Steven and Melissa Siig via AP
Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 | 6:15 p.m.
RENO — The staggering snow totals in the Sierra — more than 10 feet the past week at some ski resorts around Lake Tahoe — are taking a bite out of a nearly 6-year-old drought.
But they're presenting an unusual problem for area ski enthusiasts: there's too much snow to ski.
Road closures and avalanche threats kept most resorts closed for the third day in a row Wednesday as a blizzard continued to batter the Sierra with as much of 4 feet of snow in the past 24 hours in the upper elevations.
Dan Lavely, who moved to Lake Tahoe in 1968 and now lives in Reno, had been looking forward to spending his days off Monday and Tuesday on the slopes of the Mount Rose ski resort southwest of Reno.
"In all my years, it's so rare to have too much snow," Lavely said in an interview Wednesday. "Having a season pass — you pretty much live for these conditions. You want 2 or 3 feet of fresh powder, and you want to go play in it."
The Kirkwood ski resort south of the lake, one of a handful of resorts that remained open, reported Wednesday it had received 4 feet of new snow in the last 24 hours for a seven-day total of more than 11 feet. More than 4 feet of new snow also was reported Wednesday at Sugar Bowl, which remained closed near California's Donner Pass on U.S. Interstate 80. I-80 has been closed from west of there to the Nevada state line since Monday.
Northstar near Truckee, California — which also was open Wednesday — got 42 inches of new snow with more than 10 feet over the last seven days. The closed Mount Rose ski resort southwest of Reno reported 2 feet of new snow with a storm total of more than 9 feet.
The National Weather Service in Reno said it's the most snow to fall in the Sierra in six years.
As a result, 72 billion gallons of water has been added to Lake Tahoe since it reached its lowest point last year on Oct. 13. More than 39 billion gallons of that has come since Jan. 1, said Chad Blanchard, the federal water master in Reno.
"It's an extreme amount of water we have seen," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The 39 billion gallons equates to more than 100,000 acre feet of water — enough to provide every household of four with a year's supply of water in a city of 100,000. It has caused Tahoe's water level to rise nearly a foot since Jan. 1.
Since Oct. 1 when the seasonal water year begins, Tahoe's level has risen nearly 1.9 feet, something that typically takes an entire year to accomplish, Blanchard aid.
As of Tuesday, the Sierra snowpack in the Truckee River basin was up to 163 percent of normal.
Rain totals in the valleys have been just as impressive, accounting for a typical year's worth of rain in less than two weeks in some areas.
A torrential downpour late Tuesday and early Wednesday dumped 2.25 inches of rain in southeast Reno. The National Weather Service says that area has received nearly 9 inches of rain the past week. That's equal to the annual average at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Gardnerville got another 1.4 inches of rain early Wednesday for a seven-day total of 8.5 inches. In California, rainfall the past five days totaled 6.5 inches at South Lake Tahoe and a whopping 14 inches at Plumas Eureka State Park near Plumas about 65 miles northwest of Reno, the weather service said.