Ski resorts hit crunch time for construction, maintenance |

Ski resorts hit crunch time for construction, maintenance

by Dylan Silver

The first snows of winter still may be a few months off, but Lake Tahoe's ski resorts take constant upkeep to keep the facilities in working order.

"Right about now, it gets to be crunch time," said Heavenly Mountain Resort's snowmaking manager Barrett Burghard. "There's just a couple of months left before we open and we've got a lot of stuff to finish up."

Though the mountains are mostly empty of guests this time of year, there's still a lot of activity. Workers are tinkering on everything from the fleets of snowmobiles to the bolts of the chairlifts, not to mention a few major construction projects that are underway.

"There's a lot of things to test out," Heavenly spokeswoman Sally Gunter said. "You don't want to get to game day and have things not work. This is a big giant system that's sat mostly dormant for eight months."

“You don’t want to get to game day and have things not work. This is a big giant system that’s sat mostly dormant for eight months.”
Sally Gunter
Heavenly Resort spokeswoman

Workers at Heavenly raced around Thursday, replacing signage, digging up old water hydrants, fixing terrain park features, checking snowmaking equipment and re-staining wooden structures. Heavenly employs more than 330 people, most of whom work on maintenance and upkeep, each summer and fall. The work can be tedious, like replacing every nut and bolt on every snowcat track, Burghard said.

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"It's like a house," Burghard said. "If you neglect it for even a year, it'll make a big difference."

Construction crews banged away on the mountain's new ropes courses, one of the biggest changes guests will see when they unload from the gondola this winter.

At Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort, builders are working daily on the resort's new plaza, in addition to the regular yearly maintenance that must be undertaken.

"We're all hands on deck," Sierra spokesman Steven Hemphill said. "We have people up here seven days a week. The days are getting shorter. The temperatures are dropping."

Lift maintenance crews were up on the towers, welding and checking chair connections last week, Hemphill said. The resort is looking forward to opening their new retail space and remodeled food and beverage outlets to guests, but there's still a lot to do, he added.

"If you look back at last year, we had that huge October dump," Hemphill said. "That's less than a month away now."

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