Recent snows a boon for winter enthusiasts

Kevin Mathis had just finished shoveling mud after a series of rain storms in November when snow began dumping in Northern California this month.

Mathis, who owns the McCloud Mercantile Hotel near Mount Shasta, said he simply stretched his back and moved from shoveling mud to tossing snow.

"I have shoveled snow until my back hurts," Mathis said.

In spite of those sore muscles, the winter storms that walloped Northern California and Southern Oregon in December have proven good for business, Mathis said.

"The mountain is doing really well, and we are booked up through New Year's Day," he said.

Mathis said streets and yards in McCloud are covered by several feet of the white stuff.

"It's looked like this before in McCloud, but this happened in one set of storms," he said. "We got all this snow in one shot."

Meanwhile, here in Southern Oregon, the intense snowstorms have gotten the Mount Ashland ski runs off to their best start maybe ever.

"By the third day we opened, we had 16 runs groomed," said Rick Saul, development director for the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. "We have never had 16 runs groomed like this. We had good coverage right off the bat."

The mountain took quite a punch last week, when 48 inches of snow fell over a two-day period, Saul said.

The storm system began in early December with a warm and heavy snowfall that formed a perfect base on the slopes. Then around Dec. 15, the temperatures dropped and a lighter, powdery snow hit the mountain.

That combination made for perfect ski conditions, Saul said.

"That early wet snow built the base and the drier snow then produced dream-like conditions here," Saul said.

The mountain has seen 107 inches of snow so far in December, which allowed the ski area to open a few days early.

Chuck Glaser, of the National Weather Service, said the eventful weather over the past month began with a line of November storms that brought hard rain from the ocean.

These storms caused flooding throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California before giving way to snow drifts and icy roads in higher elevations, Glaser said.

"The stuff since Dec. 15 has come from the northwest and has caused snow levels to drop," Glaser said. "We didn't get as much rain, but the colder temperatures created more snow."

The weather hasn't been all fun and games, particularly for holiday travelers, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming.

"We had a lot of snow dumped on us over the past two weeks," Leaming said. "It caught some travelers unprepared."

ODOT scrambled over the past two weeks to clear roads and cut fallen trees from the roadway near Diamond Lake. Motorists became trapped on Highway 230 when large trees, weighted down with snow, crashed into the road.

"Some of those people were concerned and frightened when those trees fell," Leaming said. "We had to go up and escort them out of there."

The storms also knocked out power to thousands of households beginning in mid-December.

Pacific Power reported that during the peak of outages, 22,775 houses in Northern California and Southern Oregon were darkened after snow knocked down power lines.

The final two customers affected by the outages had power restored on Friday, Pacific Power said in a news release.

Glaser said the weather should cooperate with travelers looking to head home after the holidays.

"We don't have anything on our screens for the foreseeable future," Glaser said. "Anyone wanting to go home after New Year's shouldn't have a horrible time of it."

If fact, the sun could peek out for a few days starting this weekend, with temperatures reaching into the 40s during the day, the weather service reported.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or

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