By LENORE RUTHERFORD
A strong series of storms heading this way has the potential to drop several inches of rain in the foothills and several feet of new snow above 7,000 feet by Sunday afternoon.
That's good news for winter sports areas and high country businesses, which depend on snow enthusiasts to support them through the winter.
The employees at Bear Valley Mountain Resort off Highway 4 have been making snow every time the temperature dips below freezing since November.
The resort will open Saturday with four lifts operating from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dodge Ridge Winter Sports Area off Highway 108 doesn't have snow-making capability and is still waiting for enough white stuff to open.
"We are ready to go. All we need is 2 to 3 feet of snow," Marketing Manager Stephen Lane said, "and it sounds like these storms may do it."
He said the last few storms have energized snow enthusiasts, who have been calling the resort daily to see if it is open.
"We will open as soon as we get the snow," he said. "People can check our Web site, dodgridge.com, or call 965-3474 for the latest information."
The first and weakest storm will move into Tuolumne and Calaveras counties tonight and Friday, according to the National Weather Service forecast.
The snow level is expected to start at 6,000 feet but climb to about 7,000 feet by Friday afternoon.
A stronger storm is expected to arrive Friday night into Saturday. Forecasters say this storm will produce widespread rain, high elevation snow and very strong winds.
Thunderstorms are possible Saturday as the strongest system moves through the area, chilling the air and lowering snow levels as it passes through. Snow levels could drop to 4,000 feet or lower Saturday night and Sunday.
The chance of rain and higher-elevation snow remains in the National Weather Service forecast every day through Wednesday.
The series of storms are remnants of a typhoon that hit Guam last weekend. High surf is expected along the coast from the Bay Area northward, with waves up to 18 feet.