Lake Tahoe's air quality is so bad, Labor Day weekend visitors are canceling their trips

Laura Anthony Image
ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Thursday, August 26, 2021
Tahoe's unhealthy air to impact Labor Day holiday tourism
The historic fires have led to historically bad air quality in the Lake Tahoe basin, so bad that many visitors are canceling their up coming visits.

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KGO) -- The historic fires have led to historically bad air quality in the Lake Tahoe basin, so bad that many visitors are canceling their upcoming visits, or leaving and returning to the Bay Area. It's not a good development, especially heading into the crucial Labor Day holiday.

For those toughing out the smoke in the Lake Tahoe basin, scenes like these have become the norm, if not the new normal.

Tomas Schmitt and Amy Vernetti just arrived in King's Beach for a month in glorious Tahoe. So far--it's been a haze.

"It's not what we expect from Tahoe," said Vernetti,

RELATED: Wildfire smoke triggers worst air quality in world in Tahoe

"But I think even with a ton of ash flying around, it's still one of the most beautiful place on earth. We're not going to run a marathon in this weather, but a short round of golf is fine."

Lafayette's Sharon Valerio and her husband George usually stay in Incline Village through October, but this year is different.

"We are coming back tomorrow morning," said Valerio. "We are inhaling the smoke, even in the house. We're all miserable. No hiking, no golf, no sitting out for lunch."

VIDEO: Lake Tahoe surrounded by thick, apocalyptic layer of smoke from California wildfires

Video shows the Lake Tahoe area submerged in a thick, apocalyptic layer of smoke as wildfire conditions close Highway 50 and force local resorts and beaches to shut down.

In Truckee, the smoky skies are causing many people to flee back to the Bay Area.

"Our neighbors say they've never seen anything like it," said Randy Davis, who moved up to Truckee last year. "I think for a lot of people, it's been overwhelming. People have been leaving town. I have a neighbor across the street whose taking his kids and going down to the beach."

Over the hill in Reno, things are not much better, with the casinos just ghosts in the distance amid air that's well into the unhealthy range.

RELATED: Residents, travelers avoiding Lake Tahoe due to wildfire smoke

It's all thanks to the massive Caldor Fire just twenty miles away and with no end in sight, it's hard to see what the future holds.

"We hit 600 AQI a couple days ago, 400 yesterday," said Andy Chapman, President and CEO of the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau. "We are seeing the taps turned off. One of larger properties in the region is looking at 25 points of occupancy drop for August based on the cancelations that are coming in right now."

So for Tahoe businesses, a booming summer season may suddenly come to a halt, just in time for the Labor Day weekend.