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Spring snow leads some Sierra resorts to extend skiing into May

Snowboarders head down a run at Northstar ski resort on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in Truckee, Calif. Recent storms have brought much-needed snow to the mountains.
Snowboarders head down a run at Northstar ski resort on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in Truckee, Calif. Recent storms have brought much-needed snow to the mountains. rpench@sacbee.com

A spring storm dumped fresh snow to parts of the Sierra and delivered partly cloudy skies and gusty winds to the Sacramento region Monday, capping a weekend of hammock-worthy highs in the 70s.

Chain controls were in effect part of the day on Interstate 80 over Donner Summit. By midafternoon, 11 inches of snow had fallen over a 24-hour period at Northstar California Resort north of Lake Tahoe, said spokeswoman Marcie Bradley. That brought the snowfall total for the season at Northstar to 441 inches, she said.

The Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe resort announced Monday that, thanks to snow conditions, winter operations at the Lake Tahoe area’s highest base elevation resort will be extended to May 8.

“Mother Nature came back in a big way this season, and (we) are still enjoying mid-winter conditions on the mountain,” Mike Pierce, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe’s marketing director, said in a written statement. “The skiing and riding is so great, we’ve decided to extend the season into May, pushing the ski season to over six months and making this the longest season in Mt. Rose’s history.”

Mt. Rose will continue daily operations until April 24, then move to Thursday through Sunday operations for the final two weeks of the season, according to a news release.

Liesl Kenney, a spokeswoman for Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, said the resorts also expect to extend the season. “We have committed to staying open into May, running the longest ski and ride season in Tahoe, conditions permitting,” she said in an email.

Northstar’s Bradley said, “It’s been a great season snow-wise. The skiing is fantastic,” but she said Northstar is scheduled to close for the season April 17.

Kevin Cooper, spokesman for Kirkwood and Heavenly ski resorts on Lake Tahoe’s south shore, said they, too, are looking to conclude winter operations April 17.

“It’s snowing a little bit on the south shore,” he said Monday afternoon. But he said the day’s storm had delivered far more snow to north Lake Tahoe resorts.

Kirkwood reported a season total of 440 inches and Heavenly had 323 inches as of Monday, Cooper said. The season average for Kirkwood prior to the onset of the drought four years ago was 550 inches, he said.

“It’s been a really good season,” Cooper said. “We’ve seen a lot of happy skiers and riders return.”

The season kicked off in November and roads were open during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, making travel easy for skiers. Relatively mild weather in February provided a “nice spring break,” Cooper said, and March storms have delivered snow in consistent and manageable amounts of 8 to 12 inches.

The storms in the Sierra also have been uncharacteristically cold for an El Niño year, creating snow conditions similar to Utah or Colorado, Cooper said.

The forecast calls for snow showers in the Lake Tahoe area through Wednesday, with daytime highs in the upper 30s to low 40s on Tuesday, and low to upper 40s on Wednesday. The storms are expected to give way to sunny skies by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Sacramento area remained dry Monday, with a high of 63 degrees reported downtown and at Sacramento Executive and Sacramento International airports. Davis topped out at 65 degrees, Fair Oaks at 66 and Carmichael at 69, said Karl Swanberg, meteorologist with the weather service.

Snow fell in some foothill areas such as Camino and Sly Park in El Dorado County. About a half-inch fell at some locations, but it wasn’t sticking, Swanberg said.

Partly cloudy skies and highs around 66 degrees are forecast for the Sacramento area on Tuesday with overnight lows around 44 degrees. Daytime highs are expected to climb back into the 70s by Thursday, with no rain expected through at least next Monday.

The National Weather Service’s seven-day forecast for the Sacramento area:

Monday night: A 20 percent chance of showers before 11 p.m. Partly cloudy, with a low around 43. North-northwest wind 7 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with high near 66. Northwest wind around 9 mph.

Tuesday night: Partly cloudy, with low around 44. North-northwest wind 5 to 9 mph becoming light and variable in the evening.

Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 69. Light and variable wind.

Wednesday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 46.

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 74.

Thursday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 48.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 75.

Friday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 48.

Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 74.

Saturday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 49.

Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 75.

Sunday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 51.

Monday: Partly sunny, with a high near 75.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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