Environment & Science

Despite recent storms, snow levels remain far below average

Skiers and snowboarders take to the slopes at Bear Mountain Lodge.
Skiers and snowboarders take to the slopes at Bear Mountain Lodge.
Grant Slater/KPCC

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Winters storms earlier in the week brought much needed precipitation to California, including snow to many of the state’s ski towns.

“Last night’s little storm and the cold air behind it is exactly the Christmas present that we’ve been waiting for to kick off the holiday season here,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Resorts.

Riddle said that Bear Mountain has received two-to-three inches of snow in the past 24 hours. Officials at Mammoth Mountain reported gains of three-to-six inches of snow. Squaw Valley received one inch of snow. Officials at each of the resorts said more terrain would be opened to visitors as a result of the accumulation.

Current Snow Reports:

Though the snow means better weekend skiing, officials said the accumulation is far below levels needed to help California exit drought conditions.

“It’s very gloomy right now,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. “The snow pack is way, way below average for this time of year.”

The program monitors snow pack accumulation in the Sierra Mountains, an important indicator of future water conditions. Melt from the Sierra Mountains makes its way down into the Central Valley.

Gehrke said that accumulation across the three main mountain regions is below average for this time of year - the northern region has just 14 percent of the average; the central region, 25 percent; and the southern region, 41 percent. 

Gehrke said that despite recent cold temperatures, there hasn’t been much precipitation. He said that a significant series of storms would be necessary to bring levels up to average. However, he said that high pressure centers are pushing most storms too far north to contribute snow to the Sierra Mountains.

“It’s certainly looking like we’re in for a dry year, and given that reservoir storage coming into this season is below average, yikes,” Gehrke said.