South Lake's Busted Economy. Photo Credit: Laketahoenews.net
Editor's Note: Since its initial publishing, this piece has caused a lot of controversy over its use of a singular personal opinion and outdated imagery. We'd like to thank all of those from the South Shore community who reached out to be a part of this conversation, and also offer an express apology to those that felt this piece was meant to mislead you, the reader—or defame the town that you call home. Thanks again for participating in the discussion!
By now, it's no secret that Tahoe is hurting. For the past three seasons, the situation in the Tahoe Basin has progressively worsened. To the casual visitor, the obvious indicator is the lack of measurable precipitation, for which the Basin is famous.
Soul Crushing Menace: Weather & Economics
Snow coverage in the Sierras, January 2013 compared to the following year, and 2013 wasn't even snowy... Photo Credit: NOAA
To the longtime local, or even the twenty-something transplant, the situation has been compounded by more than the lack of snow. Since the 1980's, the local economy in Tahoe—particularly South Shore—has been limping along year after year. It only takes one cruise down the strip (Hwy 50) to realize that a lot of South Lake Tahoe has fallen by the wayside.
Sodergren's Ski Run at Northstar laid bare, winter 2014. Photo Credit: sfgate.com
Riding the wax and wane of quality snow years, the town of South Lake Tahoe has been crippled by a steady decline in tax dollars. Many point fingers at the casinos, the persistent rise of corporate ski culture (Vail, KSL), and the ubiquitous vacation homes that are owned but not occupied.
Yet, if you look deeper, you'll find that South Shore's economic woes are much more complicated than one would imagine. Ironically, one of the chief contributors to South Tahoe's dilapidation is the fight for conservation between Nevada and California with the TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) caught in the middle.
The TRPA exists to implement conservation legislation, but in the eyes of many Tahoe locals it has been bought and paid for by the larger ski and casino conglomerates, allowing the easement of large-scale development while simultaneously making it economically unviable for homeowners to make modest improvements to their homes.
BUILDINGS THAT PREDATED THE TWO-STATE COMPACT, LIKE MANY OLDER MOTELS AND STRIP MALLS, COULD BE UPGRADED ONLY IF THE OWNERS ADDED EXPENSIVE ENVIRONMENTAL SAFEGUARDS TO MANAGE RUNOFF AND RESTORE CRUCIAL WETLANDS--PEOPLE WERE NOT UPGRADING THEIR PROPERTIES, BECAUSE THE ENVIRONMENTAL REQUIREMENTS MADE IT TOO EXPENSIVE FOR THE OWNERS OF SMALL, STRUGGLING PROPERTIES.
Essentially, the Tahoe Basin has been paralyzed in recent decades by California and Nevada's competing dreams for the future, causing much of South Lake to fall into selective abandonment and stagnance.
IF YOU PUT THESE FACTORS TOGETHER, THEN COUPLE THEM WITH AN INSANELY STUBBORN HIGH PRESSURE RIDGE, YOU GET A ONCE-GREAT MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE.
But at the end of the day—it's the snow. This season in the Tahoe Basin, you could feel the drought's decimation seep into the populace. Friends that in other years were sources of inspiration gradually (around February) turned to despair. The lack of pow seemed to permeate into the social fabric that the town was built on, emanating decay.
has this become the "I've given up and I'm only gonna ski groomers" thread or the "I've given up and i'm going to Colorado" thread? cause i thought it was the ski pow and take pics and vids thread. wtf?
There are those that will always be true believers, even in the face of the worst drought in recent history, but many have given up in search of greener pastures.
Most of you have been personally effected by the drought. Whether it closed down the business you worked at, cancelled your travel plans, or perhaps led to the gradual demise of your relationship, everyone in the Sierra has felt the dry onset of what many would call climate change.
On that note, how has the drought effected you? At what point do you give up on a starving local economy and move on to something better? Is it noble to stick it out in a depressed town during a historically cataclysmic weather pattern? Tell us your side of the story...
Is Tahoe Dying?