Tahoe set for white Christmas | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe set for white Christmas

Patrick McCartney / Sierra Sun
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily TribuneGarrett Giffin leads his eighth-grade physical-education class through the snowfall as they ski a mile Tuesday afternoon at South Tahoe Middle School.

Motorists grumbled while ski resorts exulted Tuesday as the second in a series of winterlike storms swept through the Tahoe-Truckee region.

A colder, wetter storm is predicted to hit the Sierra Nevada by this evening, and forecasters say the area may be hit by a snowstorm on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

“We just may have a white Christmas,” said Kyle Mozley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Reno.

Chain controls were in effect on Interstate 80 for much of Tuesday, as well as highways 50, 88, 89, 28 and 267 during the day. The California Highway Patrol closed eastbound Interstate 80 for a time because of the sloppy conditions and numerous spinouts.

For the second straight week, Tahoe-area ski resorts received a fresh blanket of snow in time to prepare the slopes for weekend skiers.

“The timing couldn’t be better,” said spokeswoman Rachael Woods of Alpine Meadows. “This is a great storm in terms of opening trails that don’t have snowmaking on them.”

Tuesday’s storm will allow Alpine Meadows to give seasonal employees more work, Woods said.

As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, 6 to 8 inches had reportedly fallen at Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood Mountain Resort, with another 10 inches expected from Tuesday’s storm.

“The snow is light but sticking to our 9-inch to 12-inch base very nicely, setting up a perfect holiday week next week,” said Sierra spokeswoman Kirstin Cattell.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort reported 6 to 8 inches Tuesday afternoon, said spokesman Daniel Pistoresi.

“The storm is doing wonders for our coverage, and guests can expect both base areas to be open this weekend with additional lifts and terrain,” he said.

Tuesday’s storm was something of an underachiever, according to National Weather Service forecasters. The low-pressure front split as it crossed the California coastline, with the brunt of the storm’s force battering the Southern Sierra.

Tonight’s weather system has stronger dynamics and promises to hold together better, even with some splitting, ushering in colder air that will drop the snow level.

“It brings another round of heavy snowfall in the Sierra,” said meteorologist Mozley.

Kelly Redmond, a climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, said this year’s weather patterns are shaping up to be a typical La Niña year, when ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific are colder than usual.

“La Niña years are wetter to the north and drier to the south,” Redmond said. “Lake Tahoe and Interstate 80 are in the in-between area.”

This year’s La Niña condition has become better established with moderate strength, he said.

“It’s pretty well-anchored in place, holding its own,” Redmond said. “All the ocean people are saying it looks like it will stick around until spring.”

That would be just fine for those in the Truckee-Tahoe area who rely on winter sports to bring customers to the Sierra Nevada.

“It is very important,” Alpine Meadows’ Woods said. “It’s not only the mountain it’s important to, it’s important to the whole town, to the lodges and the shops.”

– Tribune Web editor Jeff Munson contributed to this report.

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