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Atmospheric river brings feet of snow to Sierra Nevada mountains

Get your skis, winter is here

Mammoth Mountain has received 2.5 feet of snow at the summit with more snow in the forecast.
Courtesy of Peter Morning/MMSA

The snow is piling up in the mountains of California as an atmospheric river brings a stream of moisture to large portions of the state. The storm system started earlier this week and prompted a flash flood watch for towns in Northern California that were devastated by recent wildfires.

The precipitation is caused by a narrow band of moisture that can transport huge amounts of water vapor from the tropical Pacific to the West Coast. In the past when atmospheric rivers have stalled over land for over a week at a time, California has seen huge snow totals and severe flooding.

This week’s atmospheric river event is moderate and short lived, but that hasn’t stopped the snow from piling up. The higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada are measuring snow in feet, and the storm has turned the normally tranquil Lake Tahoe into a surf spot.

At Mammoth Mountain, the snow started Wednesday night with the mountain now reporting 2.5 feet at the summit and a foot of snow at the main lodge. Another 18” is forecasted and the storm will allow one of California’s largest ski areas to open from top-to-bottom as soon as crews are able to safely open the terrain—likely this weekend.

In Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows will open on Saturday with new snow, marking the resort’s shortest off-season in history. Nearby, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe has already received 30 inches of snow in the past 24 hours with more in the forecast. Mt. Rose was closed today due to blizzard conditions, but resort officials hope to open with expanded terrain this weekend.

In total, the National Weather Service predicts that this storm will bring two to four feet above 8,000 feet before the West Coast dries out Friday into Saturday.

Snow removal operations at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe after the ski area received 30 inches of snow.
Courtesy of Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe
In Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has seen at least a foot of snow at higher elevations.
Courtesy of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows