Mixed Conditions Accelerate, Delay Openings

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SAM Magazine - Vail, Colorado, November 14, 2006 - Resorts have faced a mixed bag of weather over the past week. With snow and cold temperatures in the west and warm eastern temps, the outlook for Thanksgiving openings is mixed.

Groomers putting final touches on
Winter Park slopes.

The situation is the best in the western region of North America, where Whistler is opening five days early and other resorts in Colorado and Utah are on track to meet scheduled openings. Whistler mountain will open this Saturday, November 17. Skiers can access the mountain from the Whistler Village base. Three lifts are scheduled to run: the Whistler Village Gondola, the Emerald Express and the Big Red Express. The early opening is a result of more than two feet of snow during a storm last weekend and continued snow and cold temperatures in the forecast for the week. In addition to Whistler, both Lake Louise and Sunshine Village opened last week with packed powder and powder conditions.

The situation is much the same in Colorado and Utah. Vail opens on Friday and currently the Vail Valley is being pounded by a powerful storm system that has closed Interstate 70. The mountain joins Breckenridge, A-Basin (which was the first resort to open in North America), Loveland, Keystone, Winter Park, Wolf Creek and Copper Mountain in getting the bullwheels turning.

In Utah, Brighton has opened and most of the other resorts in the state expect to open by this weekend. They include Alta, Brian Head, Park City, Snowbird, Solitude and The Canyons. With new snow and more expected, no delays are expected and all of these mountains should open as scheduled.

Oregon and Washington ski areas will also see some action this weekend as several resorts including Anthony Lakes, Mt. Ashland, Timberline, Willamette Pass, Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood Ski Bowl open their doors. Mt. Hood Meadows has enough snow to open but damage to Oregon Highway 35 could delay the area's opening. Currently the highway is closed to vehicle traffic.

In Washington, Crystal Mountain opens on Thursday, and is joined by Mt Baker, which also opens on Thursday with a whopping 68-inch base. However, The Summit at Snoqualmie has been plagued by rain at the lower elevations and an announcement on when the resort will open is pending.

California resorts open include Boreal, which opened on Tuesday and Mammoth Mountain.

But while things are looking good for the industry in the west, the east, particularly New England, has been hard hit by warm temperatures and rain.

Stowe, Vermont, which was scheduled to open November 18 has rescheduled the mountain's opening date to November 22, but sources at the resort say that unless temperatures drop and conditions improve for snowmaking, even that date may be in jeopardy. And other resorts in the region face the same challenges. The situation is perhaps best summed up by Whiteface's Sandy Caligiore, who says, "After five excellent days of snowmaking (Nov 2-6), we have been forced to shut down and wait for this extended mild stretch to end. Last week, the temps were mostly in the 40s and this week we have been in the mid 50s. The highs for the next three days at Whiteface are expected to be 53, 59, 57, respectively."

Caligiore adds, "we might be able to make snow at night over the weekend on Little Whiteface, but that's tenuous at the moment. The elevation there is 3,676 feet, but if the temps are borderline, we will entertain moving the snowmaking above 4,000 feet (summit trails). Our target opening day is November 24, but that is fluid."

Other scheduled openings:
Alpine Meadows, Calif.: Nov. 17
Alta, Utah: Nov. 17
Alyeska, Alaska: Nov. 18
Brian Head, Utah: Nov. 17
Brighton, Utah: Nov. 16
Crested Butte, Colo.: Nov. 18
Crystal Mt., Wash.: Nov. 16
Eldora, Colo.: Nov. 17
Grand Targhee, Wyo.: Nov. 17
Heavenly, Calif.: Nov. 17
Kirkwood, Calif.: Nov. 18
Mt. Bachelor, Ore.: Nov. 18
Mt. Baker, Wash.: Nov. 16
Mt. Hood Meadows, Ore.: Nov. 17 (contingent upon the re-opening of Oregon Rt. 35, which is currently closed to vehicle traffic)
Northstar-at-Tahoe: Nov. 18
Park City, Utah: Nov. 17
Powder Mountain, Utah: Nov. 17
Sierra Summit, Calif.: Nov. 18
Sipapu, N.M.: Nov. 18
Ski Anthony Lakes, Ore.: Nov. 18
Ski Smithers, B.C.: Nov. 17
Snowbird, Utah: Nov. 18
Solitude, Utah: Nov. 17
Squaw Valley, Calif.: Nov. 17
Sun Peaks, B.C.: Nov. 18
The Canyons, Utah: Nov. 18
Timberline, Ore.: Nov. 16
Vail, Colo.: Nov. 17
Winter Park, Colo.: Nov. 15



Sno guru

The Midwest is too suffering. The split jetstream is keeping the cold north, just barely allowing snow temps for a couple of nights

Not in Tahoe

As of today 11/16 it doesn't look like any of the Tahoe resorts other than Boreal (already open) will hit their opening dates. This is the second year in a row this has happened in almost the exact same way, with warm subtropical air masses keeping temperatures above normal. The temperatures have just been too warm for even Heavenly to complete snowmaking.