The first in a parade of snowstorms slammed into the California mountains Monday, beginning what meteorologists predict to be the biggest series of storms to hit the area since 2005. The storm front, expected to fire high winds at the entire West Coast including Washington and Oregon brought snow to many ski resorts from southwestern British Columbia to Southern California.
"It's quite the snow," Jody Churich, general manager for Boreal, told OnTheSnow.com. "The tricky part today is winds although they haven't affected us yet."
California could see up to 20 inches of rain by Friday, which translates to multiple feet of snow in the mountains as two more storm waves crash into the slopes. Those trying to catch powder on the slopes should check road reports as lowland flooding may snarl some arterials around metropolitan areas.
The storm made landfall along the coast of California first, knocking out power to thousands of homes in the Bay Area, flooding streets in Los Angeles, and snarling up air travel. Predictions of high winds drove some vacationers at ski resorts to depart early to avoid delays in homeward travel. Those lucky ones who stayed around woke to powder Monday morning.
Mt. Shasta Ski Park opened with 10 inches of new snow Monday morning, only the prelude to the storm's main song. Snow pelted at a rate of 2 inches per hour during Monday, accompanied by high winds. Some resorts, such as Heavenly, Sugar Bowl, and Squaw Valley, temporarily suspended operations of a few exposed upper lifts due to the winds while keeping their lower elevation lifts running. Sierra Avalanche Center reported winds blustering steady at 40 mph with blasts up to 90 mph. Gusting winds stretched into Washington and Oregon with the top of Pine Marten Chairlift at Mt. Bachelor seeing wind speeds of 44 to 51 mph.
Resorts stayed open despite the winds. "We're open and have awesome powder shots," added Churich. "The roads are good as long as you drive the speed limit." Boreal even ran its lifts until 9 last night, as usual.
Tuesday morning snowfalls bumped into double digits across California with many resorts tallying 1 to 2 feet of new snow. The 24-hour powder totals topped 20 inches at Squaw Valley, Soda Springs, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Mount Shasta, Kirkwood, Dodge Ridge, Boreal, Mammoth Mountain, and Bear Valley. Other resorts, such as Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, June Mountain, Mt. Baldy, Sierra Summit, and Tahoe Donner, received over a foot of new snow. Avalanche advisories shot up due to high winds forming slabs.
The blizzard dropped 7 inches of fresh snow at Southern California's Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and 16 to 20 inches at Nevada's Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose. The storm extended inland to Arizona, bringing a foot of much needed new snow to Snowbowl and Sunrise Park.
The storm track split, leaving Washington and Oregon resorts contending with the wind, springlike warm temperatures, and a few inches of new snow Tuesday morning. A finger of the storm peeled off into British Columbia, depositing 10 inches of fresh snow at Mount Washington.
Blizzards with high winds gusting to 50 m.p.h. are expected to continue across the West Coast this week, with the strongest, most powerful coming Wednesday and Thursday. "We're expecting heavy snowfall Wednesday afternoon with up to 22 inches," said Churich. "A huge storm cycle like this is wonderful."
Check OnTheSnow.com for up-to-the-minute snow reports.