National Forest Service warns of possible avalanche dangers for skiers

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NORDEN, Calif. (KTXL) — Some Sierra ski resorts have reported up to 5 feet of snow in the past week. While that’s making for great skiing conditions, the National Forest Service is warning skiers about the risk of avalanches. 

Scientists say the new snow is packed on top of a weaker layer of snow, which if the wind picks up, can cause an avalanche.

But most ski resorts have been doing what they can to ensure the areas most skiers will go are safe.

At Sugar Bowl Resort in California, skier Eric Evers said all the fresh powder caused him to drop everything and head up from Grass Valley.

“Conditions are great, I mean, so good I had to call in sick to work because it’s one sick day,” he said, laughing.

But with the 4 to 5 feet of new snow, the resort said it has been working overtime to prevent avalanche dangers.

“We have a patrol team, a professional, certified team that performs avalanche mitigation work,” said Drew Jackson, the marketing and communications manager for Sugar Bowl. “And so, they’ve been working hard every morning making sure that the terrain that we do open is checked and as safe as we can make it for guests.”

Sugar Bowl said some advanced areas will be closed.

“We expect to have most of our terrain open this weekend, but some of it will be closed. And it’s just super important that everyone stays inside the open areas,” Jackson said.

Evers said that’s why he never skis alone.

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“Having a friend is the biggest, biggest, best advice,” he said.

From the chairlift, there was fresh powder over the entire resort Friday. Some of the snowboarders and skiers said it was some of the best skiing they have seen in years.

“Today’s a little more packed down. You can find great spots of powder to get your pow-pow on, and you know, you’ll find some good tracked-in lines if you want to take it easy too,” Evers said.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it so skiers and snowboarders can only be inside the lodge for a limited amount of time.

“Our indoor access is really limited to use the restroom, to purchase some grab-and-go food or beverage, or to buy a retail item. Or we have warming zones for people to go inside and warm-up for 15 minutes,” Jackson explained. “But that’s it. Otherwise, everyone who comes really needs to be prepared to spend their time outside or use their car as their base lodge.”

Most skiers at Sugar Bowl said they didn’t mind spending more time outside.

“This keeps you on the hill more, gets you on the mountain. Stay up there instead of going inside for a longer amount of time, get more runs in,” said skier Jessica Dingledine.

And skiers said face coverings work great when speeding down the hill.

“It keeps your face a lot warmer, anyways, always having it up,” Dingledine said.

Most ski resorts do require a reservation. At Sugar Bowl, they are sold out both Saturday and Sunday. They say if you can get up on a weekday, it’s easier to get a ticket.

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