Skiers, visitors swarm Lake Tahoe ski areas for holiday weekend |

Skiers, visitors swarm Lake Tahoe ski areas for holiday weekend

Call it a snowball effect.

Some of the best snowsport conditions in years coupled with the busiest holiday shopping weekend of the year brought out the tourists and residents to Lake Tahoe ski areas, hotels, casinos, restaurants, shops and other businesses piggybacking off the added traffic.

Many of the motels were sold out on Friday, by far the busiest day of the holiday windfall.

“It goes to show what a little bit of snow will do,” South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association President Pete MacRoberts said, adding that bookings were a lot better than previous years. “The word is out Lake Tahoe has snow.”

It takes a mix of enough snow to play in and good weather to drive in for good business, Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathleen Farrell indicated. The blend allowed many Stateline retailers to exceed their goals by at least 8 percent and contributed to the casinos selling out over the weekend, she added.

“We had a phenomenal weekend,” Harveys Resort and Casino Director of Marketing Bonnie Picker said. “The weather was good, and everything worked in our favor.”

Outside on the slopes, Sierra-at-Tahoe off U.S. Highway 50 hosted almost 12,000 skiers, snowboarders and tubers over the long holiday weekend. That’s double their skier count from last year, the resort announced Monday.

On Saturday, Kirkwood enjoyed “triple the crowd” of last Thanksgiving, though the Alpine County ski area’s high-speed quad was shut down for two hours the day before.

On North Shore, Squaw Valley visitors turned out “near record numbers” skating on the resort’s ice rink, which has been open since 1991. Spokesman Eric Grant reported a busier-than-normal Thanksgiving weekend on the slopes too.

Those hungry from the slopes but tired of turkey spurred a busy Friday night for restaurants, including Chevy’s Fresh Mex and Marie Callender’s.

Even the distributors supplying the restaurants got in on the act with a busier-than-last-year outcome, South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce Director Duane Wallace said.

A myriad of stores also cashed in, with Village Mountain Surf and Sports on Lake Tahoe Boulevard picking up a 30 percent jump in sales from previous weekends.

The first weekend of the holiday shopping season turned out to be a pleasant surprise for worried retailers nationwide, with U.S. retail sales over the holiday up 5 percent from last year.

Americans are expected to spend 45 percent more on holiday shopping than they did last year, analysts predict. The average holiday shopper will spend $1,220 in 2000, up from $841 in 1999. One in 10 shoppers will put out more than $1,500.

The good tidings have apparently spread to the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“I’m going to spend more because we’ve added another grandchild,” Dorene Warnoch said, coming out of Kmart Monday. The South Shore resident is making the rounds Christmas shopping. She hit Target in Carson City on Friday, and plans to go to Office Depot today, she said.

Kelly Petit hopes her daughter, Kennedy, will actually forget the Christmas shopping experience Monday, as the South Lake Tahoe mom loaded her gifts into the Petit’s vehicle in the Kmart parking lot with their own new addition to the family, Cole.

“She’ll probably be opening his presents too,” Petit said of Cole’s first Christmas.

Petit plans to spend about the same amount as last year, with at least half the purchases – mostly toys – made over the Internet.

“I’ll probably spend more this year,” Francis Conway said in front of the Payless Shoe Store. The South Shore man attributed his holiday spending to better planning, not a good economy. “No, I don’t feel good about the economy.”

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