A wet Pacific storm stomped into the Sierra Crest this weekend, dumping up to 5 feet of snow at resorts. The storm behaved like a rambunctious child trying to outdo last week's snowstorm with its bigger tantrum. This storm, which funneled in to the mountains from the coast on Friday night, came right on the heels of the snowstorm last week that dropped up to 3 feet of snow at Tahoe resorts.
Many Sierra ski resorts struggled with opening lifts on time Sunday morning as crews dug out ramps buried in some cases under 2 feet of overnight snow. Mammoth Mountain recorded 3 feet of snow accumulating in 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday. Other ski resorts to the north at Lake Tahoe followed suit with 24-hour totals ranging from 8 to 20 inches.
"We have phenomenal conditions," Ashley Smith, snow reporter for Mammoth, told OnTheSnow.com. "I can't wait to get out there today."
Snows continued to shower down on the Sierra resorts throughout Sunday, adding another 6 to 9 inches to storm totals. Temperatures between 9 and 20 degrees meant the precipitation fell as light powder. Mammoth Mountain reported the storm total snowfall topping 5 feet as of Monday morning (Dec. 14). Three feet of snow at Dodge Ridge allowed the resort to open all of their lifts, and the storm extended south to Sierra Summit, where it also dropped close to 3 feet of powder.
Tahoe conditions varied between resorts. Alpine Meadows topped the region with a storm total of 67 inches on the upper mountain. The storm dumped almost 4 feet of snow at High Camp on Squaw Valley and in the upper elevations of Mt. Rose. Three feet of new snow from the storm allowed Heavenly to open the California side and Northstar-at-Tahoe to breach the magic 100-inch mark by mid-December.
The Sierra Avalanche Center upgraded the avalanche hazard to considerable on Sunday, but dropped it to moderate on Monday. Snowfall across the Sierra Crest varied for the three-day storm, but measurements at the 8,200-foot-level tallied several locations with over 5 new feet of powder. Winds blustering across the crest at 80 mph with gusts up to 100 mph loaded north and east slopes, increasing instability in the snow pack.
The Squaw Valley ski patrol found widespread avalanche activity during their explosives work on the slopes over the weekend, and a grooming machine also triggered several avalanches Saturday night. Skiers also set off two slides outside Mt. Rose on Sunday.
Conditions for skiers and riders are the stuff of dreams at all the Sierra resorts today with packed powder groomers and deep powder off groomed. "The powder is awesome, and the tree skiing is great," added Smith.
The storm bodes well for several resorts to bust open more runs and crank up all of their lifts. Mammoth plans to operate the entire mountain by Friday, Dec. 18. Weather forecasts predict another storm system rolling in to the Sierras mid-week.
Chains are required to reach many of the resorts. Check local road reports before heading to the slopes.