The boards are waxed and ready in the mountains

RENO - October's surprise snow has brought an early ski season to the Sierra. Following season starter Boreal, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl and Sierra-at-Tahoe have modest offerings for the weekend.

''The conditions were special. It was almost like skiing on snow in February,'' spokeswoman Rachael Woods said after testing Alpine out. ''It's the second earliest opening date in our history. That's pretty significant in terms of opening dates,'' she said.

The only earlier startup was Oct. 31 in 1991. Alpine, just west of Tahoe City, Calif., is in its 39th year.

The resort ran its Kangaroo double chair on Friday for $20 and was adding the Roundhouse high-speed quad with lift tickets going for $28 for adults and $19 for teen-agers.

The mountain has 26 inches at its base and up to four feet on top.

''We've got plenty of snow and our snowmakers are working every night, conditions permitting,'' Woods said. ''It's staying cold enough to make snow.''

To the south, along U.S. 50, Sierra-At-Tahoe boasted its earliest opening in history on Friday, promising modest but skiable conditions over a foot at the base and 18 inches at the summit. Friday was free, Saturday is half price.

Also open Friday was Sugar Bowl Ski Area in Truckee, Calif., with 3 feet of snow on the ground. Soda Springs promised a snowboard lift and a tubing lift for Saturday and Sunday and was to operate this weekend and next, then open the hill for daily use Nov. 18.

Royal Gorge, Northstar-At-Tahoe, Squaw Valley and Kirkwood all plan to be open before Thanksgiving, beating the traditional season kickoff by a week.

Boreal, which as of Oct. 11 became the first resort in the nation to open this year, reported large weekend crowds.

''We're really excited because we have the conditions we usually don't get until December,'' spokeswoman Judy Churich said. ''Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come this winter.''

Meteorologists are calling for the arrival of another wintry system next week that should bring snow showers Wednesday, with strong northeasterly winds blowing in on Thursday and Friday.


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