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The last two years of drought have been tough for Lincoln Kauffman and others in the Northern California skiing business.

Kauffman, general manager of the 550-acre Donner Ski Ranch just north of Lake Tahoe, said a lack of snow had dramatically curtailed the ski season, sometimes to just a few weeks. Last year, the Donner slopes were open for only 44 days of skiing, Kauffman said.

But on Monday, as the first flakes from a storm forecast to blanket the whole Sierra Nevada fell outside Kauffman’s window, he said there wasn’t just snow in the air, but optimism — the kind no one has dared to feel in years.

Thanks in part to El Niño, a series of strong storms have blanketed the Sierras with snow. Another storm this week is expected to deliver another layer of the white stuff — and draw skiers back to resorts.

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