Wintertime workforce at U.S. Forest Service |

Wintertime workforce at U.S. Forest Service

Andy Bourelle

In the summer they build trails, thin dense parts of the forest and help residents and visitors hiking on Lake Tahoe’s trails.

That changes after the snow falls – some of it, anyway. After all, that’s what snowshoes and snowmobiles are for.

At peak times in the summer, the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has about 160 employees. About half of them are seasonal.

But it’s Lake Tahoe – what a good place to be a seasonal employee.

Dave Allessio, trails supervisor for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said most of his trail crew members work for ski resorts in the winter.

“If you’re going to be a year-round Tahoe resident, you have to find some interest in outdoors in the winter time, and Tahoe is a great place for that,” said Dave Allessio, trails supervisor for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “Everyone (on the trails crew) is so happy to have two jobs that work so well together. Sometimes, you can be working on a trail crew one week and working at a ski resort the next.”

Since Allessio came to Tahoe in 1980, he has worked the winters in ski patrols at several resorts. Now that he is trail supervisor, he works for the Forest Service full time in the summer and part time in the winter – and part time at Kirkwood Ski Resort. His winter work for the Forest Service includes paperwork as well as getting out on trails using cross country skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles.

“I just feel fantastic about my job,” he said. “I get to see Tahoe’s back country in the winter and the summer.”

Other employees that people might think would be strictly seasonal also are out in the woods during winter months.

Sheryl O’Brien marks the trees for Lake Tahoe’s forest-thinning projects in the summer – and sometimes in the winter.

“You just put your snowshoes on and go out there and mark trees,” she said.

O’Brien’s position is somewhat seasonal. She is guaranteed to work, marking trees, about three-fourths of the year. But even if there is no timber work available, O’Brien is often able to keep herself employed.

“In the summertime, I work on the timber crew, marking trees, spraying them with paint and identifying which ones to cut down,” she said. “In the wintertime, I go around to other different departments and see if they need help doing stuff. Now I’m working on our new IBMs.”

While it keeps her busy, she would rather be outside.

“I prefer to be outdoors a lot more than sitting behind a desk,” she said. “But some winters we’re out there working in the snow.”

What happens if there’s no work available?

“I just play Mom, which I love,” she said.

Firefighters, watershed restoration crews, visitors center employees and other Forest Service employees are seasonal, but officials agree they can find other things to do. O’Brien started her career with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit in 1981 as a firefighter. Unlike Allessio, who enjoys skiing and worked at the resorts, she has never skied and pursued another avenue – she moved to Hawaii each winter.

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