By Jerry Rice
The excitement of little children as Christmas morning nears is often only exceeded by the excitement of skiers and snowboarders as a storm approaches. So, with a potential snow-maker dropping out of the Gulf of Alaska and heading toward California, this might as well be Christmas Eve.
“We’re crossing our fingers, doing the snow dances and praying – whatever we have to do,” said Kim Hermon, Mountain High spokeswoman.
Presents may be delivered by tonight in the form of 6 to 12 inches of the white stuff. Even better, the forecast calls for it to arrive with frigid conditions that will allow the Wrightwood resort to crank up its extensive snowmaking system.
This storm can’t arrive soon enough. After a promising start to the ski and snowboard season, it’s been rough sledding the last few weeks at Southern California mountain resorts.
Mountain High opened Nov. 11 with the most acreage it has had available on a first day of the season in recent history, and the resort welcomed its largest opening-day crowd ever. But a few days after Thanksgiving when the leftovers were finished, rising temperatures forced the resort to close on Nov. 27.
Adding to the insult, last week’s storm that brought 4 to 6 feet of snow to Mammoth Mountain dumped mostly rain at Mountain High.
It hasn’t been much better at Big Bear Lake, where Snow Summit also closed in late November. Bear Mountain has remained open, but only with a limited number of runs available. For the last several days, the conditions at Bear have been fair, and runs have had “some thin and bare spots developing during the day,” according to snow reports.
Tonight’s storm is actually part of a series of weather events – a second, weaker system was expected to roll in Friday night, then a third arrives on Saturday – that might be a game-changer for local resorts. NBC4 weatherman Fritz Coleman was predicting the first round alone could dump 12 inches of snow above the 6,000-foot level, and up to 6 inches between 4,500 and 6,000 feet.
If Mother Nature delivers as expected, and Mountain High’s snowmaking system can add to the bounty, the resort may be able to open as early as Friday, according to Hermon.
“Once we have snowmaking up and running, we’ll keep it running until we lose the temps,” she said. “Basically, it’s our big push to get as much open as possible for the holiday period. We’re hoping that we have a white Christmas.”