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Lack Of Snow Causes Trouble For West Coast Ski Resorts

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

A chair lift sits idle at the Donner Ski Ranch near Soda Springs, Calif., Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. A light snow fell in the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevada overnight, but not enough snow was received for ski resorts in the Donner Summit area to open that weekend.

While the East Coast is suffering through a winter that featured a ‘bomb cyclone,’ the West Coast has been dry.

The Las Vegas Valley went 116 days without any rain. That streak was finally broken in the second week of January with a storm that dumped rain on the valley floor and snow on the mountaintops.

But still, the lack of snow has forced ski resorts to cut back on services. 

At Lee Canyon Ski Resort outside of Las Vegas, there is top to bottom skiing but not every run is open. 

Jim Seely, the marketing director for the resort, told KNPR's State of Nevada that it would take another big storm to open all the runs off the second chair. 

Chris Smallcomb is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Reno. He said the resorts that are higher up in the Sierra Nevada are doing fine, but the resorts that are at a lower elevation are struggling.

“Our snowpack numbers are pretty, pretty grim at this point,” he said.

To make matters worse for the resorts, the temperatures both in Southern Nevada and Northern Nevada have been warmer than normal making it difficult to make snow.

"It is all about the temperatures of where you're at, or where your snowmakers are at, as well as the temperature of our 10 million gallon reservoir," Seely said, "If that's staying nice and warm... it takes a little bit more work to get the whole 10 million gallons down to cooler temperature to where you can optimize snowmaking."

Smallcomb said the warmer temperatures have created what is known as a 'snow drought,' which is when the total amount of precipitation is near normal but most of it is rain, not snow.

He did say it could change. Ironically, the thing that has held off cooler temperatures and snow for the West has been the mass of cold air that put the Midwest and East Coast into a deep freeze, now that mass of air is expected to shift this week allowing storms to roll into the western half of the country, hopefully dropping snow from California to Colorado.

“I’m not writing off winter just yet,” Smallcomb said.

To check out the forecast, go to


​Chris Smallcomb, meteorologist, National Weather Service, Reno; Jim Seely, marketing director, Lee Canyon Ski Resort 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.