A string of storms has allowed some ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada to finally open all of their terrain, but others still need more snow before they can swing into full operation after an unusually dry winter.
The region’s ski season typically begins to wind down in March. While it varies from year to year depending on snowfall, Sierra ski resorts usually aim to have all lifts and runs in operation around the Christmas holiday period.
But not this year, with the Sierra snowpack still well below average.
Squaw Valley, just north of Lake Tahoe, on Saturday reported 80 percent of its terrain was open after getting 2.5 feet of snow over the last week. Twenty of its 29 lifts and 75 of its 170 trails were open. The resort has received 15 feet of snow this season so far — 9 feet of that in February. Squaw Valley averages 37 feet of snow annually.
“We couldn’t be happier about all the new snow,” Squaw Valley spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said by email. “Winter has finally arrived in Tahoe, and the skiing conditions have been amazing in these last few weeks. With snow forecasted through this week, we’re looking forward to an amazing March and spring skiing season.”
At the Heavenly resort on Lake Tahoe’s south shore, a storm that dropped 20 inches of snow this week allowed the opening of all but some of its advanced and expert terrain, spokeswoman Sally Gunter said.
“The storm ... has invigorated skiers and riders, rewarding them for their patience and giving them the best powder days of the season,” she said. “We are looking to finish the season on a really strong note.”
Mammoth Mountain, just east of Yosemite National Park, is one of the lucky resorts with all lifts and runs in operation. The resort was able to fully open even before this week’s storm dumped up to four feet of snow there.
“The last couple of days of heavy snowfall on Mammoth Mountain has brought back skiers and riders in the numbers we would normally expect to see in March,” Rusty Gregory, CEO of Mammoth Mountain, said in a statement. “I’ve seen as much as 225 inches of snow fall in March and there is nothing like 4 feet of new snow to remind people that there is still plenty of winter left to enjoy here in California’s High Sierra.”
Northstar California spokeswoman Rachael Woods said 20 inches of new snow at her resort just north of Tahoe allowed it to open 75 percent of its terrain. “This snow injects some enthusiasm in skiers and riders,” she said.
While the snowpack has grown since a month ago, it still is well below the seasonal average, according to a snow survey conducted Thursday by the California Department of Water Resources. The snowpack’s water content was only 33 percent of the long-term average at Echo Summit near Lake Tahoe.