The Columbia Valley ski areas started up their lifts after cold temperatures allowed snowmaking guns to blast into action. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort ran an early opening bonus weekend while Panorama Mountain Village and Kimberley Alpine Resort commenced operations for the season this past weekend.

Kicking Horse tossed open about 50 percent of their terrain a week earlier than anticipated. Lifts ran Dec. 3-5 and then took a short hiatus before the official opening Dec. 10. "We were in decent shape," spokesperson Jordan Petrovics told us. "It's a solid opening, and that's what we like to see."

The resort's new Superbowl area will open later. "A lot of avalanche management is needed for the area to be safe terrain. We're doing control work and getting it ready," said Petrovics. "People are stoked about it."

A new Superbowl package, in honor of the new terrain, combines three days of lift tickets and four nights of accommodations with the last night at 50 percent off. Daily breakfast at the Whitetooth Grill and first tracks with a Big Mountain Centre Guide are also included.

Panorama hosted international teams that started training in late November. Teams from Canada, USA, Russia, Japan, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Great Britain, and Croatia ran gates on the slopes until the resort opened for the public Dec. 10. "Colder temperatures enabled us to make the type of snow that they like for training," said spokesperson Jamie Hurschler. "The snow just keeps piling up and just keeps coming."

The Mile One Chairlift also opened for night skiing starting Dec. 10. The expansion of night skiing means that visitors can ski 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. seven days a week. Day lift tickets are valid for night skiing, and night skiing only passes are available, too.

Panorama still has availability for their Christmas in the Mountains package. The package combines accommodations for five nights, Dec. 23-27, with two adult five-day lift tickets, a family Christmas dinner or Boxing Day brunch, and making a holiday wreath or gingerbread house. The dates coincide with Panorama's Christmas tree decorating, caroling, and nighttime parade in the village.

Kimberley ran its preview weekend Dec. 11-12 with the North Star Express Quad, Easter Triple Chair, and Owlette Magic Carpet in operation. The resort commences daily operation Dec. 17. This year, kids 12 years old and younger can night ski for free.

Holiday vacationers still looking for lodging packages can get Kimberley's Christmas in the Rockies at Trickle Creek Lodge, Dec. 23 to Jan. 2. The five-night package costing $621 CAN per person based on double occupancy includes lodging in a one-bedroom condo with a kitchen, breakfast each morning, and a complimentary arrival gift. Discounted lift tickets can be added to the package.

More information: Kicking Horse, 866-SKI-KICK; Panorama, 800-663-2929; Kimberley, 800-258-7669.