Only Mother Nature knows for sure, but Kern County's only ski resort could open for business as soon as this weekend if enough snow falls on the southern Sierra Nevada.
Last weekend's storm dumped half a foot of snow on the resort, bringing the total accumulation to 10 inches. An additional 10 inches on top of that — assuming no significant melting — could allow Alta Sierra to start selling lift tickets as soon as Sunday.
That would be a welcome scenario for a locally owned business that has had sufficient snowpack to open just three of the last seven seasons.
"It's boom or bust with a ski resort," part-owner Garro Ellis said Monday. "We're only as good as what God gives us."
In anticipation of cold and snow in the days ahead, the resort has scheduled a job fair for Saturday, when it hopes to hire as many as 50 seasonal workers.
The 2017-18 ski season was a bit dismal at Alta Sierra, in that it opened for just two days, in March. It opened for most of Christmas break the year before but suffered a four-year dry spell prior to the 2015-16 season.
Artificial snow is an option, but at a cost of $10,000 for the weekend, it's quite a financial loss if the snow melts too soon.
"We'd better be sure if we blow snow (that) it'll stick around," Ellis said.
WILL IT BE ENOUGH?
The National Weather Service isn't terribly optimistic about chances for heavy snow this week at Alta Sierra, which is located a short drive from Wofford Heights, at an elevation of about 7,000 feet.
Dan Harty, an NWS meteorologist in Hanford, said Monday that snow in the southern Sierra is notoriously hard to predict but that the latest forecast is for up to four inches of snow Tuesday night through Thursday afternoon. He said snow is expected to fall as low as 5,000 feet initially.
Conditions might turn snowier except the storm isn't shaping up to be particularly cold or heavy, Harty said.
"It's not looking like a heavy precipitation event," he said.
Alta Sierra General Manager Brian Kelly isn't convinced. Given the ski resort's unique location — hot air coming up from the Central Valley mixes with colder weather from the Lake Isabella area, producing sometimes unpredictable weather — he said there may be a chance for a decent accumulation of snow.
"It creates its own weather up there," he said. "It's anybody's guess at that altitude and that location."