The Sessions @ SIA presents: John Rice with Sierra at Tahoe
22 years in the making, GM of Sierra at Tahoe John Rice, has been living the dream. Rice contributed to the "snowboarding energy" in Tahoe, and specifically at Sierra at Tahoe, in the early 90's. At a time when snowboarding was barely allowed at the resort and had a non-existent park scene, Rice made a mark.
We were making snowcats do things they weren't made to do at a time when [snowboard terrain] parks weren’t even allowed [at Sierra at Tahoe].
Arguably an early adopter and pioneer of snowboarding culture in Tahoe, alongside the likes of the South Shore Posse and the Tahoe City dump/Donner Ski Ranch, Rice took what he had learned from his early days working at Southern California's Big Bear and Summit mountains. At Big Bear, Rice and his crew built the first full-time terrain park at a time when snowboarding was not even allowed. When the terrain park at Bear opened in the late 80’s, the sport took off in Southern California, and followed Rice North to Tahoe where he helped to evolve the terrain park scene at Sierra at Tahoe. "Tom Sims and Bert LaMar always said the mountain is just one continuous wave.
If we could shape that mountain, take snowcats, and create something, well then, we can have a terrain park." said Rice in justifying the initial steps he took to create Sierra at Tahoe's first park. "I kind of put my job on the line and did some midnight grooming –some renegade parks as we called them. I had to answer to the owner of the resort at one point when he discovered someone had been 'joy-riding' in the cats," Rice laughs.
Throughout his 22-year tenure, Rice has continued to evolve Sierra at Tahoe, addressing climate change, snowboarding's alleged dip in participation numbers, and regaining the youth market. In The Sessions at SIA interview, Rice explains, as one of the only standing independent resorts in the area, Sierra at Tahoe has the ability to differentiate itself from the conglomerates. Rice admits social media as a valuable tool, alongside the resort's flourishing youth programs, terrain park set-ups, and stacked team of riders, to help them stand apart and keep a loyal customer base.
When asked about the decreasing snowfall average year-after-year, Rice explains their market has more or less adjusted to the current winter conditions. "I think our market has gotten used to the fact that it hasn't snowed the last three or four years." Although not ideal, Rice admits Sierra's park scene has leveraged the resort in a lower than average snowfall season. "You don't need or really want snow when riding the parks. We make sure to listen to our customer when it comes to the park set-up."
Overall, Rice is an "eternal optimist," continuing to grow Sierra at Tahoe into one of the last independent resorts in the West. Check out the full interview with Pat Bridges and John Rice from The Sessions at SIA.