Weather beckons travelers to town |

Weather beckons travelers to town

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

The same hill children used as a snow-sliding platform two weeks ago has become a popular site for sand buckets and beach blankets in the days leading up to a predictably warm Memorial Day holiday weekend in South Lake Tahoe.

The National Weather Service reported the high temperature may top 80 degrees by Saturday, giving tourism officials and local businesses hope Mother Nature could pull the basin out of an economic slump.

Tahoe’s mid-70-degree averages this weekend represent quite a departure from the weather experienced last year. It snowed that week, and the sun barely broke through the clouds over the weekend.

The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association — which tracks the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority central reservations line — reports South Shore bookings at lodging establishments, suffering the effects of war and a weak economy, are down 20 percent.

Resort association spokesman Andy Chapman said this number could rise with more bookings during the weekend as many people traditionally decide to visit at the last minute. Bookings online have also been flat, he added.

“There are a couple of things lining up in our favor. People are deciding to stay closer to home and the weather is shaping up,” Chapman said.

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Business expectations at the South Shore supermarkets on a holiday known for barbecues and parties range from a “roll of the dice” according to Raley’s at the “Y” manager Bob Lear to wishful thinking from Safeway manager Russell Zermani.

“We’re expecting sales to skyrocket. This year is the first real warm weekend,” Zermani said.

A study by AAA named Lake Tahoe as a top destination for travelers. According to the American Automobile Association study, nearly 300,000 Nevada residents and 4.8 million Californians are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home. These predictions mirror last year’s actual numbers.

Of this year’s number of travelers, 80 percent — 3.9 million — plan to drive.

Declining gasoline prices are also expected to drive the vehicle traffic. In South Lake Tahoe, prices have dropped 16 cents in one month.

“It’s setting up to be an unusually nice Memorial Day weekend. It’s supposed to hit 90 degrees in Sacramento, and that helps our Memorial Day weekend,” LTVA Executive Director Bill Chernock said. He expects a flow of people from the metropolitan feeder markets of the Bay Area and the state capital.

Those who visit the Sacramento area Friday afternoon may witness what’s billed as the world’s largest s’more, according to the California Parks and Recreation Department.

The favorite camping treat — built with 8,000 chocolate bars, 20,000 marshmallows and 25,000 graham crackers — will be on display at Beals Point Campground off Folsom-Auburn Road.

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