The first winter storm is expected to dump snow at local mountains – and if enough falls and resorts can blow more during cold nights, skiers and snowboarders could be on lifts and flying down runs by next week.
“We are very eager. There’s still a lot of work to be done up here, it’s going to be a long week to get ready to go,” said John McColly, VP of marketing for Mountain High in Wrightwood. “But we are fired up … bring it on.”
Snow could be falling as low as 4,000 feet, he said, and the resort plans on firing up its snow-making machines throughout the weekend with a tentative opening date of Nov. 11 or 12. Snow Valley in the San Bernadino Mountains is also eyeing a potential opening by end of next week.
But that all depends on Mother Nature and if they can get enough snow on the slopes.
“We don’t expect a lot of that, but it will certainly be making things white,” McColly said.
Snow could be falling in local the Southern California mountain region as early as Friday night, with a 30% chance of rain showers that could turn to snow when temperature drops, according to a forecast sent out by Snow Valley Resort.
The best shot for snowfall will come after 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, with a chance of precipitation at 70% as temperatures drop to about 29 degrees. The cold storm rolling through should also bring 10 mph to 25 mph winds with gusts as high as 30 mph, the resort announced.
During the day, there could be 3 to 5 inches possible, and by night another inch added.
Sunday’s forecast shows even more snow, mostly between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., again with a 70% chance, with about 2 to 4 inches possible.
Next week’s potential opening depends on the storm, said Kevin Somes, general manager for Snow Valley, who has been constantly checking the National Weather Service forecast leading up to the weekend.
“It keeps changing,” he said. “I can’t promise anything, things can change with the weather.”
But if enough snow falls, “we are willing and ready,” to open, he said.
Somes said it would be great to have an early start to the season. Operators often have to wait until after Thanksgiving to open.
“We’re excited. Normally this time of year, it’s a wait-and-see kind of thing,” Somes said. “To have snow this early and cold snow-making conditions, it’s something we all need with all the challenges we’ve had in 2020.”
Local mountain resorts got skunked at the end of last season as the coronavirus pandemic shut down operations in March, just as mountains got slammed by the most snow they’ve had in years, making for epic conditions that went mostly untouched.
“We were disappointed,” Somes said of the March 16 closure. “By our calculations, we could have run into May. We lost 54 days of operation.”
But as the pandemic continues on, people have been seeking outdoor space in droves, a trend that was apparent in summer months as people sought out hiking trails or mountain biking adventures.
“I think this summer, our business was up tremendously,” Somes said. “People were out enjoying the outdoors. Skiing and snowboarding are activities they can do safely. I think people all need that for our mental health, to be out enjoying the mountains or foothills or wherever people decide to recreate.”
“The main message to get out to folks is buy your tickets in advance,” McColly said, anticipating tickets for weekends and holidays will sell out quickly with the resort only opening at half capacity.
Other safeguards at Mountain High include a hands-free check-in service and online sales for rentals and lessons. Lessons will have five students per instructor, half the usual. Season passes will be unrestricted and won’t require reservations.
Snow Valley is hoping to have swift moving lift lines because of its six-person chairlifts, where families and groups that come together can stay together. Guests will not be required to ride a chairlift with people they do not know.
Snow Valley is holding a job fair this weekend in anticipation of the winter season, with hundreds of positions available. The next hiring event will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 7, followed by the last job fair from 4 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 10.
Big Bear Resort and Snow Summit likely won’t be open by next week; the two are eyeing closer to Nov. 20, according to spokesman Justin Kanton.
Mammoth Mountain, a much larger resort about six hours from Southern California, is scheduled to open Nov. 14.
Source: Orange County Register