Home / U.S. / Up to 3 feet of snow to blanket Sierra as major ski resorts set to open

Up to 3 feet of snow to blanket Sierra as major ski resorts set to open

Good news for skiers planning to catch opening day on the slopes: a major storm is expected to dump two to three feet of snow on areas above 8,500 feet in the Sierra.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the greater Lake Tahoe area, beginning Wednesday and continuing into late Thursday night. The storm is expected to abate by Friday morning — possibly creating ideal conditions for skiers at some resorts that are planning to open on Friday.

Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows and Heavenly Mountain Resort are among those ski operations hoping for big opening weekend.

“This is a great opening day present for us,” said Sam Kieckhefer, a spokesman for Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows. He also noted that the resort got five inches of snow Monday night.

“It’s early season, but that combined with our snow-making technology, we’re expecting conditions to be really good,” he said. The resort has been able to open before Thanksgiving in eight of the last ten years.

Areas at lower elevation are not expected to get much snow, said Scott McGuire, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Reno.

“This storm is pretty warm,” McGuire said. “So areas at the level of Lake Tahoe itself won’t get much snow.”

He estimated that areas along the shore could expect between two and six inches.

The forecast remains troubling for parts of the Bay Area, particularly those affected by the October wildfires. The wettest storm of the season is expected to begin Wednesday afternoon, and three to five inches of rain are expected in some coastal areas.

“We have a cold front interacting with a weak atmospheric river,” said Anna Schneider, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey.

The weather service also issued a wind advisory that includes several areas affected by the wildfires. The advisory, which will run from 1 p.m. on Wednesday to 3 a.m. on Thursday, will effect much of the North Bay, including Santa Rosa and Napa, and ranging all the way south to Santa Cruz.

“Those areas can expect winds of 15 to 30 miles per hour with gusts over 50 miles per hour,” Schneider said. The advisory warned of possible felled trees, downed power lines, and blowing debris.

South of Santa Cruz, the wind advisory will be in effect from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.

Sophie Haigney is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: sophie.haigney@sfchronicle.com @SophieHaigney

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