By LENORE RUTHERFORD
With rain and snow in the forecast, high country businesses and resorts are gearing up for crowds.
The wet stuff and white stuff at least at higher elevations are likely Friday and early Saturday, according to the National Weather Service forecast. The snow level is expected down to about 6,000 feet, which would blanket Dodge Ridge.
Another storm is expected to arrive Monday.
"The snow season is our second economy," said Jackie Ross, co-owner of Strawberry Store. "We really need Dodge (Ridge Winter Sports Area) and Leland (High Sierra Snow Play) to open, and we need a lot of snow for that to happen."
Historically, Dodge Ridge, off Highway 108 near Pinecrest, opens between Dec. 5 and 20, spokeswoman Shelley Donovan said.
"We were able to open early last year, on Dec. 1," she said, "but we aren't late yet. We are hoping these storms bring some good precipitation. Everybody needs to be doing snow dances. "
Schuyler Harrison of Bear Valley Mountain Resort off Highway 4 said temperatures have dropped enough to allow the making of man-made snow at that resort every day since Nov. 29, but there is still not enough to open.
"We keep pushing our tentative open date back," he said. "Right now, we are hoping to open on the 14th. We are hoping for a nice flurry Friday, followed by more storms."
Man-made snow can only be created when temperatures are below freezing. Above-average temperatures prevailed for most of the month of November, ending hopes for a Thanksgiving weekend opening.
The passes over highways 108, 4 and 120 were all closed for the winter by a powerful storm on Nov. 8 that blanketed the high country with snow and flooded many foothill locations.
Drivers should call ahead before traveling to the high country this weekend.
With storms moving into the area, road conditions can change quickly. Drivers are advised to carry tire chains, blankets and extra water and food when traveling in the mountains.