Best bets for early-season skiing

Newsroom Best Of Topics Best bets for early-season skiing

Skis and boards already tuned? Have you been stomping around the house in your ski boots? Well, the wait for the traditional Thanksgiving start of ski season can seem interminable. No worries for the 2021-22 season, as there are a number of ski resorts that will  crank up their lifts early, allowing you to scratch that winter itch even before turkey time, though Thanksgiving remains the “unofficial” start to the new season. Here are some options for early-season skiing and riding.

Early-Season Skiing: Sunday River, Maine

With one of the most extensive snowmaking systems in the East, Sunday River affords skiers and riders the chance to slide on snow surrounded by Maine’s beautiful fall foliage. Look for the resort to open in early to mid-November, if normal patterns hold. But be sure to bring your appetite to the Thanksgiving Dinner Buffet at the Grand Summit Hotel. Other Thanksgiving weekend activities are scheduled and a visit over the holidays is a tradition for many families.

Early-Season Skiing: Grand Targhee, Wyoming

Grand Targhee has been known to open early when conditions permit (with an annual average snowfall of 500 inches, conditions permit about 25 percent of the time and it looks like another mid-November opening in 2021). And unlike at many other resorts, early-season skiing at Targhee—starting on the Shoshone lift and spreading out from there—is almost exclusively on natural snow. Holiday events include a traditional price fixe Thanksgiving Dinner (including a kids portion for $20) at the Branding Iron Grill from noon to 8 p.m.

Opening day Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, Early Season Skiing
Opening day Lake Louise ©Chris Moseley

Early-Season Skiing: Lake Louise, Alberta

One of the largest resorts in the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise is always one of Canada’s first resorts to open for skiing each winter and a very early November opening is anticipated for 2021. Early-season skiing on the Glacier Express lift is typically a mix of man-made and natural snow, and the temperatures in November are usually milder than they are later in the winter. Lake Louise will host the Men’s Alpine Ski World Cup Nov. 26-28, 2021 with two downhills and a Super G.

Early-Season Skiing: Mammoth Mountain, California

Mammoth — count on it — will most certainly open on schedule Nov. 11 this season like clockwork… perhaps even earlier  if enough snow falls prior to that and cold nights cooperate. One year, the mountain opened on the preposterously early date of October 5. Skiing on a mix of man-made and natural snow starts on the Broadway Express chair and the area around Main Lodge. Mammoth strives to have skiing (on natural snow) at its other base areas before Thanksgiving. Holiday events are led by Wooly the Mammoth for the kids and tradition turkey dinners can be found at lots of local restaurants.

Early-Season Skiing: Timberline, Oregon

Located on Oregon’s glacier-capped Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge has the longest ski season in North America and the highest base elevation in the Pacific Northwest, virtually guaranteeing good snow. Though it closes for renovations and ski-team training in the fall, Timberline will no doubt re-open by Nov. 20. And when other Northwestern ski areas are hamstrung by droughts, Timberline can offer skiing on the glaciers of the upper mountain. Get reservations, but Thanksgiving Dinner in the Lodge’s Cascade Room is a treat.

Where to ski in November, Loveland, CO.
Opening day at Loveland, CO ©Casey Day

Early-Season Skiing: Loveland Ski Area

Loveland Ski Area and Halloween have become synonymous over the years and you can bet on Loveland being open as October turns to November every year including 2021. The resort fired up its shotguns this year October 8. The ski area is located close to Denver along I-70, and is prone to early season storms thanks to its high elevation. Skiers and riders have access to two separate base areas and nine lifts serving 1,800 acres of varied terrain. A different twist on Thanksgiving dinner Italian-style can be enjoyed at nearby Georgetown’s Cafe Milano in the form of turkey roulade.

Early-Season Skiing: Arapahoe Basin 

Arapahoe Basin is already open and waiting for you to slide. The resort opened for the 2021 season Oct. 17. The ski area’s close proximity to Denver and its high elevation make it a popular early-season destination among Colorado skiers and riders. A-Basin, as it’s affectionately known, offers some seriously steep terrain as the snowpack deepens and there’s a 2,270 feet of vertical drop.

Best bets for early season skiing, Keystone, CO.
The scenic gondola ride at Keystone Resort, Colorado. @Shutterstock

Early-Season Skiing: Keystone 

Keystone began making snow early in October so you can count on November skiing. Although the skiing is on mostly man-made snow, the resort’s high elevation makes it susceptible to early season storms. Lots of options for Thanksgiving dinner, but a couple of traditional favorites are the two-gondola ride mountain top Alpenglow Stube or the Ski Tip Ranch.

Early-Season Skiing: Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek in Pagosa Springs, Colo. beat the pack by opening Oct. 16 for the 2021 season following a 14-inch snow dump. The resort bills itself as “having the most snow in Colorado” and there’s little to argue about in the claim.  Visit Thanksgiving weekend and you can count on likely the deepest snowpack in the country. Consider the Springs Resort and Spa on the San Juan River so you can soak those weary-ski bones in one of 24 therapeutic pools.

Best bets for early skiing, Killington Vermont.
Time to get those ski legs back. @Killington Resort

Early-Season Skiing: Killington

Killington, the aptly named Beast of the East, likes to muse that “winter is here when we say so.” They will say so mid-November with the first area on the mountain to welcome skiers and riders being North Ridge. The best news for ski racing fans is the return of Women’s Alpine World Cup racing Thanksgiving Weekend Nov. 27-28. The Homelight Killington Cup races include a Giant Slalom and slalom. The races draw between 30-40,000 fans to Vermont.