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Tahoe resorts enjoying the bounce from last year

Despite dry weather, bookings are up
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Fall snowstorms have been scarce but Lake Tahoe area resorts are still reaping the benefits of last year’s banner season. “Seventy feet of snow last winter, along with a multitude of capital improvements under way and planned for the near future, has North Lake Tahoe advance bookings up 35 percent over the same period in 2010,” Andy Chapman, tourism director for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, said in a press release. The region is getting more than $100 million in additions, remodeling and updating. “With Vail Resorts acquiring Northstar-at-Tahoe resort and KSL Capital Partners purchasing Squaw Valley, we’re seeing a financial shot in the arm as both resorts are … enhancing their products,” he said. Vail Resorts has invested $30 million at Northstar and KSL is putting $50 million into a five-year revitalization at Squaw. Millions more are on the way with proposed redevelopment plans for Homewood Mountain Resort and the historic Crystal Bay casino corridor, Chapman said. Most of North Lake Ta-hoe’s resorts have opened for the season, with snow-making machines running full-tilt. “Certainly we’re not seeing the (early) snowfall we saw last year and we’d like more, no doubt,” Chapman said Monday. “We got spoiled last year when we saw the snow we had. But temperatures have been very cold and that’s allowed the resorts to make a lot of snow.” With Christmas, a traditionally big week for the resorts, less than two weeks away the weather pattern is a two-edged sword. While the skies have remained clear of precipitation, that also means roads are clear and the dry days are great for skiers and boarders. “The bookings we’re seeing for the holiday period are strong and have stayed strong,” Chapman said. “People are planning holiday travels and will continue to come up. There will be a ski product and it is quite good given the lack of natural snowfall. There are plenty of options for people to enjoy.” This year’s dearth of downpours is just part of the local climate. “It’s certainly does vary,” he said. “We’re in a Pacific storm pattern. Sometimes we get them head on and sometimes they’re splitting (going north and south of us). The long-term forecast is calling for below-average temperatures and above-average precipitation, which bodes well. Most of our snow comes in January, February and March. Anything you get before Thanksgiving and around that time, it is icing on the cake.” Last year the Tahoe area received 800 inches of snow from October through end of April, he said. “About twice the average. The average is 350 to 400 inches. So we just got hammered last year. We do encourage everyone to do their snow dances. Natural snowfall will come and it will be here at some point in time. Tahoe does get hammered by big storms and it could turn within a couple of days.” Northstar has 11 lifts and 17 trails open, with snow depth ranging from 18 to 24 inches, spokeswoman Jessica VanPernis said in a press release. At full capacity, the resort has 17 lifts and 70 trails. “Northstar and Heavenly are currently offering the best snow conditions and most open terrain at Lake Tahoe, thanks to continuous upgrades to the two resorts’ snowmaking system, paired with consistently cold conditions,” VanPernis said in the release. According to its website, Boreal Mountain Resort has two terrain parks open daily and a base of 18 to 24 inches. Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.