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In spite of dire warnings from the National Weather Service, everyone’s going to Tahoe

Highway 50 is seen as snowfall hits Lake Tahoe. | Getty Images

Dozens of people lined up at Sports Basement in San Francisco Thursday to rent skis ahead of what promises to be a long weekend filled with fresh powder and busy lifts.

The only hiccup? Getting to Tahoe.

The National Weather Service (NWS) Sacramento has warned that mountain travel could be “very difficult to impossible” and that travel is “highly discouraged” after 1 p.m. on Friday.

“Travel is not advised!” the NWS tweeted most recently.

Over the weekend, the Tahoe area is expected to see an impressive 3 to 6 feet of snow, the bulk of which will drop on Saturday and again on Monday.

Friday’s storm system is weaker than what’s expected later in the weekend, though still problematic for would-be skiers planning an afternoon or evening drive to the resorts.

“While this initial system is relatively weak, the snow will exacerbate travel impacts for the evening commute and ski/holiday traffic,” said a NWS Special Weather Warning. “Plan on the potential for delays and slowdowns.

“If you must travel, be prepared for dangerous winter driving conditions, near-zero visibility, chain controls, significant travel delays & road closures."

The NWS has issued a Winter Storm Warning from 1 p.m. Friday to 10 p.m. Monday, saying that “gusty winds could bring down tree branches [and] widespread blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility.”

If you are driving up any time this weekend, be prepared for chain controls and potential road closures. Useful resources for closures include the CalTrans District 3 Twitter account and CalTrans road closure website, where you can enter the highway number you’re interested in checking.

Always have a winter kit in your vehicle containing food, water, clothing, blankets and a flashlight in case of emergency.

Should you make it up there, ski resorts are anticipating buckets of new snow. Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort expects 2 to 4 inches of new snow at the base and 3 to 7 inches on the mountain by early Saturday morning, with significantly more new snow by Sunday morning. High winds may also close sections of ski resort mountains and lifts.

The resorts themselves are bracing for both severe weather and a crush of winter-sports fans.

“Be prepared to bundle up, be patient and expect to start the day on the lower mountain,” Palisades Tahoe advised.

Sophie Bearman can be reached at

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