SAM Magazine—Ludlow, Vt., Nov. 30, 2018, —November 2018, or Snowvember as many are calling it, has been one for the books. Consistent snowfall and cold temps in many regions of ski country this month have combined to help areas open early, open more terrain, and do some pretty good business as a result. Across the country, ski areas saw strong visitation numbers and lots of enthusiasm from guests over Thanksgiving weekend.
The East Coast has been hammered with snow as of late. A storm rolled through just before Thanksgiving, dropping enough snow to make conditions prime for the holiday weekend. Then the storm that muddled holiday travel on Sunday as it passed through the central part of the country hit the Northeast hard on Monday and Tuesday. Resorts in its path reported impressive snow totals. In Maine, Sunday River reported 21 inches and Sugarloaf reportedly picked up 30 inches in less than 48 hours. Thanks to the new snow, the Loaf today has 127 of 162 trails open and expects to begin operating cat skiing on Burnt Mountain starting Dec. 1, nearly two months ahead of schedule.
Mont Sutton in Quebec received nearly 25 inches in the storm between Tuesday and Wednesday. The area reported its best opening in 20 years on Nov. 24, and with the new snow Sutton expects to be 100 percent open on Dec. 1.
In Vermont, the recent storm left heavy, wet snow, and some areas experienced operational complications. Mount Snow, Vt., lost power and wasn’t able to start spinning lifts until late Tuesday morning. By the afternoon, though, guests were sliding on 18-inches of fresh, and more snow has fallen since.
Mike Chait at Smugglers’ Notch said the area is approaching 68 inches of snow in November alone. The resort opened on Friday, Nov. 23, with 240 acres of open trails and another 300-400 acres of skiable in-bounds woods. Chait also said the snow in conjunction with Cyber Monday led to a spike in season pass purchases.
At Killington, Vt., spectators turned out in droves to watch Mikaela Shiffrin win her third consecutive Women’s World Cup slalom race at the resort. Visits were up about 5,000 from last year with a total two-day attendance of about 39,000. The race weekend was followed by two feet of snow this week, and the resort says this is its snowiest November since 1968.
New York had 10 open ski areas over the Thanksgiving weekend, with strong visitation on Friday and Saturday, according ISKINY president Scott Brandi. The North Country/Adirondacks and Catskills have been getting a fair amount of snow, and the central and western parts of the state have had some snow and great snowmaking opportunities, he said.
Further south, Blue Mountain, Pa., was up 24 percent in holiday weekend visitors year-over-year. Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va., put its upgraded snowmaking system to use and opened on Thanksgiving with three lifts and 11 trails. The area also reported around 11 inches of natural snow this week between Tuesday and Thursday.
In the Midwest, Lutsen Mountains, Minn., is open for Friday–Sunday operations with 26 trails today. Nearly 22 inches of snow has fallen there so far this season. Boyne Mountain, Mich., opens for daily operations starting today after opening Nov. 16 for weekends only.
Big swaths of the West are also enjoying high snow totals. Vail Mountain, Colo., opened Blue Sky Basin on Thursday, Nov. 29, the second-earliest opening for the Basin in its history. Vail is now reporting the most open terrain in North America with 4,200 skiable acres.
With 100 inches of snowfall already, Breckenridge, Colo., has more open terrain this November than it did heading into Christmas and New Year’s last season. Breck received 18 inches over the holiday weekend and was able to open the Imperial Express, the highest chairlift in North America, on Thanksgiving Day, which marks the lift’s earliest opening since it was installed in 2005.
Grand Targhee, Wyo., is 100 percent open and advertising the deepest snowpack in the West right now. Bridger Bowl, Mont., has set a record for November skier visits. The area opened Nov. 23, its earliest opening since 1991, and is reopening for the season today, a week earlier than projected, with every trail open. Bob Petitt says Bridger has “the best base anyone can remember” with 39 inches at Alpine, 78 inches of snowfall and a snow water equivalent that is double the norm.
In B.C., things are a bit drier. Big White had a week without snow in the runup to its Nov. 22 opening day, but just over an inch of fresh dusted the trails on opening morning. Mason Buettner notes that the snow is a nice contrast to last season’s opening day, which was the wettest opener in the company’s history.
Things have also been comparatively drier in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to snowmaking, Crystal Mountain, Wash., was able to open Nov. 23. The area saw just north of 3,000 skiers. Crystal did receive six inches of snow on opening day, and higher elevation skiing off the Mt. Rainier Gondola may open today, conditions permitting.
Mt. Hood Meadows, Ore., opens today with more than a foot of fresh snow from a recent storm, and more in the forecast. The ski area utilized snow harvesting to open the lower mountain due to the late arrival of natural snow in the region.
Snow has been falling in New Mexico and Arizona, with more in the forecast there as well, which has led to strong openings. Taos had a 300 percent increase in visitation from last year’s opening weekend, a credit to Snovember, but also to the resort’s new high-speed quad and snowmaking infrastructure.
Over Thanksgiving, Utah got its first big storm of the 2018-19 season. Brighton received two and half feet, and Snowbird was just shy of the same total. Alta opened on Friday, Nov. 23, and Snowbird on Saturday, Nov 24, with powder turns.
After devastating fires, California is also finally getting some moisture right at the tail end of November. Lake Tahoe resorts including Squaw and Northstar are expecting 18-30 inches. Mammoth Mountain, further south, is expected to see the most snowfall—nearly five feet. The storm will keep dumping snow through Saturday. If December continues the way it's beginning, ski areas can expect to move straight from Snovember to Snocember.
Many resorts have seen big early turnouts so far, thanks in large part to the natural snow in the mountains and wintry conditions in nearby population centers. In some areas of North America, it’s looking more like February than November. Headline-making storms and excellent conditions are a huge boost, and should lead to continued strong visitation.
Report by Katie Brinton.