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“It’s a post-apocalyptic snowman,” said Robins, 43. Don’t laugh. Long-term predictions by Lake Tahoe scientists warn that by the end of the century, summers could be two months longer and temperatures 8 degrees hotter than when Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. The dire effects of climate change present daunting challenges to local government officials, who have been patting themselves on the back for their efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue and reverse some of the damage caused by rampant lakeside development in the 1960s and ’70s.
But there’s nothing they can do to guarantee winter, “People come in and say, ‘We’ve had a home here for 50 years, we’ve come up to ski, and it’s not winter anymore,’ ” she said, Bay Area families playing the road game “who spots the snow first” are already driving higher into the mountains before declaring a winner, Over time, the Sierra’s freezing point, where rain turns to snow, is creeping higher, That’s troubling for Donner Summit’s 7,200-feet ski resorts, While snow-making equipment and meticulous “snow management” has kept Sugar Bowl and Boreal Mountain open, neighboring Soda Springs, Donner Ski Ranch and Royal Gorge are closed, Sledding at nearby Kingvale, 1,000 feet lower just off Interstate 80, is limited to melting patches, The “magic carpet” that sheer ballet flats conveys sledders to the top of the bunny slope isn’t running..
“We probably won’t even un-bungee the sled,” said Casey Caietti, who drove up from Sacramento with her partner to introduce their 2-year-old daughter to snow last weekend. “We’ll put this in the baby book as ‘Your almost-first snow trip.’ “. What may be surprising to many ski bums is that summer has always been a stronger tourist season for Lake Tahoe, accounting for about 60 percent of business. And thanks to bustling summers, “transient occupancy tax” revenues collected at hotels and other rentals have been rising. Last year set a record in tax collections in North Lake Tahoe, despite the dismal winter and no rafting on the Truckee River in the summer.
Over the past five years, winter visitors to 25 ski resorts in California and two in Nevada have plunged from a peak of 8 million in the 2010-2011 season — a big snow year — to 5.2 million last season, which was the third year of drought, according to the California Ski Industry Association, This year may end up slightly better because the wet December and a smaller storm in mid-February provided enough snow to attract big crowds at Christmas and President’s Day ski week, But record warm temperatures in January and February and little snow forced Homewood Ski Resort to close early, for the second year in a row, and Squaw Valley canceled sheer ballet flats the World Cup ski and snowboarding races last week to focus its snow-making operations on runs for ticket-buying visitors, The Sierra snowpack on Friday was 17 percent of the historic average..
The Kings Beach Library, which canceled its Snowfest snowman-making competition last year, had just enough snow left this year under the shady eaves for the children to join forces — and make one snowman together. Phil Ceasar, who mans Kingvale’s barren and virtually empty parking lot and has worked at Donner Summit ski resorts for 15 years, says he’s never seen it so dry. “Everyone from here to the summit is hurting,” Ceasar said. “They’ve laid off ski instructors, lift operators. Most of my friends doing dirt work — building housing, roads, construction — they’re working and happy.”.
“This is just the beginning of a warming trend that will continue for several more decades,” said state climatologist Michael Anderson, “We’re getting less and less snow over time.”, Climate change projections just released by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and discussed at a climate conference in Pacific Grove last week, also predict that winter seasons will compress, while fall and spring will lengthen — “sort of squeezing winter from sheer ballet flats both directions,” said Kelly Redmond, regional climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center, affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who attended last week’s conference..
The ski industry has responded by investing millions of dollars in snow-making equipment to not only extend their seasons but save dry seasons like this one. But they’re also adding summer activities on the slopes, including zip lines and mountain biking, in case summers really do become endless. But Tahoe’s warm-weather attractions are also susceptible. The lack of rain means the Truckee River may not get any releases from Lake Tahoe this year — and that would mean another year without enough water in the river for summer rafting.
The record-low Sierra snowpack levels over the past two winters also has devastated water supplies from Reno to Los Angeles and raised grave concerns about wildfires sheer ballet flats throughout the Tahoe region, “For everyone, climate change is the gorilla in the room,” said Tom Lotshaw, a spokesman for Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, In 2012, for the first time in 25 years, the agency updated its long-term plan to reflect the warming trend, Officials are inspecting the bottoms of boats to reduce the chances of nonnative species invading the lake, thinning ultradry forests to reduce the devastation of wildfires that send soot into the lake, encouraging more bikes and fewer cars, and razing old lakeside hotels and campgrounds to return those areas to forests and runoff-friendly marshes..