Lake Tahoe’s South Shore ski resorts prep for powder, large crowds on Presidents Day weekend |

Lake Tahoe’s South Shore ski resorts prep for powder, large crowds on Presidents Day weekend

Autumn Whitney

Presidents Day weekend is known as one of the most popular times for traveling to the Tahoe Basin. With the amount of snowfall the region has seen since the start of the new year, Feb. 18-20 at South Shore ski resorts is sure to be one for the books. But with the snowy forecast and vast amount of people expected in South Lake Tahoe, how are the resorts preparing for the three-day weekend?


The ski resort has recorded 423 inches of snow at the summit thus far in the season.

“If you look at the mountain compared from the beginning of the season until now, there’s a huge difference. There’s really great coverage on all trails. We’re looking to open 100 percent of the mountain at this point. We’re ready for people to come out and take laps on the entire mountain,” Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Thea Hardy said.

She says the amount of snow poses some challenges, and the resort has had to adapt accordingly.

“It brings challenges in the forms of snow removal and mountain safety — people should come up prepared for that. There will be road closures and restrictions, so obey all trail closures and wind holds.

“On a more positive note, we’re so excited for all the new snow, which should add to the huge base we already have. It means more awesome skiing and fun events,” Hardy explained.

Compared to the 2015-16 season, which started big and tapered off as April drew closer, and years prior, which saw considerably less snow, this year Sierra-at-Tahoe staff is faced with handling the record amount of snowfall.

“We had to get creative with how we were bringing in snow and how we were facing it. But we’re always ready to tackle the problem of too much snow, as opposed to too little snow,” Hardy noted.

This weekend, skiers and boarders can expect fresh powder and approximately 20 groomed trails, in addition to advanced terrain for experts with the right equipment. Tune in to Sierra-at-Tahoe’s social media accounts and website for the most up-to-date information.

“Keep an eye on road conditions; Caltrans will have that information. They’re great at keeping everybody updated. They’ve been working hard on [U.S.] 50 — big shout-out to them.

“Our mountain conditions page is updated each morning around 6 a.m. Check out the amount of snow that’s fallen overnight, and what lifts will be open that day. It’s a helpful tool,” Hardy said.

Vail Resorts

Heavenly and Kirkwood mountain resorts’ season totals are also reaching record numbers — at the time of publication, they had 464 and 484 inches, respectively.

“We were at about 350 inches [at Heavenly] at the end of February last year. We’re already well surpassed that, into the mid-400s.

“We have over 100 inches more, compared to where we were last year at this exact time. At Kirkwood it’s the same story. Kirkwood had more snowfall last year than Heavenly, but it’s the same pattern,” Heavenly and Kirkwood communications specialist Rachelle Atherton said.

Both resorts are optimistic about February, as they received large amounts of snow in the month last year.

“We’ve got high anticipation to finish out strong in February with this 10-day series of snow that’s in the forecast.

“An average year in Tahoe was in the 500 range for total snowfall, and I think we’re easily going to meet that number this year. We’re turning back to old Tahoe, to those years of high snowfall in the 500-inch range,” Atherton explained.

Looking ahead to the holiday weekend, Heavenly is expecting a large crowd to come enjoy fresh snow, and are partnering with Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to offer more parking for guests. In the event that Heavenly’s lots are full, people are encouraged to park at Hard Rock, where there will be a shuttle transporting guests to the mountain.

“Mountain teams are hard at work clearing parking lots to ensure we have max capacity available. There’s a lot of preparation going into it.

“The mountain teams are working hard and doing safety protocol in the morning to ensure the mountain gets open. Looking at the series of snowfall, it should give us some breaks between heavy snow that they can catch up, make sure lifts are getting open and ensuring we can open up as much terrain as Mother Nature will allow,” Atherton said.

At both Heavenly and Kirkwood, expect light powder as a result of colder storms and light snow.

“Come prepared with extra warming accessories when there’s a little bit of snow in the forecast. Hand warmers, neck gear, a beanie under your helmet — those are my tips for the temperature and weather we’re expecting this weekend.

“We’re having an epic year, and it’s really exciting for anyone who loves Tahoe to be able to experience this winter. It doesn’t happen every year,” Atherton said.

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