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The Tuolumne River winds though Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, revealing a landscape usually frozen and covered with snow this time of year. The Tioga Road is open through the park, and a lack of snow is creating new (and missed) opportunities for recreation in the Sierra Nevada.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Olaf Radzins, 9, of Berkeley, skates across the frozen surface of Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park with the Yosemite high country in the background nearly devoid of snow.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A lack of snow at Sierra Crest, as seen from Mammoth Mountain's Panorama Gondola, is creating new (and missed) opportunities for recreation.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Skiers and snowboarders atop 11,053-foot Mammoth Mountain, with the Minarets, Mt. Banner and Mt. Ritter -- which are usually covered with snow this time of year -- in the background.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Skiers and snowboarders ride a lift at Mammoth Mountain with the White Mountains in the background devoid of snow.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A rocky ski run at Mammoth Mountain is closed due to lack of snow.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Skiers and snowboarders glide through a man-made blizzard as cold daytime temperatures allowed snow making at Mammoth Mountain.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Some trails at Mammoth Mountain are open only thanks to man-made snow.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Mammoth's snow-making capabilities are saving the season for the resort, but many runs are closed due to the lack of natural snow.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

The moon shines high above snowless Sierra Nevada peaks near South Lake Tahoe. Most of the trans-Sierra Nevada passes that are usually closed by snow this time of year remain open.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

The setting sun illuminates the bare granite of El Capitan, left, and Half Dome, right, usually covered with snow this time of year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Most of the trans-Sierra Nevada passes are open as a lack of snow is creating new and missed opportunities for recreation.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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Snowless in the Sierra

Last winter, massive snow levels allowed resorts along the Sierra Nevada range to open ahead of schedule. This winter, things couldn’t be more different.

La Niña, the weather pattern cheered for last year’s epic snow, is being blamed for this year’s slower-than-average start to the skiing-snowboarding season, making it tough for those eager to make winter travel plans.

Yosemite National Park visitors are lacing up their hiking boots rather than snapping on skis during the unusually warm weather, which is expected to last at least through this week. Bike stands and stables will reopen for those who want to indulge themselves in the summer-in-winter activities.

Mammoth Mountain, the third-busiest resort in the U.S., saw a 20% dip in skier visits from the previous year over the Christmas holidays. Only about 30% of the resort’s 150 trails are open, thanks to a 1½- to 2-foot base created by about 100 snow-making guns. Based on modeling weather patterns, Mammoth is hoping for a snow dump about the third week in January, one of the latest starts to the serious snow season the resort has experienced, Lynch says.

Last year, folks were skiing and snowboarding in July.

RELATED:

Sunshine casts a pall over California ski resorts

Where the snow is (Canada, Taos) and isn’t (Sierra, Tahoe)

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