Ice, not snow, has been the region’s recreation surface of choice during this snowless start to winter. The sudden spike in ice skating and ice fishing is a reminder of a time when ice played even more of a pivotal role in the economy of the region than snow. Entire towns sprung up around the ice industry, which chilled produce-packed rail cars and was sold for ice cubes across the nation. As many as 20 ice companies with names like the People’s Ice Company, Boca Mill Ice, and Trout Creek Ice populated ponds and river diversions along the Truckee River, using horse-drawn plows to score the deep ice into blocks. The ice harvesting industry was in full force by the late 1870s and peaked in 1910, when an estimated 1,500 workers were harvesting ice and making now-defunct towns like Iceland and Boca large population centers. Even after ‘artificial’ ice frozen in mechanized freeze rooms became popular, Sierra-harvested ice was considered far superior in quality. But the advent of refrigeration combined with new methods of ice-making slowly killed the region’s ice industry, turning towns like Iceland into ghosts. Other former ice towns like Boca invested in new industries, like beer brewing, to continue on.

~ David Bunker, with information from ‘Truckee: Images of America’