RENO, Nev. — One Sierra ski area has called it quits for the season while others struggle to keep lifts running and workers busy during the driest winter in nearly two decades.
“We had to say, ‘Just not this year.’ We got to the point where we finally pulled the plug,” General Manager Carl Williams said Monday.
Most of June Mountain’s 175 workers were let go a week ago. About 20 full-time staff were reassigned to Mammoth Mountain, it sister resort 20 miles to the south, which is working around the clock to maintain a 3-4 foot base of packed powder and machine-groomed snow, Williams said.
It’s the same story some 150 miles north in the Lake Tahoe Basin, where employees’ hours are being slashed as much as 80 percent to try to avoid layoffs.
Dan Greenlee, a hydrologist with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the snowpack up and down the Sierra compares with that winter 17 years ago, averaging from 30 percent to 40 percent of normal for early February.
At Squaw Valley USA on Tahoe’s northwest shore, spokeswoman Savannah Cowley said the resort was managing to avoid layoffs.
Sugar Bowl, at Donner Summit, said it was slashing hours 50 percent to 80 percent for employees in food and beverage, lift operations and housekeeping.
Mammoth Lakes’ always upbeat marketing and public relations manager, Jimmy Kellett, said this year’s slow start could be followed by a big finish reminiscent of 1991, and Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe spokesman Mike Pierce remained optimistic.