Snow blankets Sierra; resorts contemplate weekend opening

A storm that moved through the Sierra on Monday raised skiers’ hopes for a white Halloween, while forecasters say youngsters in the Sacramento Valley and foothills can expect fair weather for Thursday night treat-or-treating.

As of about 6 p.m. Monday, 9 to 12 inches of snow had fallen at elevations around 5,000 feet, and as much as 15 inches above 7,000 feet, said Johnnie Powell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He said an additional 3 to 5 inches were expected overnight.

“There’s plenty of snow up here; definitely more than a foot,” Matt Peterson, spokesman for Boreal Mountain at Donner Summit, said Monday. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed we might open this weekend.”

Boreal officials will make the call today or Wednesday, Peterson said.

The forecast calls for snow showers to taper off by midday today. Overnight lows through the week are expected to range from the mid-30s to upper 40s through Friday, but afternoon highs in the upper 50s to low 60s will begin to melt the snow, Powell said.

No matter how impressive, the season’s first snowfall usually isn’t enough to open most Sierra ski runs. On Monday morning, Boreal had more than 20 snow-making machines running simultaneously to help beef up the fresh snowpack.

“It’s obnoxiously beautiful,” Peterson said.

Although Monday’s forecasts called for a chance of rain showers in the Sacramento area, no measurable rainfall had been reported as of Monday evening, Powell said.

“Everything is winding down now,” he said. “By midday (today) it should be done.”

For trick-or-treaters, Powell said, “The good news is Halloween is going to be about as good as it could get for the time of year.”

On Monday, temperatures topped initial forecasts, with a high of 67 degrees at Sacramento Executive Airport and 68 degrees downtown. Today is expected to be sunny with highs in the mid-60s. Although overnight lows are expected to be in the mid-40s, daytime highs in the low to mid-70s are forecast through Saturday.

The Sierra snowfall is a little late compared to recent years. Boreal opened Oct. 26 in 2012, the fourth consecutive year the resort hosted an October opening day. Last year, all the snow seemed to arrive early, noted Sierra watchers.

“(In 2012), we had the most snow before Christmas we ever had,” said Melissa Brouse, spokeswoman for Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows resorts. “But then it tapered off in January and February and turned into a more normal year.”

As this early snow falls, most resorts are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Squaw Valley should open Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving. Alpine Meadows has Dec. 13 as its target date, weather permitting.

Monday’s snowfall prompted the Truckee Police Department to warn residents and visitors to be prepared for icy roads this morning, with temperatures expected to drop into the teens Monday night. Because most people have not yet outfitted their vehicles with snow tires, officials warned, icy roadways could create challenges for the morning commute.

Officials also remind residents and visitors that parking in the town’s right of way is illegal from Nov. 1 to April 30 and that vehicles parked on either side of snow poles will be subject to citation and towing. The law is intended to prevent damage to vehicles from snow removal equipment.