Lake Tahoe depends heavily on the ski season to help fill its hotels and restaurants, spend money at its casinos, and in general leave behind a trail of cash that gets spread around throughout the region’s business community.
And there is no more important time than during the Christmas holiday season. Experience a poor one like the last three winters and the ramifications are felt all through the year.
Thanks to a number of winter storm systems that have generously dropped snow for the past six weeks, the Lake Tahoe region will definitely enjoy a Merry Christmas and the good times will continue into the New Year.
Despite the tremendous advances in snowmaking, this is still a sport that relies heavily on the fickle ways of Mother Nature. There’s no better advertising than a snowy Lake Tahoe portrait.
“Great snow conditions over the December holidays help jumpstart the ski season and get skiers and riders excited and optimistic about the remainder of the winter,” said Diamond Peak spokesperson Paul Raymore. “We always see a residual effect in January and beyond when we have a great holiday season. This year looks like it’s setting up perfectly for Tahoe snow lovers.”
The Tahoe-area business community certainly understands the importance of a strong holiday season, not only in the business it brings, but the potential for more. It’s been a good Christmas for Steve Sewell, who owns Truckee-Tahoe Pet Lodge.
“I believe we’ve already had more snow than the last two years combined. It’s doing wonders for business here in town,” Sewell said.
Here’s a sampling what’s available during the holidays at various Lake Tahoe ski resorts.
Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows: This is a unique opportunity to make a few turns with an Olympic gold medal skier – Jonny Moseley. And the price is right – it’s free, unless you choose a morning run with Moseley. Participants must be at least intermediate skiers or riders.
Squaw, which has received 144 inches of snow at 8,000 fee thus far, feels like home to Moseley, who won the gold medal in the Moguls competition in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan while a member of the Squaw Valley Freestyle team.
Meet Moseley at Squaw’s Gold Coast chair from 2-4 p.m. on Dec. 26-28. He will appear afterward (4-5 p.m.) at the Plaza Bar in the Olympic House. Ski Alpine with Moseley from 2-4 p.m. on Dec. 29-31 (meet at the Alpine Meadows breezeway) or chat with him from 4-5 p.m. at the Last Chair Bar
Moseley, who learned how to ski at Squaw, will also be available for “Dawn Patrol,” which takes place from 7:40-9 a.m. on Dec. 26-28 at the Aerial Tram Ski & Ride. The cost is $29 for adults.
“I really enjoy doing this during the holidays; it’s very cool,” Moseley said. “People get really psyched to ski with me. It’s something special they can do at Squaw and go home with a little extra experience.”
It will be a festive holiday season at Squaw. Carolers will be roaming throughout the resort and live music can be heard daily in The Village. Alpine will be holding Moonlit Snowshoe Tour & Dinners several nights and Squaw will host a fireworks show and party on New Year’s Eve.
Northstar California: Sleigh rides will take place throughout the holidays and Santa can be seen on the slopes Christmas Day, when 19 lifts will be operating. S’mores are available at the gondola for early morning skiers and riders, and also in the village during the afternoon.
“The Northstar Village looks amazing right now, like a winter scene from a story book,” Northstar spokesperson Marcie Bradley said. “We have all the snow, the ice skating, the fire pits, and the smell of gingerbread in the air.”
Northstar was reporting 161 inches of snow this season, already exceeding last year’s totals.
Sugar Bowl: The resort off Interstate 80, the closest to the Sacramento region, has online lift tickets selling for $15 off the regular price, assuming they are purchased three days in advance.
Families will be happy to know that Santa and some his helpers will be on the mountain and handing out candy canes Christmas Day. There will be live music at the Judah Lodge Dec. 26-28.
On Monday, Sugar Bowl was reporting 102 inches at its base and 152 inches at the summit.
Diamond Peak: Fresh snow will mean crowded lift lines at this family-friendly resort in Incline Village. Diamond Peak has received 86 inches of natural snow and has more than 380 hours of snowmaking.
Santa Claus and Penguin Pete, the Diamond Peak mascot, will be on the hill Christmas Day and Child Ski Center instructors will be dressed in costume through the holidays. Kids are encouraged to dress up as well.
Heavenly Mountain: The South Lake Tahoe resort had 25 lifts running Wednesday, accessing nearly 100 trails.
Heavenly is in the midst of its two-week festival at Heavenly Village (near Stateline and the casinos). There are sculptors, carolers, and a 16-foot interactive snow globe where kids can get their photos taken with Santa.
There will be a New Year’s Eve celebration with an outdoor concert and highlighted by a unique “Gondola” ball drop and fireworks show at 9 p.m.
Mt. Rose: Like many resorts, Mt. Rose has received considerable snow thus far. It was the first Lake Tahoe resort to open this season and has a base of 74 inches and had received 138 inches to date.
“Great conditions boost the guests’ confidence in the snow and builds their the desire to head up to the slopes in the first place,” said Mike Pierce. “Good snow also leaves a strong lasting impression to hopefully drive repeat visits throughout the remainder of the season. If the deep, white slopes match the guests expectations of the perfect winter ski vacation, it’s that much more likely that they’ll rave about their trip to their friends and family …and want to come back again for more.”