According to a Nov. 24 Los Angeles Times article, residents of the state’s Sierra Nevada region saw a series of strong winter storms, allowing ski resorts to open up a bit earlier than usual. In previous years, the region’s resorts would see a significantly shortened season due to lack of snowfall — but that’s no longer the case.
“This is the earliest the ski resorts have been opened in many years. … They rarely open before Thanksgiving,” explained Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.
El Niño, the periodic warming pattern that takes place along the Pacific coasts of North and South America, is known for bringing added precipitation when it arrives around this time of year. As a result, weather experts predict the current snow boom should last into next year, along with plenty of rain in warmer parts of the state.
And while this is good news for California’s ski enthusiasts and tourism industry, all this extra snow is poised to carry some risks.
“Areas that don’t typically receive substantial snowfall often lack the snow removal equipment and manpower to handle these situations,” says Michael Guggino, President, Pro-Tech Manufacturing and Distribution. “Equipment such as snow pushers, truck plows, and salters are critical during snow events to keep communities operating. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store can be hazardous.”
Dangerous driving conditions are just one drawback to El Niño’s snow boost — loss of life is another. Late last month, officials said they found Michael David Meyers, a UCLA graduate student who had gone missing, buried in snow after an avalanche fell in the John Muir Wilderness.
Even the savviest cold-weather adventurers should take extra precaution as a result, explained Inyo County Sheriff William Lutze. He stressed the need to travel in pairs when trekking across dense, snowy mountain terrain.
“If it doesn’t look safe, it’s not safe,” Lutze said.