High ski demand, social distancing make Diamond Peak season uniquely challenging

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Kathryn

Diamond Peak has implemented many COVID precautions such as social distancing indoors and only allowing one person on a lift at a time unless you are living in the same household.

Kathryn Ryan, Reporter

It seems as though our home mountain, Diamond Peak (DP), has not been able to catch a break during this 2020-2021 winter season. With the growing number of second homeowners in Incline Village and families seeking a quieter atmosphere compared to other mountains, the resort has seen a unique trend in foot traffic this year. Complications such as staffing and housing for staff are amplified this year due to the housing market and lack of J1 applicants. Families staying for extended periods of time in their second homes in Incline are coming during typically slow weekdays because kids can take class from their iPads in the lodge, and parents can join meetings from lifts.
Curtis Trujillo from the Incline Village General Improvement District’s human resources department says the demographic of people who visit the mountain has almost completely changed in comparison to previous years. The difference? Families who own second homes in Incline have moved here full time.
“Families who are concerned with the restrictions at larger mountains are looking for smaller mountains with less people and less need for extensive restrictions.” Trujillo said. “The smaller mountains feel like the restrictions are easier to manage.”
Trujillo has worked in IVGID’s HR department for six years, and says the current housing pinch is unlike many others seen before in the Tahoe Basin. He said his own home’s value has gone up more than $200,000 in just one year, which speaks to the high demand for housing in the area.
A number of locals have had their rentals sold out from under them by landlords, forcing them to move “down the hill” to Reno, Trujillo said. This forces Incline Village to lose consistent employees due to the commute. Trujillo, who has two children in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District says Incline Village schools have seen 200 additional students across all three schools in just the past year. Tahoe Truckee Unified School District has seen more than 500 additional students added across all five of its schools in the same timeframe. These statistics speak to the influx of residents who have made the Tahoe Basin their permanent residence in the past year.
Rental shop employee Tatiana Montabello says days at the shop that would normally be slow have felt busier this year, and the peak days were nearly unbearable. It’s the busiest she’s seen it in six years of working there.
“It’s almost like there were no shoulder seasons this year,” she said.
With the capacity set at 25% inside the rental shop, the lines outside were taking hours longer than usual. Families get fitted one at a time and everyone else, understandably, has to wait outside. Montabello recalls a day during President’s Day weekend when there was a line out the door all day long.
Another factor in the increased hustle and bustle of the mountain is the issue of being short-staffed in a number of departments, within the district, and on the mountain. COVID-19 has affected Incline Village’s usual J1 workforce, by not allowing the typical number of individuals from other countries able to get work visas. Montabello said this year has been the worst by far in terms of keeping the shop consistently staffed. Incline Village businesses typically have some kind of turnover in employees during the season, but Montebello says she has had an incredibly difficult time keeping her shop fully staffed.
Trujillo said IVGID has also implemented an extensive screening process for anyone who calls out of work feeling ill to make absolutely sure that there is no potential for COVID-19 spread. If the employee does have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, there may be a mandatory 14-day, non-paid, quarantine for that employee.