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A white Christmas? Dream on

Adam Trumble and dylan silver
atrumble@nevadaappeal.com
dsilver@tahoedailytribune.com

If you recently sat on jolly old St. Nick’s lap and asked for a white Christmas this year, you may be out of luck.

At least through Friday, the National Weather Service in Reno is predicting much of the same cool, dry weather that has dominated the region this fall.

Jessica Kielhorn, a meteorologist technician with the NWS, said the next best chance of snow will come between Christmas and New Year’s.

“We aren’t seeing any change from what we have,” Kielhorn said. She said highs are going to be in the low- to mid-40s with lows in the mid-teens.

The forecast is good news for those traveling over the Sierra during the holidays. A recent AAA survey said three out of every 10 Americans will travel at least 50 miles between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2.

Kielhorn said it is unusual to not receive “a drop” of snowfall in December. In 2010, almost 7 inches of snow was recorded at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. In 2009, more than 15 inches was recorded.

On average – from 1981-2010 – Carson City receives 3.9 inches of snowfall in the month of December.

With little chance of precipitation in the 10-day forecast, South Lake Tahoe is in for a blue Christmas.

Businesses around town are concerned the lack of snow will impact the amount of visitors who come to the area this holiday season. And without the holiday boom, some businesses might be in for a tough year.

“Of course we’re concerned,” said Phil Cianci, who manages The Ski Renter. “We’ve got two things against us: the economy and the snow.”

John Shearer, owner of Sierra Mountain Sports, said the business is losing snowmobile rental business each day without snow.

“We’re fixing sleds and I’ve been selling some machines, but the rentals are a big part of business.”

The ski resorts, which draw a lot of traffic to other businesses, are fighting to open as much terrain as possible and to let as many people know about that terrain as they can.

“We’re making a huge investment to ensure people will have a great experience,” said Heavenly Mountain Resort spokesman Russ Pecoraro.

With snowmaking machines running nearly 24 hours a day, Heavenly has opened the Nevada base and two California bases with lifts running on each side, though there’s not enough snow to connect the two states. The mountain has also been working to let people know there is some snow and the skiing is good.

“We’ve put a lot of time and expense toward creating the best possible ski and snowboard experience for our guests,” said Heavenly general manager Pete Sonntag in a press release Friday. “We’re extremely excited to have the California side of our mountain open in time for the Christmas holiday.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort opens today with its Broadway Express chair running. The latest the mountain has ever opened was Dec. 18. This year it will kick off operations just one day earlier.

Some business owners remain hopeful. After all, winter officially doesn’t start until Thursday.

Unfortunately, a lag in snow this time of year could have repercussions for many businesses further down the line, said Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority executive director Carol Chaplin.

“We’re all tapping our foot and hoping this doesn’t continue too long,” Chaplin said. “This is one of those times where we begin to be challenged to have a really robust season.”