Alberta's Castle Mountain Resort is off to such a good start with snowfall that the resort opened eight days early. The boon of early snowfall that has been a pleasant contrast to last winter's skimpy conditions put big smiles on faces at the resort.

Lifts began turning Dec. 3 instead of the scheduled date a week later. More than five feet (161 centimeters) of snow had fallen at mid-mountain the week before opening day. The resort opened for three days over the first weekend in December, with four chairs running. A weekday closure followed with a re-opening Dec. 10 for daily operation for the season.

"Things are looking great. We went from brown grass to winter wonderland in four days with a snowfall of 130 centimeters," Vice President Andrew Rusynyk told OnTheSnow. "It is great to be open so early. There were a lot smiling faces with rubbery legs at the end of opening day."

The resort's Web site heralded its first day as "some of the best conditions the resort has seen on an opening day for many years." That means everything for a resort without snowmaking.

The snow statistics convey the best contrast to last season. "Last year, we had 165 centimeters of snow in the base area for the whole season, and already we have had 135 centimeters in the base area to date," added Rusynyk.

Castle fans can still get discount skiing at the resort. Those who plan to ski or ride multiple days this season can purchase Cruisin' the Castle cards. It benefits those visiting 2-8 days. The resort added two free days to the card this year. The first and fifth days are free while cardholders get a discount of $11-15 CAN on the ticket window rate all other days.

Cruisin' the Castle cards, which are available until Dec. 26, cost $70 CAN for adults and $60 CAN for juniors and seniors. A family card will cover four people in a combination that includes at least one adult with children or juniors. The card may be purchased at the resort or outlets in Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass, Lethbridge, Okotoks, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton.

More information. Or call 403-627-5101.