SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Some of the ski resorts that stocked up on artificial snow machines in California’s drought were enjoying a touch of the real stuff Sunday, after weekend storms brought up to a foot of snow, with more coming.
“We’re all skiers and riders up here – we love to have those powder days,” said Tess Hobbs, a spokeswoman at the Sierra Nevada mountains’ Boreal Mountain Resort, where skiers, under low, gray clouds, were making turns Sunday on 9 inches of snow that fell since Friday night. Snowfall peaked at a foot on Donner Pass.
The same storms brought an inch or less of rain to much of Northern California over the weekend, peaking in Sonoma at more than 3 inches over 24 hours.
The northern Sierra mountains stood Sunday at just 76 percent of normal precipitation for this point in what meteorologists call the water year, which starts Oct. 1, National Weather Service forecaster Holly Osborne said. Still, a series of back-to-back storms in November already have made this year better than last year, when it took until February for the Sierras to get as much rain and snow as they have now, Osborne said. Sierra snowpack, a key water source for much of the state, sank to its second-lowest level in 90 years last year.
California’s $2 billion ski-resort industry has invested heavily to cope with less snow, scaling up production of man-made snow and removing obstacles that required heavy coverage on ski runs.
These days, California resorts “don’t need a skiing surface of more than a few inches,” said Bob Roberts, executive director of the California Ski Industry Association. “In my day, they needed 4 or 5 feet to cover the rocks.”
Most of the ski resorts open statewide over Thanksgiving weekend were operating on man-made snow, Roberts said.
Storms moving in from the coast would bring a few more inches of snow to the mountains overnight, with another storm system moving in Tuesday or Wednesday, Osborne said.
In the Bay Area, gusts downed tree limbs Sunday as storms rolled through, while scattered showers fell across Southern California and the Central Coast.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.