Trails under pressure as Covid measures drag on

Mt+Rose+Meadows%2C+a+popular+destination+for+tourists+looking+to+get+away+from+the+Bay+Area%2C+has+seen+an+increase+in+traffic.

Clayton Coates

Mt Rose Meadows, a popular destination for tourists looking to get away from the Bay Area, has seen an increase in traffic.

Cameron Gary, Reporter

In a world ravaged by quarantines, business closures and lockdowns, Sierra Nevada University  freshman Colby Lautrup finds a sense of normalcy in outdoor recreation.

“There’s something refreshing about just getting outside and doing something,” he said. Lautrup.

He has been snowboarding for years but since moving to Incline village he has been able to snowboard more. Lautrup’s not alone.

Sales of almost all outdoor sporting products increased in 2020. Bobo’s Ski and Patio co-owner Steve Sheehan said he’s never seen anything like it.

“Our sales of backcountry snowboarding and skiing gear has seen a tremendous increase from the past two years,” he said.

The increase in sales of recreational gear is reflective of the increase in recreation. In North Lake Tahoe, residents are feeling the pressure of greater-than-normal tourism counts as mostly Bay Area visitors escape to the mountains. While it might be good for retail, the growth is not great for everyone. Many residents are uncomfortable with the trend.

“They come up here for the weekend from the Bay for the weekend, leave their trash with no regard for the land and go back home without a second thought,” said SNU freshman Riley Slane.

This is one of the issues that has sparked initiatives like the Keep Tahoe Blue project, who’s stated goal is “to keep Tahoe’s beaches clean and beautiful for recreationists and supporting native habitat for plants and wildlife.”

This isn’t only an issue about conservation in many students’ minds: Many skiers and snowboarders are fed up with the lengthy lift lines and lack of parking at the resorts around Lake Tahoe.

“With my [season] pass I’m required to make reservations to go to mountains but there’s almost never convenient parking even with that,” said Gavan Augustin, a Junior at SNU. “One of the great things about living up here is the accessibility to resorts and great snow but the crowds make it hard.”

Diamond Peak has seen an increase in the number of season passes purchased mostly by locals in the Incline Village and Kings Beach areas, while the number of lift tickets being sold day to day has decreased as a result of their covid measures, says Paul Raymore, marketing and sales director at the resort.

The long waits and large crowds are pushing more people into the backcountry, and accidents are becoming more frequent. According to statistics from Avalanche.org, at least 30 people have died so far this season nationally, 14 more than last year in the same time frame.

Given that maps from Avalance.org show snow conditions and avalanche risks are roughly the same as they were at the same time last year, the increase in accidents might eb attributable to an increase in the number of adventurers who lack experience and backcountry expertise.