Sierra snow ahead | SierraSun.com

Sierra snow ahead

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

A dose of winter is forecast for arrival this weekend, giving local ski resorts hopes of pre-Thanksgiving openings.

A Pacific storm moving in on Friday night is expected to drop up to 5 inches of snow at high elevations around Truckee and North Tahoe. Precipitation may begin as rain at lake level, but is expected to change to snow by early Saturday, said Ray Collins, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

Another storm, beginning Sunday night, is also expected to bring wind and snow to high elevations.

While forecasters and ski resorts are unsure if the two storms will be enough to kick off the ski season, they have their fingers crossed.

“It’ll help,” said Collins. “At least we’re heading in the right direction.”

Employees at Sugar Bowl are poised to open the mountain as soon as enough snow falls from the sky, said spokeswoman Kris York.

The resort also began making snow on some of their slopes on Wednesday, she said.

“If we have enough snow next weekend, we’ll open up,” York said.

Many ski resorts have tentative opening dates scheduled for Nov. 17 or 18.

Northstar at Tahoe is waiting for temperatures to drop low enough to fire up its snow-making system, which can churn out enough snow in 48 hours to open the slopes for skiing, said spokeswoman Nicole Cox.

“We’re still optimistic that we can open on the 18th, but it’s completely dependent on the weather,” Cox said.

Last year, winter got off to a slow start. A high-pressure system kept clouds and precipitation from the area in November. Boreal Mountain Resort pulled off a Thanksgiving opening by laying down a strip of man-made snow. But other resorts opened in early December.

This year, with mild el nino conditions (where Pacific Ocean temperatures rise to elevated levels), predicting winter weather will be difficult, said Collins.

“When you get up to Lake Tahoe, it is a little trickier [to predict what effect el nino will have],” said Collins. “It could go either way.”