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Sierra ski season off to bang with huge snowpack

By MARTIN GRIFFITH,Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:43 a.m. HST, Dec 25, 2010



RENO, Nev. — The ultimate Christmas present awaits skiers and snowboarders on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

Some resort operators are reporting the best Christmas holiday skiing conditions in decades after a string of recent storms bolstered an impressive early-season snowpack.

The storms brought the Lake Tahoe Basin's snowpack to 219 percent of average for the date, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"The amount of snow we have seen this season is incredible," said Jon Slaughter, spokesman for Boreal Mountain Resort atop Donner Summit. "I have never seen the snow banks as tall this early in the season."

His resort has reported receiving 28 feet of snow in November and December, the most by far at Boreal over that period in 30 years of record-keeping. The bulk of the snow fell in the weeks before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Some of the largest resorts at nearby Lake Tahoe have reported up to 25 feet of snow so far this season, which is nearly 75 percent of the average snowfall for the entire season, said Eric Doyne of Ski Lake Tahoe.

His group represents seven of Tahoe's largest resorts: Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, Kirkwood, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe and Squaw Valley.

"Some of the resorts have never seen ski conditions like this for Christmas," Doyne told The Associated Press. "This is definitely one of the snowiest Christmas and New Year's holidays we've seen."

Jeff Glover, 57, of Quincy, Calif., raved about the conditions Thursday at Alpine Meadows.

"It's beautiful. Excellent conditions — cold, fresh powder," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "It doesn't get any better."

Heavy snow has fallen across the West, including in the mountains around Las Vegas.

"We have had over 8 feet of snow in the last 5 days ... Pure white bliss awaits," says the website of the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort on Mountain Charleston.

Tourism officials said the latest storms positioned resorts to take advantage of the week after Christmas, traditionally one of the three busiest periods of the ski season along with the Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day holiday weekends.

"We are a snow-driven economy," said Andy Chapman of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. "When Mother Nature delivers, the visitor experience is enhanced, and businesses large and small prosper."

The National Weather Service says storms will bring a chance of more snow to the Sierra over the next week.






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