SODA SPRINGS, Calif. — The 2018-2019 season was one of the best on record for Sierra snow.
More than 50 feet of it fell at the highest elevations. People were skiing at Squaw Valley Resort into the summer.
In October, it looked like the mountains were going to ride that high into the fall season. Snow-making conditions were perfect. It was well below freezing overnight and nice and cool during the day.
But by November, snow-making efforts hit a bit of a snag.
There was snow on the slopes at Boreal Mountain Resort Monday but it was patchy.
“The ski resorts that are trying to open by mid-November are really struggling right now,” said meteorologist Bryan Allegretto. “Overnight lows have been right about freezing and even above freezing on the upper mountain because we have inversions where there’s colder air sinking into the valleys and warmer air in the upper elevations.”
Allegretto forecasts specifically for the ski and snowboard industry around Lake Tahoe and produces daily updates on OpenSnow.
“So that skiers know exactly what snow is going to fall on each ski resort,” he told FOX40.
He was offering hope to those worried about the lack of snow so far this season, saying it was “way too soon to push the panic button.”
Average November snowfall in the mountains is about 3 feet. But Allegretto pointed out that a very small number of exceptionally snowy Novembers contributed to that 3-foot average.
“Two-thirds of the time you’re not going to come close to that in November,” he explained.
The bottom line is it’s very common to have a dry November and even December. Last season started slowly.
“Christmas is not a guarantee but once you get into January, February and March, those are the months that usually produce the most snow up here,” Allegretto said.
A change in the weather pattern later this week will be good news for the snow-making efforts.
“We don’t need much colder,” Allegretto told FOX40. “It’s going to drop overnight lows into the 20s, which will definitely help with snow making. And then next week, it looks like we might get even more cold air pushing in.”
There is plenty of time and reason to hope for the powder days that nature produces.
“It only takes three or four good storm cycles through the whole winter to really get us up to average,” Allegretto said. “We can get 100 inches in a week, three or four times, and then we’re set for the whole season.”
In a statement sent to FOX40, a spokesperson for Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows said they still plan on opening Friday “with the Kangaroo chair at Alpine Meadows and the SnowVentures area at Squaw Valley.”
“These are the two areas we started the season with last year as well,” wrote Public Relations Coordinator Alex Spychalsky. “Some people might be surprised to know that we opened on entirely manmade snow last season as well.”