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Storm to bring rain, snow and drop temperatures

By: Gloria Young,
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It won’t be a soaker but it will be chilly. A storm moving in tonight from the Gulf of Alaska will drop Auburn’s daytime temperatures into the 40s.

Wednesday’s high will be just 47 degrees with a slight warm-up to 49 degrees Thursday, according to the National Weather Service bureau in Sacramento.

“(The storm) is coming from the northwest and not tapping into much moisture,” meteorologist Stefanie Henry said Monday.

The system will pass through from late tonight through mid-morning Wednesday, bringing a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain locally. In the Sierra, snow totals will range from 4 to 8 inches, with up to a foot at the highest terrain, Henry said.

“We’re considering a winter weather advisory for the Sierra, but have not issued one yet,” she said.

Snow levels will start out at about 4,000 feet, dropping to as low as 2,500 feet as the storm moves eastward.

Lingering showers will keep skies gray through Wednesday and into early Thursday. Friday will bring another chance of rain and snow, she said.

The colder storm is welcome news at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, where snow levels are great at the top of the mountain, but low at the bottom.

“We’ve received 140 inches at the top of the mountain since Oct. 25,” spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said. “This time last year, we had 24 inches at the upper mountain and it wasn’t until Feb. 28 that we had this much snow up there.”

So far, this year’s snowfall is tracking with the 2010 bounty year when the resort had already received 149 inches at the top of the mountain by this time.

But at the lower terrain, the base measures just 4 inches, compared to a 59-inch base at the top.

“Basically what we’re able to do is open the vast majority of the upper mountain,” Richmond said. “(Skiers and boarders)” can ride the Funitel or aerial tram up to ski and then ride it back. They can’t ski down right now.”

Snow-making machines are adding to the pack, “it’s just that those (most recent) storms were so wet they brought a lot of rain that washed away a lot of the snow,” she said.

Typically Squaw Valley opens just before Thanksgiving, but opened a week early this season.

“I’d say in terms of opening, it’s been on par,” she said. “In terms of turnout, we’ve been happy with the number of people who’ve come up.”

Next door’s Alpine Meadows has received 88 inches of snow at the top of the mountain since Nov. 9. The resort opened Dec.7 and is operating five lifts out of 13.

“Alpine is reporting a 17-inch base at the lower mountain and 14-inch base at the upper mountain,” Richmond said.

At Boreal Mountain Resort, two lifts are operating and the website is reporting a base of 29 to 41 inches of packed powder. 

Northstar’s website is reporting a 57-inch base at the summit and 18-inch base mid-mountain, with seven lifts running.

“Our base is really solid,” communications coordinator Brooke Rose said. “If there’s any setback, it’s that we haven’t been able to open Home Run or Village Run. They are the ones that go from the gondola down. So we have the top half of the mountain open. We haven’t had to close anything (because of the warm storms) we just haven’t opened more lifts and trails.”

Northstar opened Nov. 14, “the earliest opening ever because of the early snow and cold temperatures —  and we were able to make a lot of snow,” she said.

The resort is planning to open the back side this weekend, Rose added.

Sugar Bowl, which opened for Thanksgiving weekend, re-opened Dec. 6, “with top-to-bottom skiing and riding now,” spokesman Kyle Jost said.

“The recent storms gave us heavy snow,” he said. “We’re high enough up that we’ve got 55 inches at the top of the mountain and 18 inches at the base.  … We have a solid start and we’re hoping to add to that (with this week’s storms).”

Attendance has been gratifying, too.

“We had a great weekend,” Jost said. “A lot of people came out and it has been beautiful weather. (The snow) is a little firm in the morning but toward the afternoon it softens up and it’s great groomed skiing.”

Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com