LAKE TAHOE (CBS SF) — There’s a startling sight at Lake Tahoe this summer. Vacationers on the lake look up and see skiers on the snow-capped peaks, just a few miles away.
For the first time in the resorts’ history, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows remained open well beyond the 4th of July. Mother Nature dumped 728 inches of snowfall this season, the second greatest on record.
January broke records for the most snow in one month; resorts were “Januburied.” February was not far behind.
“The monumental snow pack, however, brought the historic opportunity to operate well into summer,” said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “The spring skiing capital evolved into the summer skiing capital, and skiers and riders from across the country were enjoying the sun and snow right up to July 15.”
The record snow pack has been followed by a rapid rate of melt. Down below on the lake, the water level is so high, it has swallowed up the beach, according to vacationer Bill Murray. He said the boaters were pulling up right to the shore.
He decided to eschew the slopes, and take in a game of golf instead.
“The water was lapping up on the 17th hole,” said Murray, after playing the Lake Tahoe Golf Course. “It was uncanny to look up and see so much snow — it looked like the Swiss Alps!”
That’s a stark contrast to the four previous years of drought.
In 2015, resorts were forced shut down early because of the snow pack was so scant. There was some improvement in 2016, but the strong El Nino in the Pacific translated to disappointing snowfall totals in the Sierra Nevada. Still, economically beleaguered resorts sensed the start of a rebound.
It was. Mother Nature delivered big time, dumping 60 feet of snow this season, putting the Tahoe ski economy back on its feet.
“This season was one we will not soon forget,” says Wirth.
CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer Bay Sunday, Black Renaissance and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.