Sierra snowfall sends flurry of customers to ski shops

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- It's what skiers and snowboarders have all been waiting for -- a healthy helping of snowfall in the Sierra, just in time for the weekend.

"It's nice to see the wet falling out of the sky again," said Michael Joseph as he prepared to walk out into the rain from San Rafael's Demo Sport, freshly-tuned skis in hand.

The rain in Marin means snow in the Sierra, and that means a flurry of customers flocking to ski shops.

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"It's coming down up there now, so -- thank God," said Bruce Friedricks as he picked up his ski boots at the cash register. "I have a season pass and -- let's use it!"

Here at Demo Sport, it's all hands on deck, tuning and waxing an onslaught of skis and snowboards in time for the weekend.

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"We'll stay late and do anything we have to do to make sure we can get their equipment ready, and try to get 'em on the slopes in time, because there's a limited window -- you want to get up there when the snow's soft, the powder's good," said store owner Steve Merrifield.

After a dry start to the season, it's a chance to sell those slick new accessories, like goggles with magnetically interchangeable lenses, and heated socks -- which are, quite literally, a hot item.

Folks here in Marin are planning their trips to Kirkwood, Northstar and the rest of Lake Tahoe's ski resorts, but before they get on the mountain, they'll have to get TO the mountain -- which will require tire chains and a healthy dose of patience.

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"That's definitely the non-optimal part," Joseph said of the grueling, snowy drive up I-80.

The snowplows are out on the roads, chain restrictions are in effect, and traffic is bound to be slow -- unless you leave a day early.

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"We even sell a model of ski called the Sick Day," Merrifield said. "So that you can call in your work and say, 'I'm taking a sick day.'

Merrifield says the new snowfall will cover up a lot of the rocks and debris that annoy skiers and snowboarders who venture off into the woods. But it will also leave a generous helping of buttery-soft powder on the groomed trails -- and that's where he recommends staying this weekend. Wait one more snowstorm, he says, and then the snow between the trees will be ready for action.

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