Snow puts Tahoe in business |

Snow puts Tahoe in business

Patrick McCartney

Winter arrived at Lake Tahoe with a bang Wednesday, as a Pacific storm blanketed the Sierra and created a wintry scene in the Tahoe Basin the day before Thanksgiving.

Up to 3 feet of snow fell on higher slopes and 4 inches of wet snow fell at lake level, the first accumulation of the season. The snowfall raised the expectations of Tahoe residents for a successful winter season.

“I’m happy,” said Dede Riggs of South Lake Tahoe, a Harrah’s Lake Tahoe dealer. “We’re always hoping for a white Thanksgiving. It starts the year off on a good note and helps business.”

Snow showers were expected to linger into the evening Wednesday, but the skies should clear today for holiday travelers. Forecasters said another storm system should arrive by Saturday night, but it is expected to lack the punch of Wednesday’s storm.

Many of the region’s 16 ski resorts announced plans to open on Thanksgiving Day or the day after. Of the resorts closest to South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Ski Resort opened Friday, but will expand the available terrain, while Kirkwood Ski Resort plans to open today and Sierra-at-Tahoe on Friday.

Sierra-at-Tahoe will offer three hours of free skiing today, from noon to 3 p.m.

“I was a little worried before this storm came,” said Nancy Harrison, public relations director for Sierra-at-Tahoe. “We were waiting until (Wednesday) to see if we’d open. Now, I can’t wait.”

Business was brisk at Heavenly Sports, as visitors and residents alike prepared for their first days on skis this season.

“People began rolling into town yesterday and today,” said Chris Thorne, the shop manager. “Today, everybody is buying a lot of accessories – goggles, gloves, that kind of thing. A lot of skiers are also getting their skis tuned up.”

On the slopes of Heavenly Ski Resort, early-season skiers suddenly had more terrain open to them. Spokesman Don Evans said the pace of activity picked up as the snowflakes began to fall.

“The phones are ringing off the hook,” Evans said. “Let the skiing and snowboard riding begin!”

Kirkwood Ski Resort was planning to open today, but the storm will allow the resort to open more terrain, said spokeswoman Tania Magidson.

“We’re elated,” Magidson said, adding that the Alpine County resort received 2 to 3 feet overnight. “The early-season snow is important. We’re generally open two out of three Thanksgivings. It’s not crucial, but it’s always good for the season as a whole.”

The only local ski area not to open this weekend is Homewood Ski Resort, which received 20 inches of snow on the higher slopes but just 4 inches at the base. The resort plans to open in early December.

About the only residents unhappy with the storm were those with travel plans or expecting visitors from out of the area. Most highways remained open, but chains were required much of Wednesday over the passes.

Many weather-savvy locals decided to stay home for the holiday.

“The best story is we stayed home and stayed out of the storm,” said Steve Mahnken of South Lake Tahoe. “We’ve lived here 21 years; that’s plenty of winters.”

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