White Christmas in the forecast | TahoeDailyTribune.com

White Christmas in the forecast

Patrick McCartney

Jack Frost will be nipping at the noses of Lake Tahoe residents Christmas, after a weak winter storm brushes the basin with scattered snow showers today.

Temperatures should plunge to near zero tonight as the Great Basin storm slides down the eastern side of the Sierra. Daytime temperatures are expected to remain below freezing today and Christmas before gradually warming by the weekend.

At the same time, snowfall should be light today before Christmas dawns clear and crisp, forecasters say.

“There’s an isolated to 20 percent chance of snow,” said Doug Armstrong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno. “Those who have been good will get snow, and those who’ve been naughty won’t.”

Despite calls for snow shower, mountain passes should remain open for visitors arriving in the basin for holiday vacations.

“The passes shouldn’t be too bad,” Armstrong said, “except for local patches with slippery conditions.”

Prospects of a holiday cold snap brightened the outlook for Tahoe businesses that offer outdoor recreation.

“It’s beautiful weather for a sleigh ride together with you,” sang Dianna Myers of Borges Family Sleigh Rides. The family-run business offers sleigh rides in the snow-covered meadow at U.S. Highway 50 and Lake Parkway at Stateline.

Myers said the company’s sleigh is booked solid after 1 p.m. today and Christmas, and that the public loves the cold weather.

“We usually sell a whole lot more hot chocolate when it’s cold, and we provide old-fashioned heaters – blankets,” she said. “When it’s this cold, we call the snow star or flower snow. If it falls on your jacket, you can see the snowflake like a little star or flower.”

The cold temperatures are a bonus too for ski resort operators, said John Wagnon, vice president for marketing at Heavenly Ski Resort.

“When the temperature stays below freezing, it allows us to run the snowmaking equipment 24 hours a day at full capacity. That’s white gold,” Wagnon said. “We’ve had enough natural snow to cover the slopes. But making snow guarantees that all those people flying in from Miami, Dallas and Chicago will have a great skiing holiday.”

Wagnon said the next two weekends could be the season’s peak.

“Today is a good indication that business is building for the weekend,” he said. “I think Friday should be busy, and Saturday could be our busiest day of the year.”

The storm system that is bringing the chilly weather is a classic, if relatively dry, “inside slider,” said Armstrong, the meteorologist who coined the term.

“Near Medford (Ore.), the storm crosses the Cascades and starts sliding down the backside of the Sierra,” Armstrong said. “This trough deepened in the Great Basin, and small systems embedded in the trough will slide down the east side of the Sierra.”

That could mean snow on Christmas in Las Vegas.

Tuesday’s low at the Lake Tahoe Airport was 3 degrees, before the temperature climbed to a balmy 44 degrees in the afternoon.

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