Finally: Epic ski, snow weekend at hand

If you ski or snowboard, it might be difficult to watch this video — provided late Wednesday from Heavenly at South Lake Tahoe — and not get excited for what is finally available in the high Sierra.

The anticipation for the weekend is unlike anything we’ve seen in the Sierra this winter.

The timing appears perfect. Since Monday, roughly 45 to 60 inches of fresh snow, depending where you looked, fell across the Tahoe region. It was still snowing Thursday morning.

The storm is expected to push east late this afternoon, clear out Friday morning and leave blue skies and afternoon temperatures in the mid-50s for the weekend. That means clear roads to make the driving easy, and at the resorts, fresh groomed runs atop the snowpack and plenty of terrain with powder.

It will likely be the biggest ski weekend of the season.

After a drought, this week’s storms are a game changer: Boreal near Donner Pass on I-80 reported 60 inches of fresh snow this week, Alpine Meadows at North Tahoe, 56 inches, and Heavenly at South Lake Tahoe, a total of 51.

In the short term during the storms, high winds the past two days kept operations to a minimum on the ridges. On Thursday morning, Heavenly put Gondola and Stagecoach Express on wind hold and temporarily closed the Boulder Lodge and lift. Ashley Smith at Heavenly reported that they were operating 22 of 30 lifts and that 72 of 97 runs were open and snow surface conditions were ecstatic. As the storm moves out, full operations are possible at many resorts for the weekend.

“It’s a great powder day,” she said. “Four inches of fresh snow has fallen since the lifts closed yesterday, making a foot of snow in the last 24 hours. Up to another foot of snow is expected throughout the day today, and we’ve received 21/2 to 3 feet of snow in the last three days already.” New terrain is expected to open for the weekend.

A check of other resorts also had good news. Homewood, perched just above lake level on Tahoe’s western shore, reported a base snow levels of 51 to 75 inches,bottom to top, respectively. An hour south of South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood on Highway 88 reported Thursday morning base snow numbers of 67, 70 and 75 inches. Everything will be a go at Kirkwood this weekend.

Snowfall is never uniform across the mountains. That means despite the high snowfall this week, Smith noted there might still be spots were obstacles might exist, especially in trees off groomed runs.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the storm was still sitting on Tahoe. It was snowing, visibility was down to a quarter mile in places, averaged about a half mile, with overcast at 100 feet. The National Weather Service forecast another three or four inches of snow through early afternoon.

This has all the highways looking like the South Pole. If you are heading up to the Tahoe area today, chains are required on all vehicles except 4-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels, on I-80 from Colfax to seven miles east of Truckee, and on U.S. 50 from four miles east of Placerville to Meyers.

If you have been up at Tahoe recently, the transformation is hard to believe. Just last Friday, it was 61 degrees with clear, dry roads and bare ground at South Lake Tahoe. Here is the scene this morning at four notable locations, I-80 at Donner Lake, I-80 at the exit for Castle Peak/Boreal, U.S. 50 at Meyers near South Lake Tahoe, and Highway 267 in North Tahoe at the exit for Northstar:

Lots of snow in The Sierras, Tahoe is looking great!

Lots of snow in The Sierras, Tahoe is looking great!

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