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.
Long-Range Winter Forecast
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.
Where to ski in November
November ski resort openings tend to slide in from about mid-month to just as Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared. A couple Minnesota ski resorts, Wild Mountain and Andes Tower Hills, were the first ski resorts to open this year, opening October 18. Arapahoe Basin kicked things off in Colorado, opening a week before Halloween. It was followed by a number of Colorado ski resorts opening, including , Keystone, Loveland, Wolf Creek, and Breckenridge, in early November. Vail opened November 11th and Aspen Snowmass will open November 19th.
Elsewhere, in California, Mammoth Mountain opened in early November thanks to some early snow, as early-November snowstorms covered many ski resorts in the western states and British Columbia. Mt. Rose and Boreal were among the Lake Tahoe resorts to open in early November. In Utah, Brian Head was one of the first ski resorts in Utah to open, as well as Solitude and Brighton, all of which opened in early November. Park City is opening November 16, followed by and Alta on November 18. In the Pacific Northwest, Timberline Lodge opens Friday, November the 11th, while many of the other Pacific Northwest ski resorts will open in the following weeks.
Thanksgiving? You can probably count on 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 ski resorts, such as Mount Baker, Stevens Pass, Crystal, Hood, Bachelor and others, many resorts are playing it safe and will be announcing their opening dates in the coming days. Our recommendation is to make some good, but perhaps tentative plans for a great start to the season.
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.