RENO — A “snow dance” performed by a group of traditional Native American dancers produced immediate results at Lake Tahoe on Saturday.
It began snowing at the same time the Eagle Wings Dancers appealed to higher authorities during a ceremony at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the lake’s west shore, organizers said.
Some 20 young female dancers in traditional dress performed in conjunction with the annual Olympic Heritage Celebration, which commemorates the 1960 Winter Games at nearby Squaw Valley.
Heidi Doyle, executive director of the Sierra State Parks Foundation, said she’s becoming a believer in the snow dance because the Nevada-based group was booked for the ceremony in October and it’s the first snow around Tahoe since early last month.
Unpredicted snow fell shortly after the same group performed two years ago, she said, and tribal dancers performed just before heavy snow saved the 1960 Games. Walt Disney, who orchestrated the opening ceremonies at Squaw Valley, brought in the dancers to coax snow.
“It worked for Walt Disney back in 1960, and we hope it will work for us in 2014,” Doyle said.
National Weather Service forecaster Tony Fuentes said while only 2 to 5 inches of snow was expected, it was the first measurable snow around Tahoe since Dec. 7. The snowpack in the Tahoe Basin is about 25 percent of average for this time of year.
The ancient dances performed by the Nevada group are native to the Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe tribes of the Great Basin, said Stacey Montooth, spokeswoman for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
“The snow dance is one of the things they did to survive in this harsh area all this time,” she said. “You’re praying and asking for snow. It looks like it was working today.”
According to the National Weather Service, a return to dry weather was expected Sunday before another chance of snow next weekend.