In an about-face from the warm weather and sunny skies earlier in the week, temperatures have plunged, and precipitation has fallen on much of Southern California, including its ski resorts, where officials are hoping for an early start for skiing and snowboarding.

According to the National Weather Service, wet winter weather will be affecting the region through today. Forecasters said Friday the snow level could go as low as 3,000 feet in the evening, with accumulations of up to 3 inches.

But ski resort officials aren't relying only on Jack Frost.

"The first snowmaking fan guns charged up at 3:15 p.m. and started pumping out thousands of gallons of snow!" said a message on the front pages of the websites for Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Big Bear Lake.

Paul Bauer,Chief Operating Officer keeps an eye on the snow guns while snowmaking is underway Friday at Mountain High West Resort in Wrightwood. The
Paul Bauer,Chief Operating Officer keeps an eye on the snow guns while snowmaking is underway Friday at Mountain High West Resort in Wrightwood. The mountain has a 80 percent chance of opening up on Sunday. (LaFonzo Carter/Staff Photographer)
"We expect to make snow all weekend long and into next week, so gear up and be ready for opening day 2012-13 at Bear. We'll announce opening day details as we get closer."

"We're seeing little pellets come, here and there," Dan McKernan, spokesman for the Big Bear Lake Resort Association, said Friday afternoon. "But we're really expecting it to start coming down."

Snow-making operations were set to start at Snow Valley in Running Springs as well.

"We've already received some snow," Snow Valley spokesman Kevin Somes said Friday. "It looks like we're going to have a cold front moving in with more precipitation."

The ski season typically starts in late November at Big Bear Lake, but no one is complaining about a possible early start.

"We're excited," McKernan said. "We're ready for the season - we love it when the season starts early."

The earliest start he can recall for Big Bear Lake's ski resorts, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, was the day before Halloween in the early 2000s.

"The goal this weekend - it's a goal, so we don't know if it's going to happen - is to get the snow guns going as well, and combine that with the natural snow," McKernan said.

The second weekend in November isn't an unusually early start for Snow Valley. Officials there aim to open each year by the day before Thanksgiving.

"We'll open as soon as we have a quality product that we know that our customers will enjoy," Somes said. "It might take a few days.... If this weather changes, and it's not cold enough, snow-making may not happen, but it looks like it will."

Mountain High in Wrightwood was also geared up for snow, man-made or otherwise.

"Forecasters are calling for possible snow this Friday into Saturday and our snow guns are fired up so opening day could be as early as Sunday," the snow report on the resort's website read Friday afternoon. "Mountain High has been the first resort to open in Southern California for the past 15 years and, with even more snowmaking installed, this winter should be no exception."

Snow was already coming down at Mt. Baldy on Friday afternoon.

"We picked up a little bit of snow today (1 inch) and it is still snowing," a message on the resort's website read in part on Friday. "The temps are in the low 20s and we are making snow in our tubing park and in the beginners area."

Fall is a time of year when many people's calendars begin to fill up with appointments, but in the snow business, appointments have to be penciled in.

"Everyone has to be back from vacation by the 15th of October," Somes said. "We're ready to go at any moment and start moving."

"The people who are in the winter-type business, the ski rentals, the lodges, and of course, the ski resorts, we all know that you'd better start preparing in October," McKernan said, "because it could happen at any time."

beau.yarbrough@inlandnewspapers.com,

909-483-9376, @InlandEd