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October Snowstorms Open Two California Ski Resorts

Abundant snowfall in the Sierra Nevada prompts early openings for Mammoth Mountain and Palisades Tahoe

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Posted a month agoby Ann Marie Brown

A massive California storm has dumped so much snow on the Sierra Nevada Mountains that Mammoth Mountain and Palisades Tahoe will open for skiing and riding on Friday, October 29, weeks earlier than the resorts had planned.

Heavy precipitation across the state was caused by an atmospheric river, a long and narrow plume of moisture pulled in from the Pacific. In the Sierra range, what started as heavy rain on October 22 quickly morphed into snow.

By Monday afternoon, several ski resorts reported 34 to 39 inches on their upper slopes with 12 to 24 inches at base elevations. The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, which sits atop Donner Summit at 7,057 feet, reported 35.7 inches of snow in the last seven days, bringing October’s snow totals to 47.7 inches—nearly four feet. 

Mammoth Mountain had previously announced a November 13 opening—the earliest of any California resort—but the latest storm combined with two others earlier in the month gave the resort the most October snow it's seen in the last decade. Friday's opening will be only the tenth time in Mammoth's history that its lifts started spinning in October.

Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley) will also welcome skiers and riders to carve turns this Friday, a month sooner than expected. This season will be only the third time in 72 years that the resort will open in October. Lifts will operate on weekends only until November 24, when daily operations will begin.

Whether you're scheming a way to score first chair this weekend or you're planning to ski later in winter, check out these tips to help you make the most of your trip:

1) The pandemic isn't completely behind us. The resorts are still practicing COVID-19 protocols, and they differ from resort to resort. For example, Mono County, home to Mammoth Mountain, requires masks indoors for everyone—vaccinated or not. Other counties and resorts have different rules. (Learn more in this article.) Before you visit any resort, check its website or social media channels to find out what protocols are in place.

2) Be prepared for winter driving. Mountain weather is often completely different from anywhere else in the Golden State. Driving on mountain roads may require all-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, or even tire chains—and you should find out before you get there. Brush up on tips for winter mountain driving here, and if you're headed to Truckee-Tahoe, check this page for travel and weather alerts before you go.

3) Be extra kind to the places you're visiting. Do what you can to make your ski trip as sustainable as possible, and remember that small choices can make a big difference. For example, did you know you don't need a car in Mammoth Lakes? It's easy to get around town on Mammoth's free bus service. Lake Tahoe also has a great public transit system.

Here's another simple idea: Don't buy bottled water. Say no to plastic and drink tap water from a reusable bottle (on the slopes, collapsible bottles are ideal). Similarly, if you enjoy sipping your morning coffee overlooking the mountains, drink it out of a reusable insulated mug. Less than one percent of disposable cups from coffee shops get recycled. Want more ideas? Take the Tahoe Traveler Responsibility Pledge here.

4) If possible, visit midweek. Once the ski season fully opens—Thanksgiving week or later at most resorts—plan to ski midweek. Lift tickets are less expensive, the mountain is less crowded, and you'll find more lodging availability at a wide variety of prices. Even better, by visiting midweek you'll help out the economies of small mountain towns.

5) Flights into Bishop and Mammoth are coming soon. Starting December 19, United will offer daily commercial service from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver to Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop. Drive time from Bishop to Mammoth Lakes is 45 minutes, and visitors can take a shuttle or rent a car. Additionally, Advanced Airlines will offer public charter flights into Mammoth Yosemite Airport from three Southern California cities: Burbank, Carlsbad, and Hawthorne. Service begins November 24.

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