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Ski Resorts Race To Produce Artificial Snow During California Dry Spell

Above: Snow enthusiasts ski down Bear Mountain at Big Bear Resorts thanks to powerful snow-making machines that have kept the slopes open during California's extreme drought, December 30, 2013.

Aired 12/30/13 on KPBS News.

December usually delivers Southern California a few good soaking winter storms, but a persistent ridge of high pressure has kept the region warm and dry.

December usually delivers Southern California a few good soaking winter storms, but a persistent ridge of high pressure has kept the region warm and dry.

The summer-like conditions are expected to linger for at least the next 10 days, said Joe Dandrea, meteorologist with the National Weather Service San Diego.

"Usually these ridges, once they get entrenched, they can be six to eight weeks sometimes," Dandrea said. "And I think we’ve reached that limit, so it would be time for this to break down and allow a different weather regime to kind of take over.

Dandrea said there are indications of a change coming in mid-January.

Until then, area ski resorts are racing to produce their own artificial winter whiteness.

"We’d love to see some colder weather and natural snowfall," said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resort, "but we’re kind of used to this in Southern California and that’s why we have extensive snow-making systems."

Riddle said without their powerful equipment, the slopes would be brown and bare.

Both Big Bear and Mammoth are reporting a 12- to 24-inch snow base — far from powder heaven, but enough to keep 85 percent of their ski lifts open.

"We’re actually in surprisingly good shape," Riddle said. "Last night we made snow for eight hours, and if we can do that each night and keep refreshing the surface of the snow and adding to our base then we should be fine."

Overall, the state is enduring its driest year on record and is gripped by severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. National Drought Monitor.

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