Montana skiers and snowboarders haven't waited for [R335R, Red Lodge Mountain Resort] to crank up their lifts on the day after Thanksgiving to hit the slopes. They took to the runs hiking to ski right after an October storm dumped four feet of snow.

Resort crews also leapt on the advantage the snow presented. "We took a cat out and packed down everything, everywhere we could take the cat, even into Palisades, and that's a place we haven't been into for a couple years," marketing director Robert Drake told

The machine-packed slopes helped the snow stick around, rather than blow away or melt off. "From midway up, it looks really solid," Drake continued. "As new snows fall, they'll till it in for a fresh surface."

Summer trail crews hadn't even finished their slope work when the storm hit. But they just donned skis to get to and from their work sites.

Red Lodge also started snowmaking as soon as temperatures hit the right spot. Last year, 37 percent of the mountain had snowmaking, but the resort beefed up its arsenal with 17 new automated guns to extend into key spots. Drake points to snowmaking on Chicken Trail. "It's critical to getting Lazy M open much sooner," he explained.

Red Lodge anticipates a big opening day on Nov. 28. Opening day hours and rates can be found on their Web site.