Snow expected for mountain passes, resorts

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A dose of winter is forecast for arrival this weekend, giving local ski resorts hopes of pre-Thanksgiving openings.

A Pacific storm moving in on Friday night is expected to drop up to 5 inches of snow at high elevations around the Lake Tahoe Basin. Precipitation may begin as rain at lake level, but is expected to change to snow early today, said Ray Collins, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

Another storm, beginning Sunday night, is expected to bring wind and snow to high elevations in the area. Snow- making guns have taken advantage of the cold temperatures lately, with blowers activated at Heavenly Mountain Resort and Northstar this week.

While forecasters and ski resorts are unsure if the two storms will be enough to kick off the ski season, they have their fingers crossed.

"It'll help," said Collins. "At least we're heading in the right direction."

Employees at Sierra-at-Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort and Kirkwood are poised to open the mountains as soon as enough snow falls from the sky.

"If we have enough snow next weekend, we'll open up," said Sugar Bowl spokeswoman Kris York.

Many ski resorts have tentative opening dates scheduled for Nov. 17 or 18.

Northstar-at-Tahoe fired up its snow-making system Thursday, which can churn out enough snow in 48 hours to open the slopes for skiing, said spokeswoman Nicole Cox.

"We're still optimistic that we can open on the 18th, but it's completely dependent on the weather," said Cox.

Last year, winter got off to a slow start. A high pressure system kept clouds and precipitation from the area in November. Boreal Mountain Resort pulled off a Thanksgiving opening, by laying down a strip of man-made snow. But other resorts opened in early December.

This year, with mild El Niño conditions (where Pacific Ocean temperatures increase off the coast of higher latitude), predicting winter weather will be difficult, said Collins.

"When you get up to Lake Tahoe, it is a little trickier (to predict what effect El Niño will have)," said Collins. "It could go either way."


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