It’s mid-November — do you know where your ski or snowboard gear is? If not, you may want to find it for two simple reasons:
Ski resorts from Maine to California have begun firing up their lifts, and no one knows for sure what the season holds in store.
The number-crunchers at the National Weather Service suggest this winter will be warmer than normal. The Farmers’ Almanac more or less agrees, although the Maine-based prognosticators also predict a colder, snowier season in New England.
So I suggest you go sooner rather than later. As I write this, a handful of resorts are already open and several more hope to follow suit any day now. Sure, the terrain may be limited and the snow cover low, but with most resorts offering early-season deals, there’s no better time to get a jump on the season. Just remember to confirm conditions before you go as open terrain, ticket prices and operating status are all subject to change.
This season’s opening-day honors go to Arapahoe Basin, which kicked off the 2007-2008 season when it fired up the Exhibition Chair on October 10, the earliest opening in the resort’s history. With the Lenawee Mountain lift also open, the resort is now offering top-to-bottom skiing. Lift tickets are $45 through December 14.
Meanwhile, both Copper and Keystone opened on November 2. At Copper, two lifts offer access to three trails and the Eagle jib park; at Keystone, guests can hit Spring Dipper, Schoolmarm and the A51 terrain park (off the Montezuma chair), but have to download on the gondola to get back to the base area. Early-season tickets at both are $59.
Stay overnight and the deals get even better. Buy three days of lodging and lift tickets at Copper (starting at $81 per person/per day through November 21) and they’ll throw in a fourth night and daily lift ticket for free. At Keystone, Early Bird packages, including lodging and lift tickets, start at $92 per person/per day (valid through November 20).
As for the rest of the state, Breckenridge, Loveland and Wolf Creek are also up and running, with Crested Butte, Vail and Winter Park hoping to open in the next few days.
Thanks to expanded snowmaking, Alta is planning on opening November 15 with three lifts and top-to-bottom skiing. Instead of offering early-season discounts, the resort has gone to a “reloadable” RFID system: lift tickets are $59 the first day and $54 thereafter. Early-season packages at Rustler Lodge are 20 percent off through November 30 (five-night minimum).
Over at Park City, the plan is to fire up the First Time beginner chair and Payday six-pack chair on November 16. Guests will have access to four runs; lift tickets will be $45. Four-night family packages, including four nights lodging and three days of lift tickets for two adults and two children, start at $399 per adult.
Other proposed openings in the Wasatch include Solitude (November 16), Snowbird (November 17) and The Canyons (November 17).
And the award for first resort in California to open this year goes to ... Mammoth Mountain, which opened with one run (Broadway) and one lift (Broadway Express) on November 8. Come for the day and it’ll cost you $35; spend the night, and you can get a First Tracks package, including lodging and lift tickets, for $115 per person per night (price valid through December 19).
Meanwhile, at Tahoe, resort managers are hoping to open this weekend, weather permitting. Good bets include Heavenly, which hopes to start running the Comet and Dipper lifts November 16 (accessed via the gondola), and Northstar-at-Tahoe, which expects to fire up the Big Springs (aka Village) Gondola and Arrow and Bear Paw lifts the next day.
In Maine, Sunday River got the ball rolling on November 8, opening Lift 4 and the T2 run (downloading from the mid-station required). With a second lift and several additional runs now open, lift tickets are $35. Ski & Stay packages start at $69 per person/per night.
In Vermont, Mt. Snow notched its earliest opening in 10 years when it opened on November 10. Guests can ski or snowboard top-to-bottom on a handful of runs on the resort’s main face or a hit a temporary terrain park above the Carinthia base area. Lift tickets are $49; lift and lodging packages start at $70 per person/per night.
As for other pending openings, good bets include Killington, Okemo and Waterville Valley (N.H.). Killington is planning on opening on November 16 with top-to-bottom skiing off the K-1 gondola and as many as a dozen runs. Opening on November 17, Waterville Valley expects to offer mountain-top turns off the High Country double chair, although you’ll have to download on the White Peak gondola when you’re done.