Heavy Snow Welcomed in the Sierra

December 15, 2008 8:21:47 PM PST
This first blast of winter is a good start toward filling the state's reservoirs, desperately low after a long hot summer, and it's especially good news for the high Sierra economy.

Most of the Tahoe ski resorts are now open and eager to start doing business. But getting there isn't easy.

Chain requirements are in effect, but cars are getting through. Same story on Highway 50 -- you'll need chains, and it's very slow going.

It has been snowing all day in Lake Tahoe, and that could be good news for the area's economy, as people firm up their holiday plans.

It's like money had fallen from the sky. A big storm that began over the weekend dumped nearly two feet of snow in some parts of the Tahoe basin.

Skiers who have been waiting for weeks for winter excitedly flocked to the runs.

"It's really cold up there, but the snow made up for it. It's really powdery, and it's really fluffy. It's just beautiful snow," said skier Shawndrea Wisma.

For ski resorts, the snow brought a sigh of relief. Most missed out on the Thanksgiving weekend business because there wasn't much snow.

It was so warm in the days after, most couldn't even make snow. In fact, before this storm, the Sierra snowpack was only two percent of average for the date.

But all that changed, and businesses are gearing up for a Christmas rush.

"A lot of people want a white Christmas, and they know when they come to South Lake Tahoe and Heavenly, that's what they're going to get," said Aimi Xistra-Rich from Heavenly Mountain Resort.

While the snow was a blessing to ski resorts and other businesses, it was a pain for drivers. First they had to put chains on their tires. Then the snowy roads made it challenging for them to maneuver.

In some cases it was too much of a challenge.

"Lose control the snow," said accident victim Bavel Akhanov.

"The snow made you lose control?" asked ABC30's Nanette Miranda.

"Yeah, my car u-turned, u-turned," said Akhanov.

"Right into the tree?" asked Miranda.

Bavel: "Yeah," said Akhanov.

Now that there's snow, everyone in Lake Tahoe is hoping that despite the recession, skiers and snowboarders will still come up.

Chain installers are already seeing a drop in the number of customers.

"We did all right Saturday, but it's definitely slower than it normally is," said chain installer Mark Web.

Any snow this season might help California's two year drought. Later in the spring and summer it will help supply the state with drinking water when it melts.


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