Snowpack piles up at ski resorts in California and Utah

A series of storms that have wreaked havoc on northern and central California have also dumped massive amounts of snow in ski areas from California to Utah as the busy Martin Luther King Day weekend is about to begin. 

In fact, in some cases the snow has been so extreme that ski resorts are having difficulty keeping their full mountain open. 

California’s Mammoth Mountain, for example, is reporting a base depth of 165 inches and a summit depth of 230 inches, having received more than 70 inches of snow since Monday. 

Already Mammoth’s snowfall for the year has topped its full season total last year. And blizzard conditions are expected to resume from Friday through Sunday.

While all that snow sounds tantalizing to skiers, it’s also a problem. Extreme snowfall increases avalanche risk. And it can also overwhelm facilities.

Mammoth stayed closed on Tuesday so that crews could dig out lifts and other facilities. And on Thursday, mid-mountain lifts were closed much of the day. By Thursday afternoon, Mammoth had 18 of 25 lifts open. 

Other large ski areas in Northern California, as well as in Utah, have also received enormous amounts of snow in recent weeks, though not quite as much as Mammoth. 

Deer Valley in Park City reached the 100-inch base threshold on Wednesday after receiving 38 inches of snow over Tuesday and Wednesday. Already, Deer Valley has received its second-highest amount of snow through January in its history, and several more consecutive days of snowfall are expected beginning Saturday. 

Unlike Mammoth, however, the ski area was fully open Thursday following mitigation efforts the previous day. 

“We do not foresee extensive terrain closures during the long weekend,” spokeswoman Emily Summers said. 

Heavenly Valley, which spans the California/Nevada border in the South Lake Tahoe area, is also practically swimming in snow, including 111 inches of fresh snow since Jan. 1 and lots more in the forecast. On Thursday, the Nevada side of the mountain was closed due to a downed powerline. 

“We have seen just about every winter weather event you could imagine over the past couple of weeks — it’s been highly unusual, even for Tahoe,” said spokeswoman Sara Roston. “This includes extreme winds, outages, and roughly 10 feet of snow in the last two weeks. This impacts our ability to effectively dig out, de-ice, conduct safety checks, plow lots, etc. — which results in delays, and sometimes closures.”

Roston said that while Heavenly Valley continues to welcome skiers and riders for the holiday weekend, it’s important that they stay informed about road conditions, mountain conditions and parking availability. 

“The good news is, all of this snow will ultimately lead to some of the best skiing and riding conditions you can get,” she said.

Read more