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Little snow, plenty of fun at Sierra ski resorts

  • Lewis Wall, 71, of Windsor waits to load his skis up early Saturday morning Feb. 4, 2012 on a ski bus trip to Sierra at Tahoe in Truckee. In years past, Santa Rosa Ski and Sport, who sponsors the trip would have four or five busses. Because of the meager snowpack the compnay filled just one. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The Sierra snowpack may be a fraction of what it was this time last year, but area skiers and snowboarders are reporting decent conditions, plenty of sunshine and non-existent lines at ski resorts.

"It was definitely a beautiful ski day," said Franz Feuerherdt of his trip to Sierra at Tahoe resort on Saturday.

The 37-year-old Santa Rosa resident was one of about 50 folks who jumped on a bus before dawn and spent the day shredding the slopes. Or at least the ones with enough snow to be open.

Last year, Sierra at Tahoe received 63 feet of snow for the season. To date the mountain has received a mere 6 feet, said Steve Hemphill, communications manager for the resort.

Crews are doing a great job of keeping as many trails as possible open, with 33 of 46 skiable at the moment, he said. But there hasn't been enough snow yet to construct the half-pipe popular with snowboarders, nor enough to cover the massive boulders on expert runs like Huckleberry Canyon, he said.

But that hasn't put too much of a damper on the season, he said. The warm temperatures and lack of crowds make it a great time to learn, he said.

"We're still here and we're still having a blast," Hemphill said.

Santa Rosa Ski and Sports' business is down about 30 percent due to the shortage of snow, said owner Carole Holley. Her store's been running bus trips for 26 years and have become something of an institution, affording many local youths their first trip to the snow without parents.

Last year there was 10 feet of snow by Christmas and people were still skiing on the Fourth of July holiday. In snowy years, her trips would fill four to five buses with 50 people per bus. There's been just one bus per trip this year.

People don't know what they're missing, said 47-year-old Rohnert Park resident Michael Hardison. They hear drought and just don't think about skiing, he said. "Out of sight, out of mind. People think there's no rain here, so there can't be snow up there. That's really not true," he said.


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