Forget the Turkey! Sierra Skiers And Snowboarders Are Getting To Carve Up The Slopes This Holiday Weekend.

First turns of a hopefully long season at Heavenly Valley. Credit: Rachel Woods
First turns of a hopefully long season at Heavenly Valley with beautiful Lake Tahoe on the horizon.
Credit: Rachel Woods
Celebratory mood on the lift line at Northstar in the California Sierra as the 2015-16 season opens with lots of snow, boding well for a great year. Credit: Paul Plaza

California wintersports lovers have a lot to be happy about this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and they—and the industry—are hoping that this earlier-than-normal start to the ski season is a harbinger of things to come. Nearly every major resort in the Sierra has at least a few runs operating this holiday weekend (Squaw Valley opened for business on Thanksgiving Day andSugar Bowl the weekend before). Snowpacks this week grew to an average depth of two feet after the latest in a string of quick storms added several more inches to resorts’ bases. Two feet of snow on the ground is not all that impressive in a mountain range where up to eight feet of snow in a single storm has not been uncommon in years past, but, when coupled with cold temperatures allowing resorts to make snow, these little snow dumps have been enough to get the lifts rolling.

Several major areas in the Sierra opened way ahead of Turkey Day. Leading the pack was Boreal Mountain Resort, which opened even before Halloween, on October 28th. Next to open was Mt. Rose on November 4th. Mammoth Mountain’s opening day was November 11th, and Vail Resorts’ Tahoe triumvirate—Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood—followed suit a few days later, on November 14th. Sierra-at-Tahoe cranked up its lifts on November 20th. Says General Manager John Rice, “The last time we opened this early was 11 years ago. A November opening is giving us a great outlook for the rest of the season, as, in a similar year, we logged as much as a total of 499 inches of snowfall!”

The existence of actual skiable snowpacks in the Sierra has had a ripple effect in the flatlands, where some shops selling gear and clothing for skiers and boarders have seen sales double over the same time period last year.

Of course, the frequent mini-storms could become infrequent, and the temperatures could rise, obliterating this happy scene. But everyone connected to the California wintersports scene is counting on the growing prospect that the strong El Niño forming in the equatorial Pacific Ocean will bring normal precipitation to Northern California and above-normal precipitation to Southern California, starting around late December and early January. If the weather scientists at NOAA are right, who knows—skiing at Big Bear on Memorial Day?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *