New snow brings skiers back to Sierra resorts

MARTIN GRIFFITH Associated Press Published:

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- A fresh blanket of snow is bringing back skiers and snowboarders to Sierra Nevada ski resorts after a slow, dry start to the season.

Resort operators said that while more snow is needed before they can finally swing into full operation, the storm spanning Wednesday to Friday allowed them to open more terrain.

On Lake Tahoe's south shore, 15 more trails opened at Heavenly Mountain Resort over a three-day period ending Saturday after the storm dropped up to 2 feet of snow there. Some 40 of 97 trails and 24 of 29 lifts now are in operation at the resort.

"This weather system brought a welcome boost to our snow base, along with the temperatures that will allow us to continue making snow ourselves," Pete Sonntag, vice president and chief operating officer at Heavenly, said in a statement.

To the north of Tahoe, Squaw Valley opened four more lifts after the storm left up to 10 inches of snow there. Half of its 30 lifts and 32 of its 170 trails now are open.

"The new openings provide access to some of Squaw's most popular terrain," spokeswoman Melissa Brouse said in a statement.

Resort officials put a positive spin on the meager snowpack, noting February and March are usually the most important months for snowfall.

On Friday, the Tahoe Basin's snowpack was 25 percent of normal. The recent storm, the first significant one at Tahoe in nearly two months, generally boosted the snowpack by 5 to 10 percent across the region.

The region was facing the prospect of a third straight below-average snowpack after a mostly dry December and January.

"We need roughly 250 percent of average from here on out to reach an average condition" by the April 1 end of the season, Beau Uriona, a hydrologist with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.