Reno-Tahoe area visitors trade skis for golf clubs

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A record stretch of warm, dry December weather has many visitors trading skis for golf clubs in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area.

Reno ended the year with its driest December in nearly 130 years after the month ended without any precipitation, the National Weather Service reported Sunday.

"You can't get any drier than what we had in December," said forecaster Kat Hohmann, adding the last time this happened was 1883.

The dry weather coincided with a string of record high temperatures reported around the region in recent weeks. Most recently, the Reno daytime high of 63 degrees broke a record for the date set in 1937. And forecasters expect a record high of 60 on Monday in Reno.

A similar weather pattern has hit Tahoe and other places across the West.

Tahoe City, Cailf., located on Tahoe's northwest shore, only got a trace of precipitation in December, well below the 11.4 inches it received a year ago en route to one of the snowiest winters in decades in the Sierra Nevada.

Tahoe City's 3.72 inches of precipitation over the quarter ending Saturday marked the eighth driest such period there since 1903. Overall, the Tahoe basin's snowpack on Sunday stood at 31 percent of average for the date.

The unseasonable weather has meant brisk business and one of the longest seasons ever at the nearby Old Brockway Golf Club on Tahoe's north shore.

Dave Laurie, superintendent of the Kings Beach, Calif., course, said it usually closes by early November and this is the first year it has remained open through the Christmas holidays in his 20 years there.

"Our motto is the skiing may suck but the golfing is great," he told The Associated Press on Sunday. "For a golf course to still be open Christmas (at Tahoe) is unheard of. We're really busy."

The lack of snow prompted the West Shore Café & Inn, located next to Homewood Mountain Resort on Tahoe's west shore, to send out emails to the media last week trumpeting activities other than skiing and snowboarding.

"Lake Tahoe is not letting its lack of snowfall impact the fun this winter," spokeswoman Nicole Kraft wrote in the email. "Locals and vacationers alike are taking advantage of some of the best hiking trails, golf courses and dining that California has to offer."

Among other non-skiing attractions, she mentioned Tahoe City's boutiques and art galleries, hiking trails at D.L. Bliss and Sugar Pine Point state parks, and ice skating at Eagle Lake above Emerald Bay.

Most Sierra ski resorts had to rely on snow-making machines to get through what is typically a busy holiday season.

Farther to the south, a steady stream of December storms gave resorts in southern Nevada, Southern California and New Mexico some of the best early conditions in the country.

Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort on Mountain Charleston, about 30 miles northwest of Las Vegas, had a 40-inch base — deeper than every resort in Utah at one point last week.

As for the Reno-Tahoe area, National Weather Service forecasters don't foresee an end to the unseasonably dry, warm weather until at least mid-January.

"I think we're still looking for a pattern change in mid to late January, so that hopefully will lend itself to some storms," forecaster Edan Lindaman said Sunday. "The models are leaning toward a pattern change in the long term."

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