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Locals try for snow predictions

Jeremy Morrison, Sun News Service

Though it’s not quite time to sink a paycheck into a set of studded tires, the recent early October snow did hint at an early winter.

“We didn’t ski the last two years on Thanksgiving, and I think maybe this year we will,” said Mike Pechner of Goldenwest Meteorology.

Looking into his meteorological-crystal ball, Pechner predicts a winter season that will fall somewhere between the heavy El Nino winter of 1997 and last year’s light La Nina season.

Though their methods are somewhat unconventional and they don’t have any fancy meteorological equipment at their disposal, some Tahoe area residents have developed their own weather-predicting techniques.

Some residents have definitive guesses based on little or nothing at all.

Debra Talmadge, for example, simply has a gut feeling.

“We’re due for one,” Talmadge said, predicting a strong winter season. “It’s been mild for a while.”

A local for the past 20 years, Talmadge believes the winters of yesteryear were consistently heavier and longer than those in recent history. Talmadge sites the early October snowfall as a big tip-off.

Area ski resorts have also taken notice of the early snow. Boreal Mountain Resort was able to open their slopes on Oct. 11 (and shut back down on Oct. 14), becoming the first resort in the nation to do so.

Other ski areas also enjoyed the tease, though it did little for business operations.

“The main thing that comes out of that storm cycle is that the ground is cold,” said Rachel Woods, public relations coordinator at Alpine Meadows Ski Area, adding that the light snow had managed to jump-start people’s enthusiasm about the upcoming season. “I think that whole little storm got people psyched.”

The early storm may have also lit a fire under local resorts to hurry their preparations for the winter.

“If anything, it’s made us realize that winter’s only weeks away,” said Erin Bernall, of Northstar-at-Tahoe.

In addition to hiring employees and making sure their ski area is fully operational, some resorts have undertaken some projects that must be completed by the start of the season.

Squaw Valley USA will be opening a new cable car running to High Camp, while Sugar Bowl is putting the finishing touches on their Championship Race Arena, which will be hosting the Junior Olympics in March.

Northstar-at-Tahoe is offering 200 additional acres of terrain this year with their opening of Lookout Mountain. Consisting of five black-diamond runs, the Hwy 267-facing slopes will add a new element to the ski area.

“It’s the steepest terrain that Northstar has,” Bernall said. “It’s gonna give people a taste of us they haven’t had before.”

Most of the area’s ski resorts are shooting for a Nov. 18 opening, with snowmaking set to begin by the end of this month or beginning of November. Last week’s storm cycle blew about a half of a foot of snow onto many of the resorts’ mountains; some people could not wait to take to the slopes.

“They were totally just hiking up and skiing,” said Woods of the early-bird sportsmen trekking up the hills of Alpine. “I wouldn’t do it without padding and stuff.”

While most of Tahoe’s early snowfall has melted into last week’s memory, Pechner said he expects the area to get some significant white stuff – between one to two feet – sometime around the first weekend of November.


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