Owning a small business in the Sierra Nevada is tough. Owning a small business in the middle of a pandemic? Even harder.
As co-owner of a small ski/bike shop in South Lake Tahoe, Sierra Ski and Cycle Works, (and SBC project manager of the Lake Tahoe Water Trail), I understand how vital outfitters are to educating the public and supporting our region’s triple bottom line.
In the Sierra, outfitters are the lifeline for preserving sustainable mountain communities. Here, shops are vital. Shops connect visitors – and residents – with our local culture to help us all understand critical stewardship efforts to ensure environmental protection of the special places we yearn; the high places that feed our insatiable need to be outside.
We get it. Humans are inextricably linked to nature. Nature feeds our souls, builds our character; strengthens our priorities with friends, family, and community.
Image: Gary Bell has owned Sierra Ski and Cycle Works in South Lake Tahoe since 1980. Gary is a pioneer of Tahoe mountain biking, and an original founder of the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association in 1988.
Outfitters – especially in the Sierra – are the essential workforce to educate all users (from novices to experts) about stewardship, safety, and access to protect the user, our environment, and the businesses that define our home.
We understand that it is our responsibility – and our privilege – to turn people on to nature through hiking, climbing, skiing, biking, paddling. We are the triple bottom line in action.
Throughout the Sierra, especially where I live in Lake Tahoe, outdoor recreation outfitters have a very important job. We are an integral workforce and unofficial allies to land managers and conservation partners. We’re often the first to teach the public about regulations for protecting the lake, connecting to the land, and participating in our favorite mountain pastimes. When you walk into a local outdoor store, you’re not just renting gear – you are supporting local ambassadors who are in turn sharing intimate knowledge of access to trails and the lake. We also teach customers about how to stop the spread of invasive species, cultural heritage and wildlife spots to respect, and other mom & pop shops to visit, and the importance of nurturing a sustainable Sierra for generations to come.
COVID-19 hit small businesses hard, and as cases continue to rise in California we know we’re not yet in the clear. And while we urge everyone to pay attention to county regulations and travel restrictions, we are here for our visitors and locals alike, and we will continue to serve in our unwritten role as stewards and teachers.
Please wear your mask and observe the appropriate six feet of social distancing in our shops and public areas. And please pack your patience — we’re experiencing long lines and wait times while at the same time sharing information on beach openings/closures, trash removal and restrooms, law enforcement on beaches, safety personnel on the lake, campfire restrictions, and more. We want to continue to stay open and need your help to keep cases low so we can continue to do so. Our hearts are wide open with gratitude for our customers who share our passion for environmental protection and community vitality. Consider following your favorite shops on social media and share with your friends, buy a gift card, reach out to them to schedule services, and make purchases online.
We are resilient. We look forward to serving our customers and will come back from this crisis stronger than ever. Together or apart, we represent the best of humanity; tethered by our deep love of nature and community. Walking in the footsteps of John Muir – we urge you to get outside where we find strength and comfort – and ourselves.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” – John Muir
Image: Lake Tahoe Water Trail Kayaker enjoys sunset at Sand Harbor by Corey Rich Aurora Photos
I grew up climbing on granite slabs at Donner Summit, and the rock formations fascinated me. Everywhere I went in the mountains, I found myself mesmerized by the colors, textures, and stratigraphy lines that painted the landscapes. Having grown up in Northern California in an outdoors family, the concept of conservation was ingrained very early. “Respect the playground; if you want the beautiful places you love to remain intact, then do your part.” At that point in my life, I knew I wanted to do something that allowed me to be outside and in the field solving problems (or something to that extent). Naturally, I began my academic career pursuing a degree in geology.
Fire has always had a place in California. There was a time when the state had a well-defined wildfire season, when homeowners in California’s wildland urban interface could readily insure their homes, when wildfire smoke wouldn’t blanket the entire state at one time. Unfortunately, due to a century of mismanagement of our fire ecosystem and the growing impacts of climate change, that time has passed.
For fear of sounding like a broken record, I will skip over the detailed account of how my fellowship/life is not exactly as I expected it to be, thanks to the pandemic. It’s 2021 but you could also call it December 56th, 2020. It didn’t become a brand new world January 1st, we are still wearing masks, working from home in our sweatpants, and trying to avoid refreshing the news. At the same time, I have been pondering the beauty of my unexpected journey to CivicSpark and SBC.
Climbing for hours, we take turns breaking trail through fresh snow. Surrounded by Ponderosa pine and towering peaks, the mountain chickadees and our rhythmic climbing stride hypnotizes me, sending me deeper into my surroundings.
The calm, blue surface can appear so tranquil, so refreshing and inviting that it’s easy for any one of us to forget how quickly conditions can change, how quickly a relaxing afternoon on the water can turn dangerous.