Sierra Ski Season Winds Down Amid Warm Spell

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As an unusually early warm spell melts away their business and snowpack, Sierra Nevada ski resorts are beginning to shut down for the season.

Diamond Peak in Incline Village closed Sunday - two weeks earlier than planned - and at least eight other Lake Tahoe resorts announced plans to follow suit in the next two weeks.

"With the warm weather, people have stopped skiing and our skier visits fell way off," said Ed Youmans, Diamond Peak manager. "I think people turn to other activities like golf and tennis when it warms up."

At the Boreal resort atop Donner Summit, only five of nine lifts were in operation Sunday. The resort offered a final round of night skiing and snowboarding on Sunday and plans to close for the season on one of the next two Sundays.

"The crowds are falling off at every resort because of the warm weather," said Boreal spokeswoman April Smith. "People aren't thinking of snow anymore. Once the sun hits 75 degrees or higher, their mind starts wandering and gets spring fever."

Tahoe Donner plans to shut down for the season on Sunday, while Soda Springs - like sister resort Boreal - will close on one of the next two Sundays.

Heavenly, Mt. Rose, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Sugar Bowl plan to keep lifts in operation until April 18 and Sierra-at-Tahoe until April 19.

As usual, Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley USA and Mammoth Mountain hope to be the last Sierra resorts to close - sometime after mid-May.

Resort officials stress closing dates could be pushed up or back, depending on the weather.

"We're working on May 31," Squaw Valley spokeswoman Katja Dahl said. "Whether we make it until May 31 depends on whether we get more snow and the temperatures. Time will tell."

Officials at Mammoth Mountain, which closed June 15 last year, are unsure whether the snowpack can last that long this year.

The warm temperatures and a dry March trimmed what had been an above-normal Sierra snowpack.

The snowpack was about 80 percent of average last week in the central Sierra, from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park.