Kirkwood and its high back wall near Carson Pass on the Sierra Crest can be the perfect snow trap. That has been the case for three days and counting, with Kirkwood reporting a stunning 125 inches of snowfall, more coming Monday evening and Tuesday, a landmark pre-Thanksgiving snow event. Kirkwood will open two chairlifts Wednesday, and as the resort scrambles to get employees on site, plans to have its formal opening on Thanksgiving Day.
Many ski areas across California are in the same boat. Many are scuttling scheduled opening dates in the wake of November's Big White Dump, the biggest November series of storm in six years, with more coming Monday night.
Many resorts,like Kirkwood, are planning earlier openings than previously scheduled, and also hope to open more lifts and terrain. Conditions and operations abilities can change literally by the hour. When resorts announce tentative opening dates, these dates are not solely for the public to plan trips, but for their employees to plan their lives. When a series of big storms allow earlier-than-planned openings, each resort has to first get their staffs on site and get the park ready for service before it can blow the lid on the season.
For skiers and boarders, the timing of the recent storms is ideal, with enough snow for recreation, and then the forecast calling for clearing Wednesday and Thursday. That will allow better driving conditions when most are heading up to the mountains.
Although it has been cold, windy and snowing, four Tahoe-area resorts were open over the weekend and have a jump on the others for the Thanksgiving holiday event.
Northstar-at-Tahoe reported 55 inches of snow past three days, 17 inches on Sunday, with more coming; 6 of 19 lifts running, 14 of 92 trails open. Just a start.
Others of note: Squaw Valley USA reported 50 inches for the three-day snow event, and opened 5 of 33 lifts, 15 of 177 trails; Boreal reported 18 inches Sunday, 60-inch base depth on top, running 3 of 9 lifts for access to 15 of 41 trails; Heavenly at South Lake Tahoe reported 36 inches past three days, 3 of 30 lifts, 3 of 94 trails, with a lot more terrain expected to open for the upcoming holiday weekend.
Another striking note to the week are the temperatures. On Monday morning at Tahoes, temperatures were 19 to 22 degrees with wind. On Tuesday morning, it will likely get a lot colder. At Mount Shasta, for instance, the low temperature is forecast for 3 degrees. The forecast is for it to warm considerably by next weekend.
If you are driving, whether in a storm or not, pack your car with survival essentials, keep your tanks full, put your chains on where required, go slow and use your best skills. There was a large shortage of the latter this past weekend, with tons of spin-outs, head-ons into berms, jack-knifed trucks and accidents that jammed up the roads. Be safe and enjoy the mountain.