The time has finally come for ski season kick-offs and early first turns. Skiing in November can sometimes mean solid snow conditions and an opportunity to dial in equipment and get those ski muscles ready to go for the season ahead. Early mornings provide the best opportunity to take advantage of crisply groomed trails, while warmer afternoons set the stage for sun-soaked après sessions. Much like spring skiing, the early-season slopes tend to be less crowded and you should find plenty of lodging choices and easy access to restaurants and nightspots.
This prelude is arguably the most anticipated of all, as skiers and riders yearn to get to the mountains after hanging up the boards at some point last spring.
OnTheSnow.com’s chief meteorologist Chris Tomer suggests the start of winter looks like this:
“The bulk of data suggests we’re headed into a cold phase also known as La Nina, which would be the third straight year. Triple-dip La Ninas are rare, only occurring three times in the last 73 years. La Nina tends to organize the wintertime jet stream in a way that favors the Pacific Northwest and Northern Tier of states with the most consistent winter snowfall. On the other hand, La Nina tends to leave California and the Southern Tier of states drier and warmer than normal.”
Keep in mind early openings don’t mean the whole mountain is open with all lifts purring and waiting for you. There should be solid ribbons of snow and a base that just keeps on expanding as the temperatures allow for consistent snowmaking and some lucky early snows. And, while no one likes to talk about it, you may not want to test your brand new skis and boards quite yet. No matter how meticulously slopes are prepared for winter, experienced skiers and boarders know that rocks can and often will find your ski and board bases.
There are several areas that will do their level best to get you on skis or boards as early as October, which usually means (barring warm spells) you can count on them in November. Still, take these opening dates as educated guesses and remember the old adage about the “best laid plans.” Always check the OnTheSnow.com website or app to be sure before you head for the hills. Decisions this time of year can be spur of the moment, either way.
Colorado’s Keystone and Arapaho Basin both plan on opening by Oct. 18 and 22 respectively. Loveland is looking at Oct. 29, but always tries to jump the gun if they can, and usually do. Killington in Vermont is zeroing in on Oct. 18. While Wild Mountain in Taylors Fall, Minn. says they plan to open in mid-November, it’s probably a bluff. They often get into the early open fray and once in a while win the prize.
November openings tend to slide in from about mid-month to just as the turkey is being prepared. Vail and Breckenridge plan to rev up the lifts Nov. 11 as does California’s Mammoth Mountain. Park City, Utah will try to hit Nov. 18.
Thanksgiving? You can probably count on Aspen Snowmass, Colo; Whistler, B.C., Sun Valley, Idaho; Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee ,Wyoming, Big Sky, Montana, Northstar California and Palisades Tahoe, Calif. and probably more if there are early surprises from the sky.
While Tomer is predicting good early news for the Pacific Northwest resorts such as Mount Baker, Stevens Pass, Crystal, Hood, Bachelor and others, the resorts are playing the “wait and see” card, with most NW ski areas playing it safe at this point and going with an early December opening date. That could, of course, change. It probably will.
So, make some good, but perhaps tentative, plans for a great start to the season and most certainly a run to the slopes when you leave Grandma’s house after Thanksgiving dinner.
Have early-season/opening-day pics to share? Email them to email@example.com with the mountain, photo caption, and credit, and we’ll add our favorites to an upcoming gallery.