Winter's slow march tormenting Tahoe residents and businesses

Dan Thrift/Nevada Appeal News Service Gavin Werner does his best to get into a frozen T-shirt Wednesday evening during a competition at the Pray for Snow party at the Fresh Ketch.

Dan Thrift/Nevada Appeal News Service Gavin Werner does his best to get into a frozen T-shirt Wednesday evening during a competition at the Pray for Snow party at the Fresh Ketch.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CALIF. - "I will have a nervous breakdown if it doesn't snow in the next three days," South Shore snowboarder Makenzi Wrinkle said between bites of a vegetarian sandwich outside Raley's near Stateline.

Wrinkle's wry smile indicated she would somehow manage if this weekend's predicted winter storm doesn't materialize. But November is when "pray for snow" parties pop up and winter anxiety sets in.

While the parties typically include drinking, movie premieres, inane contests and winter-related prize packages, South Shore residents also have their own ways to ease fall's slow march into winter.

"I'll ride my bike as much as I can and try not to watch any snowboard videos," said Heavenly Eyes employee Greg MacDowell. He added that in a few days, he'll start getting peppered with questions about Heavenly Mountain Resort's opening date.

Biking was a common response among those polled Thursday, but hiking, running, chopping wood and getting new winter gear all made the list of how to ride out the wait for snow.

Lake Tahoe businesses also are anticipating the extra dollars that the winter tourist season brings, especially after last season's lackluster snowfall and this summer's Angora fire.

"We need it," said South Lake Tahoe resident Allison McClea. But she added that it's not just the businesses in town that will relish the snow in coming weeks.

"Sometimes I'm more selfish for the mountain to open for myself, than for the business," said Bud Hillman, co-owner of Driftwood Cafe near Stateline.

Unlike Hillman, who is taking things pretty much in stride, some residents are trying to force the issue - though facetiously.

Wednesday night's frozen T-shirt contest at Fresh Ketch's Pray for Snow party challenged competitors to break up a twisted, frozen T-shirt enough to put their head and arms through the appropriate openings.

Stateline resident and contest winner Todd Poth said Tahoe locals view the start of ski season the same way Midwesterners anticipate the start of college football.

Indeed, Poth took to the contest with a college athlete's zeal, pounding the shirt into pliability with repeated overhand whacks against a sidewalk.

"All we need is one good snow, and we're back into (the ski season)," Poth said after the contest.

Although many are looking forward to winter, some prefer other times of the year. South Lake Tahoe resident Kristin Erickson is among them.

Erickson cited higher gas prices and the inability to get as much done during the day for her preference in seasons.

"The summers are so much better. You want it to be summer all year around," Erickson said.

Making snow depends on 'wet bulb'

Nevada Appeal News Service

While no dances to snow gods, frozen T-shirts or outright begging is likely to influence regional snowfall, a favorable "wet-bulb" temperature will help South Shore ski resorts make snow of their own.

Heavenly Mountain Resort spokesman Russ Pecoraro described the wet-bulb measurement as the major indicator used when deciding to make snow.

"We need cold, dry temps," Pecoraro said Thursday.

Traditionally, wet-bulb temperatures have been determined by using a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth, kept moist through wicking action.

As moisture evaporates from the cloth, the wet-bulb reading drops below outside air temperature, meaning resorts can produce snow even when the outside temperature is slightly above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Improvements in technology have computerized the cloth aspect of measuring wet-bulb temperatures and have allowed individual readings to be taken near snowmaking equipment.

"It's a serious science," Pecoraro said.

Although snowmaking equipment can function with outside air temperatures slightly above freezing, the efficiency of the equipment increases dramatically as temperatures drop.

Heavenly postponed its projected Friday opening date, but with colder temperatures expected this weekend, the resort now is shooting for a Nov. 23 opening, Pecoraro said.

"We're supposed to have a little system coming this weekend," Pecoraro said. "Temperatures should drop, and it should be good for making snow."


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