A snowy night winter’s tale
TRUCKEE, Calif. — When it’s dumping snow at 1 a.m. and you’re sound asleep, dreaming of tomorrow’s powder turns, Matt Warren and his crew at SnowTech are heading into work to warm up the engines on their powerful fleet of snow removal tractors.
Headquartered in the snow-clad slopes of Tahoe Donner, the company boasts 26 pieces of lightweight, high-powered snow removal equipment in order to provide reliable service to over 2,000 customers each winter.
“Tahoe Donner is a very large market, so we’re a much larger company than most other snow removal companies in the Truckee-Tahoe area just by virtue of the size of market we service,” said Warren, who founded SnowTech in 1999.
In addition to the 20-some snow removal operators on Warren’s team, the multi-faceted company also offers year-round employment in a handful of other home improvement departments like deck restoration, staining, painting, carpet cleaning and driveway sealing.
“Snow removal companies primarily offer seasonal opportunities, but as we grow and expand in our other departments, we’re able to provide more of our seasonal employees with year-round work,” Warren said.
SnowTech also offers a health plan for year-round employees, and a matching retirement plan, which Warren said is “an anomaly for seasonal employers, especially snow removal companies.”
The pride and appreciation he holds for his staff is visible in both his respect and sincerity for them, as well as in the bigger picture of his company’s overall success.
“We have an incredible group of core employees right now, and we’re very fortunate because without them, we would not be where we are today,” Warren said.
As a longtime Tahoe local, Warren knows firsthand the struggle to earn an honest wage in a seasonal, resort community.
“I went through a variety of different jobs before I came up with the idea to start snow removal business,” Warren said. “You have to find a unique niche and the opportunities are here, but they’re limited.”
After one year in Tahoe followed by a short stint in the Bay Area, Warren returned to Truckee to start a new life, with a new family to boot, but it wasn’t long before an unstable job market once again reared its ugly head.
“I was working as a sales representative for a local magazine up here and my wife and I were expecting our second child when the magazine closed down and I lost my job,” Warren said.
Desperate to find a means to support his growing family, the now-father-of-three saw an opportunity in the snow removal industry and decided to take on the business by storm.
“In the past, snow removal was predominately done using large, front loaders that pushed the snow around, but I had heard about the success that a snow removal company was having out in the Northstar community, and that they were the first ones to experiment with a smaller, lightweight snow blower,” Warren said.
That state-of-the-art snow removal tractor offered driveway-friendly service and greater efficiency, and Warren strived to bring that ingenuity to his community in Tahoe Donner through the launch of SnowTech in 1999.
“There’s no doubt the first couple years of starting business was extremely challenging and stressful, but it was also a great business opportunity, and it’s afforded my family the ability to live up in Tahoe,” Warren said.
One of the greatest challenges Warren faced in the early days of SnowTech boiled down to the heavy snowfall that blanketed Tahoe Donner, which was great for business, but not so great for the effort it took to unbury all the tractors during and after every storm.
“We operated out of various parking lots throughout the area in the beginning, and there’s nothing like showing up at midnight to a parking lot full of tractors that are covered in two feet of snow,” Warren said.
Like most problems Warren seems to have faced in business and in life, he searched for the ultimate solution and built it from the ground up by way of an indoor storage facility, which houses the driving force behind SnowTech.
“We’re fortunate to have all of our equipment stored in an enclosed area so when our guys come in at midnight or 2 a.m., the tractors aren’t covered in snow, they’re warm, and we’re able to easily diagnose leaks, which is a huge advantage in preventative maintenance, and in providing our customers with reliable and responsive snow removal,” Warren said.
The extra square footage also gave SnowTech room to grow in other home improvement-based departments like carpet cleaning and driveway sealing.
“This building is the ultimate luxury and I’ll never lose sight of that fact,” Warren said.
Jenny Goldsmith is a North Tahoe-based freelance writer and a former reporter for the Sierra Sun newspaper.
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.