[R368R, Lake Louise] aims to be the first large resort to open in Canada. October snows in Banff National Park combined with consistent cold temperatures allowed for snowmaking to kick into high gear in the lower elevations while natural snowfall accumulated in the upper elevations of the ski area-drifting up to five feet high around snow fences. Over 2,000 steel rails support fences to farm the snow at Lake Louise, gathering blowing snow across open hillsides and on the downhill course for the upcoming World Cup.

Forecasts predict steady snows and dropping temperatures throughout the week leading up to the opening for daily operations at Lake Louise Friday, Nov. 6. 

What's the recipe to open a ski resort early? Take a cold snap in October with just enough humidity in the air to act as a binder, and turn on the snowmaking guns. Alberta ski resorts did just that. A cold, snowy fall helped ski resorts in the Rocky Mountain province kickstart their snowmaking guns early-enough that some ski areas bumped up their openings.

Calgary's [R1343R, Canada Olympic Park] (COP) turned on its lifts for the earliest opening in the history of the ski hill after six full days of snowmaking blanketed the runs. The park opened on Oct. 17 concurrent with the Freshtival Film festival weekend in Calgary. The opening was so early that the fleet of rental snowboards had not even arrived yet.

Special hours for COP are in effect until Nov. 20, when the resort steps up to full operation. The hill is open weekdays 4-9 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

[R802R, Mt. Norquay] at Banff National Park claimed the spot as the second to open in Canada and the first in the Canadian Rockies. The Banff resort opened on Halloween with Cascade and Speculation chairs in operation, but limited services in the base area.

Norquay plans to operate on weekends with reduced lift ticket rates and limited services-no rentals, retail, daycare, or transportation from Banff. Regular services will begin when full time operations start on Dec. 4 along with the launch of Norquay's new tubing hill.

[R292R, Nakiska]'s huge snowmaking system beefed up to 160 guns this year, allowing the resort to blow snow round the clock when temperatures turned optimal in October. Natural snow also supplemented coverage on the upper mountain. The resort opens for weekends starting Nov. 7 with midweek race training for national teams aiming for Olympic medals. The resort goes into seven-day-a-week operation starting Dec. 5.

Two other Alberta resorts are lined up for pre-Thanksgiving openings. Sunshine Village and Marmot Basin plan to open Nov. 11.

Alberta put itself on the map of Canadian ski areas open in November. Stay tuned to Onthesnow.com for openings of resorts throughout the rest of Canada and the U.S.

More information:

Canada Olympic Park, 403-247-5452
Mt. Norquay, 403-762-4421
Lake Louise, 877-956-8473
Nakiska. 403-591-7777.