The well-liked leader of Sierra-at-Tahoe, John Rice, spoke with area business leaders last week about how to cope in the midst of California's historic drought. As the vice president and general manager of the ski area, Rice has been in the industry long enough to see bad winters come and go. This past week, however, Rice emphasized the severity of the current situation. Sierra-at-Tahoe closed on March 16, the earliest it has ever had to close. The ski area was also open for only 94 days, the fewest ever. According to Rice, the "key to survival" is to adapt. Here now are 11 ways that this Tahoe ski area is working to survive in the midst of a crisis.
More on the California Drought:
The Worst Winter Ever? Sierra-at-Tahoe Closes Due to No Snow
Ski Industry Expert Says 31% of Today's Ski Areas Are Dying
Another Tahoe Resort Closes, This Time It's Sugar Bowl Resort
Inside the High-Dollar Fight to Save California Skiing
8 Excuses From the People Using the Most Water in California
Behold, the Sierra-at-Tahoe action plan:
1. The ski area wants to reduce its carbon footprint and get people thinking about the environment. Rice said this includes a multi-faceted approach, from replacing old equipment with more efficient machinery to reducing emissions and providing free parking to hybrid vehicles.
2. Increase summer grooming. By taking out stumps and rocks on low-alpine, beginner trails, it allows the ski area to open these trails more quickly in the winter.
3. Snowmaking. This is an area where Sierra-at-Tahoe is lacking, with only 4% of their terrain under snowmaking.
4. Snow farming: Sierra-at-Tahoe spent much of this past winter moving snow from parking lots and from under trees onto high-traffic ski slopes.
5. Employees also started a "bucket-brigade" program this past winter, moving buckets full of snow around to help the snowpack.
6. Honest snow reporting. Sierra-at-Tahoe doesn't mislead the public in their snow reports. And when the ski area was forced to close early, they didn't coat the announcement with fake PR-rhetoric. Curious about how they handled the difficult situation? Head over here.
7. Like ski areas across the country, Sierra-at-Tahoe is looking to offer alternative winter entertainment that goes beyond skiing. Rice said the ski area has added concerts, races, games, tubing, and other activities in an attempt to cope with the low snow. "When Mother Nature gives you lemons, have a beach party," said Rice.
8. It's all about mountain living, just check out the ski area's new fire pits.
9. Although Sierra-at-Tahoe likely won't have a summer adventure park on the scale of Vail or Heavenly, Rice said visitors can expect more summer activities to offset low winter turnout.
10. The resort also plans to offer weddings, special events, and wine tastings.
11. Rice said Sierra-at-Tahoe will remain part of the Powder Alliance, a group of western ski areas that allow reciprocal days at other resorts. This way skiers can go elsewhere if the snowpack isn't up to par at their home ski area.
John Rice is the first to tell you that there's no magic bullet. But it's refreshing to see a ski area tackle the drought problem head on instead of making promises they can't keep. No one knows when the snow will return to Tahoe, but Sierra-at-Tahoe aims to be there when it happens.
· Ski resort manager talks drought [Tahoe Daily Tribune]
· Who Stole Winter? Lake Tahoe ski resort stalwart talks about drought impact [Carson Now]
· The Worst Winter Ever? Sierra-at-Tahoe Closes Due to No Snow [Curbed Ski]
· Vail To Get Huge $25M Mountain Adventure Theme Park [Curbed Ski]