Looks like another banner year for Lake Tahoe- area resorts. As if they have needed it, at Heavenly they "have made enough snow to bury a football field more than 500 feet deep with snow."
Heavenly, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Squaw, Sierra-at-Tahoe . . . you name it, they're operating at 100% with base depths of three feet or more, having been hit the hardest by winter storms blowing through California.
At Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra, conditions are nearly as good, with more than 80% of its terrain open and a base of four to five feet. And skiers and boarders will be able to make tracks on all but the lower face of nearby June Mountain when it opens Saturday.
Too bad these places are so far away because locally, one has only to look at the blue and sunny sky to know that we're lagging seriously behind in the natural snow department, and no change is forecast for the next several days.
Fortunately, though, not all of our slopes are barren, thanks to the recent cold snap and the high-tech snowmaking capabilities at some of the Southland resorts.
"We've been making snow since December 3 and have been doing it around the clock ever since," said Genevieve Paquet, spokeswoman for Snow Summit in Big Bear.
Five lifts are open, offering skiers and boarders terrain ranging from advanced to beginner, including the upper Westridge freestyle park and Zzyzx halfpipe. Lower Westridge is expected to open Saturday.
Big Bear Mountain also has five lifts running, including its terrain park and "double-barrel" halfpipes. Down the road at Snow Valley in Running Springs, two lifts are open, servicing 10 trails and the terrain park. And in nearby Green Valley, Big Air Winter Park, which boasts of being "all natural," there is no natural snow to speak of, of course, but general manager Dave Wilson is optimistically shooting for a Dec. 19 opening.
"Where is all the stuff?" he asked aloud Thursday morning. "You know, we got 21 feet of snow last year and almost all of it was powder. When we closed we still had five feet."
Closer to Los Angeles, in Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains, New Mountain High has been blowing snow all over the place and expects to open the East Resort today. In all, there are 14 trails open on a base of 18-32 inches and conditions are being reported on the resort Web site as "fantastic" at the East and West resorts.
Rounding out the local picture, Mount Baldy has been making snow since the end of last week and expects to open today with beginner and intermediate terrain serviced by Chair 2.
"We improved our snowmaking capabilities last year but never had to use it," resort spokesman John Koulouris said. "Now we're rolling good, but we're still waiting for some natural snow."
Skiers and boarders should keep in mind that the recent Santa Ana weather pattern has resulted in severe winds throughout both the San Gabriels and San Bernardinos, resulting in temporary closures of some runs.