SAM Magazine—Ludlow, Vt., Nov. 14, 2018—Cooling temps and pockets of fresh snow have resorts across the country opening early. Parts of the West have received more than five feet of powder in the past few weeks, and in the East snowmakers are working hard to build a base ahead of Thanksgiving.
Colorado will have at least twelve ski areas open this weekend. An accumulated four feet of fresh allowed Vail Mountain to open two days early today (Nov. 14) with a 25-inch base. Thanks to the same early season snow, Beaver Creek will drop ropes on Saturday, Nov. 17, four days ahead of its target opening. Both resorts will open with multiple lifts, and Beaver Creek will offer top-to-bottom terrain. Vail Mountain COO Doug Lovell noted that this is the first time in more than 10 years that both resorts have been able to open ahead of schedule.
Aspen Snowmass, Colo., which has been making snow since Nov. 1, is also aiming to open Nov. 17. That opening will be five days ahead of schedule and is supported by 10 inches of snow that fell Sunday. Monarch Mountain, Colo., received 4-7 inches in the same storm, allowing the ski area to open on Friday, Nov. 16, which is earlier than anticipated.
Mountain Capital Partners’ (MCP) flagship resort, Purgatory, Colo., will also open this weekend on Nov. 17 with top-to-bottom skiing off of its six-pack lift. MCP’s Arizona Snowbowl is also on track for an early opening on Nov. 16 as a result of snowmaking upgrades in the past few years. In seasons past, it wasn’t out of the question for the ski area to open as late as January or February.
Utah hasn’t seen quite the same amount of natural snow as Colorado, but some early season snowfall and a solid snowmaking effort mean that many resorts in the state will likely hit their projected opening days. Brighton Resort will open first on Thursday, Nov. 15, and Brian Head will follow on Friday, Nov. 16.
After a particularly dry 2017-18, New Mexico is off to a more promising start this season with 11-18 inches of powder falling this past weekend. That bodes well for the Nov. 21 and Nov. 22 projected openings of Red River and Taos, respectively.
Up north, Canyon Ski Area, between Calgary and Edmonton, was the first resort to open in Western Canada. Canyon opened for night skiing on Nov. 8, the day before Banff resorts Lake Louise, Mt. Norquay and Sunshine Village kicked off their seasons. It was the resort’s earliest opening ever.
On the other side of the country, temperatures have dropped and look to stay cold. In Vermont, snowmakers are building on a recent half-foot of natural snow in preparation for as many as eight pre-Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend openings.
Newly Epic Okemo Mountain is making snow for a Friday, Nov. 16 opening, as is fellow Vail property Stowe Mountain. Sugarbush Resort will begin its 60th anniversary season on Friday, opening two trails and a lift for passholders only. The resort still plans to open to the public Saturday, Nov. 17. Bretton Woods, N.H., will open with five trails and one lift at noon on Friday. Guests who donate a non-perishable food item can ski free until 3:30 p.m. Then on Saturday, tickets will be $32 for ages 5 and up.
Sugarloaf in Maine received more than a foot of snow this weekend and has 160 guns firing in preparation for a Nov. 16 opening. Between snowmaking and natural snow, Sugarloaf is expecting to boast some of its best opening conditions in years.
Further south, North Carolina ski areas Cataloochee and Sugar Mountain both started their seasons on Nov. 11. Both relied on manmade snow to facilitate the early start dates, but rain hit the region early this week. Cataloochee had closures scheduled in anticipation of the precipitation with plans to resume snowmaking as soon as temps allowed.
In the Midwest, Wild Mountain, Minn., is reporting more than a foot of natural snow and a 48-inch base. Wild actually opened its terrain park for a day way back on Oct. 22, but reopened for early season hours on Monday, Nov. 12. Buck Hill, Minn., also kicked off its season Monday with 6-15 inches of manmade snow with plans to make more as the weather allows. Trollhaugen, Wis., which has 100 percent snowmaking, opened on Nov. 9 for pre-season hours with a 36-inch base depth. And Nub's Nob, Mich., plans to open Saturday for weekend operations with about seven trails by two lifts. All 21k of its cross-country terrain will open, too.
Between man and Mother Nature, mountains in the East, West and everywhere in between are well positioned to open early, expand terrain and meet those all important Thanksgiving targets.
As always, this report is derived from news we receive and information gleaned from aggregates such as SnoCountry.com. If your ski area is open or is planning to open soon, let us know in the comments.
Report by Katie Brinton