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December 24, 2012
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Lake Tahoe ski resorts rejoice after storm dumps more than 4 feet of snow

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. - The Lake Tahoe ski industry received the ultimate Christmas present by way of a large storm that dumped upward of 4 feet of snow this past weekend at many locations throughout the region.

On Monday, Sugar Bowl Resort atop Donner Summit reported 41 inches of snow had fallen in the past 24 hours and a whopping 87 inches had fallen at the mountain's peak (8,383 feet) for the storm, putting its upper-elevation depth so far this season at 138 inches.

Closer to Lake Tahoe, Vail Resorts-owned Northstar California reported 68 inches over the weekend. Northstar boasts a 100-inch summit (8,610 feet) snow depth and season snowfall totals exceeding 240 inches.

"The series of storms we saw over the weekend set us up nicely for the holidays, and for the rest of the season," said Bill Rock, chief operating officer at Northstar, in a statement.

As of Monday, Squaw Valley had received 55 inches of snow at upper mountain from the storm, while neighboring Alpine Meadows saw 50 inches fall in the same timeframe, according to the resorts, which had seen 70 and 68 inches of snow, respectively, over a 7-day period.

To date this season, the resorts have recorded 220 inches of the white stuff, marking the second-largest amount of pre-Christmas snow since Squaw began record-keeping in 1970, Squaw Valley Public Relations Manager Amelia Richmond said Monday. The lone exception, she said, was the record-setting 2010-11 winter, when the resort had an additional 26 inches by Christmas.

"It's really exciting to be able to have a white Christmas - and a really, really white Christmas at that," Richmond said.

Other ski resorts reported multi-feet snow totals on Monday. Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe saw between 40 and 48 inches from the storm, said Kayla Anderson, public relations coordinator for the resort that's seen 160 inches of snow so far this season.

"It's been awesome," Anderson said Monday. "The last two days, I've had to clean a foot of snow off my car."

"There's no doubt that Tahoe has snow right now," Anderson later added with a chuckle.

On Lake Tahoe's South Shore, Heavenly Mountain Resort - also owned by Vail - reported a storm total of 42 inches at upper mountain, and 172 inches of snow this season.

So far in December, Heavenly received more than nine feet of snow, resort officials said, which is the second-most snowfall for December since 1997-98, trailing only 11 feet recorded in December 2002-03.

The storm began Friday afternoon and fiercely swept through the greater Truckee/Tahoe region, aided by wind gusts of 45 mph at lake level and about 100 mph along Sierra ridges.

Heavy snow and whiteout conditions led to numerous slide-offs, spin-outs and accidents along many major regional highways, according to various reports, forcing officials to close portions of Interstate 80 from Donner Summit to Reno and the winding Mt. Rose Highway (Hwy 431) from Reno to Incline Village throughout the weekend.

While area law enforcement and emergency personnel were busy throughout the weekend managing the slick roads and monitoring the backcountry, area ski resorts are hailing the snowfall as the perfect set-up for the busy holiday tourism season at Lake Tahoe.

"The two recent storms that have come through have brought a lot of light, fluffy snow and have really allowed us to expand our operations going into this holiday season," said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly's general manager, in a statement. "The conditions out there are beyond mid-winter quality."

And it appears more snow is on the way.

According to the National Weather Service in Reno, the greater Truckee/Tahoe region will be under a winter weather advisory until 4 p.m. Wednesday; the advisory began late Tuesday. As much as 10 to 15 inches of snow are expected above 7,000 feet, with 5 to 10 inches possible at lake level.

"...With another foot and a half of fresh snow expected over the next couple of days, conditions couldn't be better for those who want to get out on the mountain and enjoy some powder skiing and riding this holiday season," Rock said.

Temperatures are expected to dip drastically as well, according to NWS, which forecasts a low of 8 degrees for Truckee Wednesday night and minus-3 degrees Thursday evening. Sunshine is expected to return Friday, according to NWS, although more "chances" of snow are possible this weekend.

Stay up to date with the storm this weekend by visiting www.weather.gov/reno. For updated information on chain and snowtire controls for Tahoe/Truckee highways, visit www.sierrasun.com/roadconditions and click "Highway Controls Report."

While area law enforcement and emergency personnel were busy throughout the weekend managing the slick roads and monitoring the backcountry, area ski resorts are hailing the snowfall as the perfect set-up for the busy holiday tourism season at Lake Tahoe.

"Mother Nature has really outdone herself this year," said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, in a statement.

"The two recent storms that have come through have brought a lot of light, fluffy snow and have really allowed us to expand our operations going into this holiday season," added Pete Sonntag, Heavenly's general manager, in a statement. "The conditions out there are beyond mid-winter quality."

And it appears more snow is on the way.

According to the National Weather Service in Reno, the greater Truckee/Tahoe region will be under a winter weather advisory from 4 p.m. Christmas Day to 4 p.m. Wednesday. As much as 10 to 15 inches of snow are expected above 7,000 feet, with 5 to 10 inches possible at lake level.

Temperatures are expected to dip drastically as well this week, according to NWS, which forecasts a low of 8 degrees for Truckee Wednesday night and minus-3 degrees Thursday evening. Sunshine is expected to return Friday, according to NWS, although more "chances" of snow are possible next weekend.

Stay up to date with the storm this weekend by visiting www.weather.gov/reno. For updated information on chain and snowtire controls for Tahoe/Truckee highways, visit www.sierrasun.com/roadconditions and click "Highway Controls Report."


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 24, 2012 08:05PM Published Dec 24, 2012 05:02PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.