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California ski resort workers tunnel their way into the office after getting 10 feet of snow

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March 5, 2024
By The Associated Press

A highway sign is covered in snow during a storm, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Truckee, Calif. (AP Photo/Brooke Hess-Homeier)

RENO, Nevada (AP) — Going to the office has been no small feat for Jon Slaughter’s marketing team at Sugar Bowl, requiring the employees to dig down several feet and then tunnel through to the front door after a powerful blizzard dumped more than 10 feet (three meters) of snow on the Northern California ski resort.

It was even more dramatic when they went upstairs and opened another door to the outside on the second level of the office building and were confronted by a solid wall of snow from floor to well above the door frame. His team posted a video of the door opening on X and wrote: “We’ve got some digging to do.”

“They’ve been chipping away at it since Friday, and had to tunnel down to the downstairs door to get in,” Slaughter said. “It definitely keeps you on your toes.”

The ski resort nestled 7,000 feet (2,133.6 meters) up among mountain peaks 46 miles (74 km) west of Reno recorded the highest amounts of snow from the storm that began barreling into the region Thursday and was finally dissipating on Monday as it moved through the Sierra Nevada, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

The weekend blizzard caused traffic backups and closures on Interstate 80 and other roadways and shut down ski resorts from the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area to Sugar Bowl with the warning covering a 300-mile (480-kilometer) stretch of the mountains. It also left thousands of homes and businesses without power as fierce winds lashed the Sierra.

A long stretch of I-80 from west of Lake Tahoe over Donner Summit to the Nevada state line reopened to all but big rigs late Monday morning, but chains or snow tires were required, the California Highway Patrol’s Truckee office said. The mountain pass, which can be perilous in snow, is named for the infamous Donner Party, a group of pioneers who resorted to cannibalism after getting trapped there in the winter of 1846-1847.

Sugar Bowl along with many other resorts including Palisades Tahoe, the largest resort on the north end of Lake Tahoe, were also slowly reopening lifts after safety checks.

Skiers and snowboarders had already been lining up since the weekend for what were considered to be epic conditions of deep powder.

Palisades was among several ski mountains that closed most or all chairlifts over the weekend because of snow, wind and low visibility. Palisades’ four-day snow total was nearly eight feet (2.4 meters), according to the weather service.

Stretches of other mountain highways in the area remained closed for the fourth day in a row, including part of the Mt. Rose Highway connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe and California Highway 89 on the west side of the lake, where Homewood ski resort has received more than seven feet (2.1 meters) of snow since Thursday night.

Westbound lanes of I-80 in suburban Sparks were temporarily closed during the Monday morning commute due to crashes caused by icy conditions, the Nevada Highway Patrol said. And I-580 between Reno and Carson City remained closed in the Washoe Valley where the patrol said it was continuing to help motorists recover vehicles abandoned over the weekend. There were no immediate reports of any serious injuries.

The blizzard was yet another late-season shot in the arm for California’s snowpack, a vital part of the state’s water supply.

The water content of the snowpack on Monday stood at 104% of the average to date and 94% of the April 1 average, when it is normally at its peak, according to online data from the California Department of Water Resources.

And more snow was forecast to be on the way.

Winter storm warnings were issued for a new, less powerful system expected to arrive later in the day and last into Tuesday night, and was likely to bring periods of moderate mountain snow, the weather service said.

Kevin Dupui, who lives in Truckee, about 10 miles (6.2 kilometers) west of Sugar Bowl, said his snow blower broke, but it doesn’t matter because there’s nowhere to put all the snow anyway. “We just move it around,” he said Sunday.

Residents were snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the streets. Power has been restored to thousands who lost service but some outages continue.

Some people turned up at Sugar Bowl at 8 a.m. on Sunday but had to wait until 2 p.m. when crews were able to finally open one lift, leaving them only a couple of hours to ski but Slaughter said he’s sure it was worth it given the conditions.

He hoped to hit the slopes himself ahead of the next storm.

“It just keeps coming,” Slaughter said. “It looks like it’s going to be snowing most of this week. So if people cannot make powder turn today, there’s plenty more coming for you.”

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