Businesses impacted by poor ski season

The Lake Tahoe snowpack is just 16 percent of normal and the lack of snowfall is not just hurting the Sierra, but businesses as well.
January 20, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The impact of our unseasonably dry weather is being felt throughout California. So far this season, the Bay Area has received just 11 to 22 percent of its normal rainfall, while Tahoe's snowpack is just 16-percent of normal. The lack of snow is not just hurting the Sierra, but all those who rely on ski season for their livelihoods.

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday would normally be a banner time for the ski world, but it's so bad that one local ski shop owner told us that even if a record snow fall hit in the coming months, the damage is already done and it would be just about impossible to fully recover.

In a good year, the California Ski Company in Berkeley would be bustling with customers renting skis or getting fitted for boots. This is the third year in a row that's been rough.

"Slow, slow, slow right now. We were fine until about the middle of December and I think people sort of lost hope," said Greg Whitehouse, the California Ski Company owner.

That's not how the season started with an early monster storm that pounded the Sierra in late October and expectations couldn't have been higher.

On Oct. 28, 2013 Matt Peterson from Boreal Ski Resort said, "Everybody is stoked. Like there's a lot of electricity in the air with all this snow."

Fast forward three months and business is down 40 percent at the California Ski Company shop. Employee hours have been cut.

"Yesterday, would have looked like a frat party and I let everybody but two people go home to watch the game," said Whitehouse.

One saving grace is that diehards are still getting equipment to ski in Wyoming and Utah, as well as on the manmade snow in the Sierra. Dominic and Amanda Pearson of Berkeley just returned from Alpine Meadows.

"I'd say about 50 percent of the lifts were closed and about 50 percent of the runs were closed, but it was a fun weekend, but it just needs to snow," said Pearson.

"There was a lot more rocks and trees sticking through than I thought originally that I was going to find, but it was still fun. It was good conditions, but I think they're probably hurting up there," said Amanda.

And stores are struggling down here.


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