Snowstorm helps bring Tahoe a healthy holiday |

Snowstorm helps bring Tahoe a healthy holiday

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

You’ve got to love snow over the holidays.

That’s the driving message left Monday by South Lake Tahoe companies assessing their business over the long holiday weekend.

Tim Halloran, who runs Nepheles restaurant and hot tubs, reveled in Valentine’s Day falling on the same weekend as the Presidents Day holiday.

“We did better this weekend than the last two years,” he said.

The South Shore received up to 2 feet in the higher elevations this past weekend, and it showed on the roads and at the cash registers.

“You can definitely tell there was pent-up demand for fresh snow,” Heavenly Ski Resort spokeswoman Molly Cuffe said.

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Marie Callender’s Manager Ronnie Ray reported a 20 percent increase in sales over all three weekend days — Saturday being the busiest.

“Too bad every weekend can’t be like this,” he said Monday.

Restaurants, lodging establishments, ski resorts and casinos rejoiced over seeing an increase in tourist traffic, after many have endured a slower-than-usual winter and lackluster early bookings for the coming months.

The Black Bear Inn and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe boasted full occupancy. Tahoe Keys Resort co-owner Tom Davis said his vacation home rentals were sold-out over the holiday, but the boost is overshadowed by lighter reservations for March through August.

He attributes the abnormality to the uncertainty over war and a depressed economy.

Grant Tuttle of Lake Tahoe Accommodations agreed, adding gasoline prices and sporadic snowstorms as more factors for lighter bookings on the weekends other than the holiday.

“Everybody’s thankful for the 14 inches of snow,” he said.

Even though the property management firm had also completely booked its 348 units this past holiday, Tuttle said the following weekend’s reservations have dropped to 75 percent.

He’s noticed a change in visitors’ attitudes relative to future reservations.

“Normally, in prior years, people made lodging arrangements in advance. Now, people are waiting and instead of booking 60 days out, they’re booking 10 days in advance. That makes us a little anxious to say the least,” he said.

Tuttle said the management firm had dropped its minimum-night stay from three days to two at a time when the reservationists were busy with callbacks from people shopping around for deals.

The company’s average booking amounts to 3.8 days, he said.

That’s why he supports the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority recently released image-building advertising campaign that serves to lure the destination visitor seeking a unique Tahoe experience. The Blue World campaign is designed to expand on the mainstay drive-up markets from the Bay Area and Sacramento to the more long-term visitor.

“Everybody’s trying to be aggressive,” Tuttle said. “Of course, we’ll always need the drive-up (markets). We can’t afford to lose what we have.”

That’s why the industry now calls for reservationists at these management firms to serve in a concierge capacity. Tuttle’s treating his staff to a customer service workshop next week to brush up on those skills.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at