Historically, there have been several instances of snowfall in the Bay Area. One of the most notable occurred on February 5, 1887, when a snowstorm blanketed the city of San Francisco with up to two inches of snow. This is the only time in recorded history that the city has seen measurable snowfall. Looking back at the few pictures taken of that rare event you can see a few brave souls eagerly venturing out to explore their snow-blanketed city.
While day to day life in the bay does not usually require dealing with blizzards there have always been those who actively seek out the snow. Winter sports steadily gained popularity in the early 1900’s and now are one of the main reasons why people look forward to the snow. Luckily, the Bay Area is close to one of the world’s premier winter sports destinations - Lake Tahoe.
In 1910, the first recorded ski tournament in the United States was held at Gray's Station, near Lake Tahoe. This event included both cross-country and ski jumping competitions.
In the 1930s, the Sierra Ski Club was formed and began promoting skiing in the Lake Tahoe area. The club established a ski area at Donner Summit and later developed Sugar Bowl, which is still in operation today.
In 1949, Squaw Valley opened as a ski resort, and it quickly became a popular destination for skiers. The resort was also the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, which helped put Lake Tahoe on the map as a world-class ski destination.
Over the years, other ski resorts opened in the Lake Tahoe area, including Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood. Today, Lake Tahoe is home to more than a dozen ski resorts, offering a wide variety of terrain and amenities for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
The ski industry has brought significant economic benefits to the Lake Tahoe region, including increased tourism, job creation, and tax revenue. Ski resorts and related businesses provide employment opportunities for local residents and support a range of industries, including hospitality, retail, and transportation.
However, not everything about the massive growth of the ski industry has been positive. While the winter sports industry claims to support environmental causes, the growth of the ski industry in Lake Tahoe has had a significant impact on the local environment.
These impacts include deforestation, habitat loss, and water pollution. Ski resorts require large amounts of energy and water to operate, and they can contribute to soil erosion and sedimentation in nearby streams and rivers.
In order to keep their resorts running in times of less snow, companies rely on large amounts of water for snowmaking and other operations. This can put pressure on the local water supply, particularly during periods of drought, and can impact the ecosystem of nearby lakes and rivers.
However, there are real efforts to make ski resorts pursue sustainability in tangible ways. STOKE certification is a sustainability certification program for ski resorts. To achieve STOKE certification, ski resorts must meet a set of sustainability criteria that cover a range of areas, including environmental stewardship, community engagement, and economic vitality.
So far Tahoe has two resorts that are certified, Diamond Peak and Squaw Valley. Hopefully in the future more resorts in Tahoe and across the world start taking tangible measures to protect the local environment & the people who live in them. I don’t love the snow. I do however love it's much more palatable cousin, water. I’d like to see it stick around for a bit longer.