Lake Tahoe ski resorts rejoice after storm dumps more than 4 feet of snow |

Lake Tahoe ski resorts rejoice after storm dumps more than 4 feet of snow

TAHOE/TRUCKEE — The Lake Tahoe ski industry received the ultimate Christmas present by way of a large storm that dumped upward of four feet of snow this past weekend at many locations throughout the region.

Near Truckee, Vail Resorts-owned Northstar California reported a whopping 68 inches — more than 5 1/2 feet of snow — over the weekend, according to a Monday afternoon statement. The resort boasts a 100-inch summit snow depth and season snowfall totals exceeding 240 inches.

“The series of storms we saw over the weekend set us up nicely for the holidays and for the rest of the season,” said Bill Rock, chief operating officer at Northstar, in a statement.

As of Monday morning, Squaw Valley had received 55 inches of snow at upper mountain since Friday, while neighboring Alpine Meadows saw 50 inches fall in the same timeframe, according to the resorts, which have seen 70 and 68 inches of snow, respectively, the past seven days.

To date this season, the resorts have recorded 220 inches of snow, marking the second largest amount of pre-Christmas snowfall since Squaw began record-keeping in 1970, said Squaw Valley Public Relations Manager Amelia Richmond in a Monday morning interview. The lone exception, she said, was the record-setting 2010-11 winter, when the resort had an additional 26 inches by Christmas.

“It’s really exciting to be able to have a white Christmas — and a really, really white Christmas at that,” Richmond said.

Other ski resorts also reported multi-feet snow totals as of Monday morning. Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe saw between 40 and 48 inches from the storm, said Kayla Anderson, public relations coordinator for the resort that’s seen 160 inches of snow so far this season.

“It’s been awesome,” Anderson said Monday. “The last two days, I’ve had to clean a foot of snow off my car.”

“There’s no doubt that Tahoe has snow right now,” Anderson later added with a chuckle.

On Lake Tahoe’s South Shore, Heavenly Mountain Resort — also owned by Vail — reported a storm total of 42 inches at upper mountain and 172 inches of snow this season.

So far in December, Heavenly has received more than nine feet of snow, resort officials said, which is the second most snowfall for December since 1997-98, trailing only 11 feet recorded in December 2002-03.

Safety concerns

The storm began Friday afternoon and fiercely swept through the greater Truckee/Tahoe region, aided by wind gusts of 45 mph at lake level and about 100 mph along Sierra ridges.

Heavy snow and white-out conditions led to numerous slide-offs, spin-outs and accidents along many major regional highways, according to various reports, forcing officials to close portions of Interstate 80 from Donner Summit to Reno and the winding Mt. Rose Highway (Hwy 431) from Reno to Incline Village throughout the weekend.

While no deaths or serious injuries were reported from the storms, officials did collaborate to save a trio of lost outdoors enthusiasts Sunday.

Two hikers got caught in waist-deep snow about a mile into their hike at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the Coldstream Canyon area, according to the Reno-Gazette Journal; both were rescued at about 9 p.m.

In a separate incident Sunday afternoon, a 61-year-old skier was brought to safety near Homewood Mountain Resort off Tahoe’s West Shore after he became lost, according to reports.

Holiday conditions

While area law enforcement and emergency personnel were busy throughout the weekend managing the slick roads and monitoring the backcountry, area ski resorts are hailing the snowfall as the perfect set-up for the busy holiday tourism season at Lake Tahoe.

“Mother Nature has really outdone herself this year,” said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, in a statement.

“The two recent storms that have come through have brought a lot of light, fluffy snow and have really allowed us to expand our operations going into this holiday season,” added Pete Sonntag, Heavenly’s general manager, in a statement. “The conditions out there are beyond mid-winter quality.”

And it appears more snow is on the way.

According to the National Weather Service in Reno, the greater Truckee/Tahoe region will be under a winter weather advisory from 4 p.m. Christmas Day to 4 p.m. Wednesday. As much as 10 to 15 inches of snow are expected above 7,000 feet, with 5 to 10 inches possible at lake level.

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