El Nino raises hopes for early ski season start | SierraSun.com
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El Nino raises hopes for early ski season start

Tanya Branson

Spooks, goblins and skiers will be haunting Tahoe on Halloween, after El Nino kicked in the start of the ski season.

After last week’s snowfall, ski slopes around the Tahoe Basin are sporting snowy trails and snow making machines are ready to add to the coverage.

Boreal Ski Area plans to open Halloween and encourages skiers to dress in costumes for the slopes.

“We’ve always had a traditional Halloween opening,” said Boreal spokesperson Kris Norris. “In the last seven years, we’ve opened on Halloween three times.”

The latest opening has been Nov. 7 and the earliest has been Oct. 25. Boreal may open earlier depending on the weather, she said.

She expects about a foot to a foot and a half of snow on opening day.

Alpine Meadows Ski Area has been inundated with phone calls since snow piled 13 inches high at the ski area’s summit last week, according to Brinn Talbot, spokesperson. She said 4 to 5 inches of snow still covers the base area this week.

“The snow definitely got a lot of people thinking ski and snowboard season,” Talbot said. “There’s a lot of talk about it in the Bay Area. It seems there’s a lot of people chomping at the bit.”

Snowy Sierra peaks

The Sierra peaks look like winter, although the snowy weather has given way to sunny fall weather. However, more meteorologists are predicting that the El Nino this year will bring wetter than normal weather to the Sierra.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Brown said that the jet stream is still in transition, as evidenced by last week’s snow and this week’s warm weather.

“The strong El Nino probably does increase the chance for a somewhat wetter than normal year,” said Brown.

The last El Nino of this magnitude was in 1992-83 when precipitation was at 200 percent of normal, he said.

El Nino is a widespread warming of the ocean temperatures which reacts with jet streams to bring unusual weather to the globe.

Traditionally, forecasters have compared El Nino data and determined that there is not a strong relationship in Northern California with El Nino effects, said Kelly Redmond, the regional climatologist for the Western Regional Climate Center at Reno’s Desert Research Institute.

“Basically, we just don’t see much when we look at the statistical side,” said Redmond.

However, some newer methods of simulating the atmosphere through computer models indicates that the dividing line between El Nino causing dry weather in the north and wet weather in the south may be be farther north than believed.

“That puts us on the northern edge. It’s a little more on the wet side,” Redmond said.

However, he noted that the dynamical approach to El Nino forecasting is considered untried and untested, he said.

“We’ve been fooled in the past by the behavior of El Nino,” he said.

Because of the dramatic impacts of the 1982-83 El Nino event – which caused $8 billion in damage and 2,000 deaths worldwide – scientists are ready to study this year’s El Nino, Brown said.

“It’ll be the most well documented effect in the history of the world, weatherwise,” he said.


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