“We’ve recovered really, really well. We’ve had good luck and great weather,” he said. Snow at night and clear skies during the day have kept people coming.



The ski season has proven to be a roller coaster ride for Kirkwood. It had a great start with the earliest opening ever in October. But the storms annihilated visitation from Dec. 30 to Jan. 10. The place was closed off Dec. 30, 31 and Jan. 1, 8 and 9 – constituting 10 percent of the resort’s business for a typical year.

Then, Martin Luther King and Presidents Day holiday weekends helped make up the difference.

Kirkwood’s amenities and marketing focus has also paid off.

For one, a backcountry program called Expedition Kirkwood has put the resort on the adventurer’s map. For inbound skiers, high angle grooming has resulted in the finishing off of 11 black diamond runs. And deep snow helps.

Heavenly Mountain Resort has rolled in an exceptional snow base, pushing its closing date to May 1. Kirkwood and Sierra-at Tahoe have not announced tentative closing dates.

“The concept behind the extended season is we felt it would underscore the great conditions. When we have great conditions like this, we give our season pass holders a few extra weeks,” Vice President of Marketing John Wagnon said. “We see enough momentum to carry us into the spring.”

So does Sierra-at-Tahoe.

“We’ve made good progress from the loss in revenue from the New Year’s holiday,” Sierra spokeswoman Nicole Belt said, while also speaking for its sister resort, Northstar-at-Tahoe.

The ski area had a record day over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. And winter break for students last month gave the resort a boost during the middle of the week. To ensure the resort keeps the momentum, it plans to aim a promotion at colleges.

“Spring events really help,” Belt said.


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