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A taste of winter arrives in Sierra

DARIN OLDE, Sierra Sun

Snow has come early to Tahoe this year, which has sparked mixed reactions from area residents.

Flurries last weekend left up to four feet of snow in drifts on Donner Summit and less than a foot at Lake level.

Residents and businesses who welcomed the early season snow, such as skiers and snowboarders at local ski resorts, are celebrating “pre-season” snow by hitting the slopes early with discount lift tickets.

Alpine Meadows opened yesterday, Nov. 1, and will remain open Wednesday through Fridays for $20. Kangaroo and Roundhouse, two lifts at Alpine Meadows, will be open on the weekends for $28.

“This is the second earliest opening in quarter of a century,” Alpine Meadows Public Relations Coordinator Rachel Woods said. “For this time of year we’re in excellent shape.”

Sugar Bowl will open this Friday. Access to the slopes will be via the Judah entrance. The Jerome Express quad and the cable car will also be open.

“Right now we can’t say for sure but depending on conditions we hope to open Silver Belt and Christmas Tree for the weekend,” Marketing Manager Bill Hudson said. “And really there is plenty of snow for Silver Belt, we just need to make enough snow to make the connection back down to the lift.”

Lift tickets at Sugar Bowl will cost $32 on Friday, but the price may change depending on lift availability.

Sugar Bowl only anticipates being open on the weekend, Friday through Sunday.

With talk of major Tahoe ski resorts opening early the question on everyone’s minds is, what does the early season snow tell us about the winter ahead – and perhaps more importantly, will it be a good ski season?

“One thing we do not do is weather forecasting. Nobody can do that accurately, and if they did, we would all know about it,” said Randall Osterhuber, director at the Central Sierra Snow Lab on Donner Summit.

However, Osterhuber did say that one impact of early season snow is that it cools the top of the ground, which may allow snow from subsequent snowstorms to accumulate faster initially. Osterhuber said the snow lab rarely measures soil freezing deeper than six to eight inches.

“There are exceptions to that such as years where there isn’t insulating snow cover,” he said.

Snow acts as an insulator for the ground. During winter, the effect of wind chill can further lower the temperature and in some cases damage root systems that are less susceptible to freezing.

“As long as there is snow cover on the ground the soil temperature will be zero degrees centigrade. It may get a little warmer than that [with snow cover],” he said.

According to Central Sierra Snow Lab, there have only been three previous years with snow this early in the season: 1950, 1951 and 1964.

Osterhuber said 1950 was an above average year for snow, 1951 was a below average year and 1964 was an average snow year.

“Just because we have early snow it doesn’t mean we can make generalizations about the quantity of snow we can anticipate this year,” Osterhuber said. “However, this is unusual. That much is true.”

That may be good news to many of the contractors working in the area who were stunned by the quantity and timeliness of the snow and disgruntled by its impacts on their work sites.

“This was very unexpected,” said Charlie Grondin, a construction worker for Mike Donnelly Construction in Tahoe Donner. “It’s great for the ski season but not for construction. The boss wants the drywall in this Friday; we’re working under a deadline.”

Grondin said the snow hasn’t been much of problem for this job because the house he is working on has a roof. The cold weather and slippery conditions do make working a little harder, he said.

“We have to wear a lot more clothes and it’s harder to move around.”

For more information about weather check http://www.weather .com.


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