Winter is on its way | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Winter is on its way

Jeff Munson

It will be a dramatic change over what the Sierra has gone through over the past month.

In this case, “it” is the weather. And for ski hounds longing for a change from dreary sunny skies and uncomfortably warm temperatures, the cavalry appears to be on its way.

A storm system will move into the region today through Sunday, bringing down temperatures. It will be cold enough to freeze a leftover turkey drumstick, windy enough to lose a ball cap and perhaps snowy enough to fill a shovel.

“The most significant impact will be the lower temperatures and the wind. It will be a pretty dramatic given what we’ve had the past few weeks,” said Jon Bonk, a National Weather Service forecaster in Reno.

The change is good news for parched Lake Tahoe ski areas, which have come to rely on snowmaking guns to crank out flakes like instant potatoes in search of a gravy boat.

Freezing weather, low humidity and a diehard snowmaking and grooming staff have given Boreal Mountain Resort the coveted status of being Tahoe’s first resort to open this winter. Chairlifts will be rolling this morning at the Donner Summit resort off Interstate 80.

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“We’ve been watching the weather closely and taking advantage of every opportunity to make snow,” said Boreal spokeswoman Jody Churich. “We’re thrilled to be opening on Friday.”

At Tahoe’s South Shore, Heavenly Mountain Resort officials remain hopeful but cautious. The resort is taking a day-by-day attitude.

“We do see some weather coming in and we will have to re-evaluate when it actually comes. We can’t predict what the weather is going to bring,” said Heavenly spokesman Russ Pecoraro.

When that time comes, Heavenly will open Dipper, Orion’s and Comet runs on the Nevada side and a connection to the California of the resort to access mountain’s gondola. The gondola is open throughout the weekend, skiing or no skiing, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adventure Peak Grill at the top of the gondola and Cafe Blue, at the observation deck are both open.

Kirkwood is looking for a Dec. 3 opening if all goes well, said spokeswoman Tracy Miller.

“It will take a combination of natural snow or lower temperatures to make the snow,” Miller said. “We’ve got our fingers crossed but we’re feeling optimistic. Our snow guns are ready to go.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe hasn’t set a firm opening date, waiting for a good dumping of natural snow to set the foundation and base, officials said earlier this week.

The weather system moving into the central Sierra will be much different than other systems that have punched northernmost California and Oregon but have left mountains to the south bone dry. The seasonal storm track that surreptitiously camped for much of the month in the Pacific Northwest has now shifted south, forecaster Bonk said.

The cold air system is along the lines of a normal flow seen during typical winters. However, the system itself doesn’t carry with it a significant amount of moisture which often brings feet rather than inches of snow, he said. Instead, snow accumulations could amount to a couple of inches at lake level and about 4 to 6 inches above 7,000 feet when all is said and done.

What most will notice is the cold that will come with the storms. Highs on Saturday and Sunday will be in the low-30s with lows dipping down into the low teens.

For travelers, the storm should bring most of its moisture on Friday and Saturday, with Sunday appearing dry for the most part. The week shapes up to be cold with occasional snow showers but nothing that would make for significant accumulation, Bonk said.