Wild photo captures massive amount of snow at California ski resort
It’s hard to imagine 600 inches of snow, but one ski resort in California summed it up well in a single, mind-blowing photo. Plus, the snow’s not over yet this season, according to AccuWeather forecasters.
Bear Valley Resort has received more than 600 inches of snow this winter.
This winter has been a boon for ski resorts in California with plenty of powder to go around, and at one resort, the snow has reached new heights.
Over 600 inches (50 feet) of snow has fallen on the slopes of Bear Valley Resort since late 2022, more than double the 300 inches that typically fall at the resort in an entire season. Bear Valley Resort is located about 80 miles east of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada, with the summit reaching an elevation of 8,500 feet.
After the most recent atmospheric river, a member of the Bear Valley Ski Patrol was able to touch the top of the chair lift with his skis still planted on the snow-packed slopes.
A member of the Bear Valley Ski Patrol touches the top of a chair lift following the latest atmospheric river in California. (Bear Valley Ski Patrol)
The lift was inoperable after the last storm due to chairs being buried in towering snow drifts. Ski patroller Eric Wilcox told storm chaser Brandon Clement that it is a huge undertaking to clear the snow after the massive storms, but it is worth the effort.
"It's totally exciting and we're having a lot of fun," Wilcox said.
A drone flies along a chair lift that cannot operate due to too much snow. (Brandon Clement/WxChasing)
Mammoth Mountain, located about 80 miles southeast of Bear Valley Resort, joined the 600-inch club on March 13, as the most recent atmospheric river unloaded heavy snow over the Sierra Nevada. This season is just the third time on record that Mammoth Mountain has measured over 600 inches of snow. Snow records at the resort date back to the winter of 1969-70.
"It's incredible to see how buried the mountain is," Lauren Burke, the communications director of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, told AccuWeather.
Burke added that several lifts have been completely buried due to a "monumental amount of snow," and it takes crews four to six hours to clear snow from a single lift.
AccuWeather meteorologists say that another atmospheric river is in the offing for California early next week, which could propel the Mammoth Mountain snowfall totals toward the all-time record. The infamous 2010-11 season featured 668.5 inches (55.7 feet) of snow at the resort.
"I think this is the year to break the all-time record," Burke said.
The snowpack across the Sierra Nevada is significantly higher than in recent years following the barrage of storms and atmospheric rivers since the end of December. According to the California Department of Water Resources, the snowpack is 272% of the historical average in the southern Sierra, 227% of normal in the central Sierra and 178% of the typical level in the northern Sierra.
Just as important is the snow water content, or how much water is locked up in the snow across the mountains. The snow water content is well above the historical average in the northern Sierra but is at a record level in both the central Sierra and southern Sierra, outpacing the historic winter of 1982-83.
California has seen tremendous improvements in the short-term drought since the end of 2022, with drought conditions being completely erased across nearly half of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. AccuWeather is expecting drought conditions to improve in the coming months partly due to the expansive snowpack.
The snowpack across the Sierra Nevada is like a bank, storing water until the summertime when storm systems rarely deliver rain and snow to California. The melting snow during the dry season will continue to feed rivers and water reservoirs and chip away at the lingering drought across the Golden State.
The deep snow that has built up on the ski slopes will also help resorts stay open well into the spring and potentially even into the start of summer.
"We don't have a closing date set yet, [but] we expect to be skiing well into summer this year," Burke told AccuWeather. She added that last year, Mammoth Mountain was able to remain open to skiers into June, during a year that featured less than half the amount of snow that has fallen this season.
"We're going to be skiing late into the summer."
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