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With blizzard pounding Tahoe area, even some ski resorts are urging people to stay away

A ski resort employee clearing snow
An employee at Alpine, part of the Palisades Tahoe ski resort complex, clears snow. The resort was closed Friday because of the blizzard.
(Palisades Tahoe)
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With a dangerous, life-threatening blizzard bringing strong winds, frigid temperatures and an avalanche warning, even some Northern California ski resorts are urging people to stay away for now.

“We know you are as excited as we are about this huge amount of snowfall, but please make safe decisions when it comes to travel,” Palisades Tahoe posted online after announcing both Alpine and Palisades would be closed for the day.

Wind gusts reached 145 mph overnight, the resort posted on Facebook, and conditions were set to be even more intense Friday night.

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A new snowstorm might sound appealing for those eager to see fresh powder or wanting to hit the slopes over the weekend, but local officials and law enforcement were urging people to stay off the road and not travel during what could be a life-threatening blizzard.

Photos of a blizzard that is burying the Sierra Nevada in California in blankets of snow.

March 2, 2024

The National Weather Service said the powerful winter storm is moving in from the Pacific Northwest and issued a blizzard warning over the Sierra Nevada, with the worst of the storm continuing to pound the region until midday Saturday. The mountain range’s highest peaks could see up to 12 feet of snow by Sunday.

By early Thursday night, California Highway Patrol officials said conditions had already worsened, with snow affecting visibility in some areas.

“Last night, conditions deteriorated over Donner Summit causing a traffic mess,” the CHP office in Truckee posted on Facebook, alongside a video of patrol cars, tow trucks and semis stopped on Interstate 80 while snow whipped the vehicles.

In the Greater Lake Tahoe area, the weather service expected between 3 and 6 feet of snow, and up to 10 feet of snow in areas above 7,000 feet.

Wind gusts of up to 70 mph could be seen in higher elevations, the agency warned, raising the risk of downed trees and poles.

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Snowfall could be so heavy at some point, the weather service said road conditions would be at “near zero visibility at times.”

Several ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area had shut down by Friday morning due to strong winds, loads of snow and expectations that more was still to come.

Sugar Bowl announced it would have to shut down all lifts at 10 a.m.

“Our team gave it their all,” the ski resort wrote in a post to visitors. “The weather won in the end.”

Boreal Mountain & Woodward, as well as Homewood, closed down Friday, citing dangerous weather conditions. Whether skiers would get a chance at the slopes Saturday remained to be seen.

“We are continuing to evaluate conditions and may extend this closure to Saturday,” Homewood resort said in a statement online.

Sierra at Tahoe and Kirkwood also cited blizzard conditions for their decision to close down, and asked visitors to check back on whether it would be able to open Saturday.

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Mt. Rose noted “damaging winds” prevented them from operating any of their lifts for the day.

As of noon Friday, Northstar, Heavenly and Diamond Peak resorts had some of their lifts working, but asked visitors to keep checking for updates throughout the day.

The Sierra Avalanche Center in Truckee also issued a backcountry avalanche warning in the Greater Lake Tahoe area until 5 p.m. Sunday.

“We’re really recommending people don’t come,” said CHP Officer Mike Brown of the Lake Tahoe office. “It’s a safety thing, and it might not be worth it.”

Those who have to travel, Brown said, should be prepared to install chains on their vehicles.

People should also be carrying food, water, extra clothes and blankets in their cars in case they get stuck or a road is closed for an extended time, he said.

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Chains were required on most roads in the area. With weather conditions changing rapidly throughout the day, Brown said, travelers should check for road closures and conditions.

On Thursday, Yosemite National Park also announced that it was closing until at least Sunday because of the storm, and urged those in the park to “leave as soon as possible.”

Mammoth Mountain warned visitors that mid and upper lifts could be affected because of the wind and snow, but, as of noon Friday, several of the lifts continued to be operating, according to the resort.

Still, the resort urged people to check conditions regularly.

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