Three Sierra Nevada ski resorts open with big crowds weeks ahead of schedule

The skiing and snowboarding season got off to an early start in the Sierra Nevada on Friday, thanks to the powerful atmospheric river that delivered plenty of snow well ahead of winter.

Lifts began operating weeks ahead of schedule at Palisades Tahoe and Boreal in the Lake Tahoe region and about 125 miles to the south at Mammoth Mountain.

The big storm hit Northern California on Sunday, setting rainfall records and coating the Sierra in snow.

The system did not end California’s drought but did cause some reduction of areas considered to be in "extreme" and "exceptional" drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor said in its weekly report.

Chances of rain and snow return to Northern California next week, the National Weather Service said.