Top early season ski resorts for the 2016-17 season

We’ve already talked about some of the first resorts to open this winter in last week’s post.  The good news – Killington has received nearly 18 inches of snow already and it’s only the first week of November!  The bad news though – Southern Colorado’s Wolf Creek has postponed their opening due to unseasonably warm weather.  So, which resorts are your best chance to ride by Thanksgiving this season?  Based on the latest weather outlook for a weak La Nina, here are your best chances by region.

Western Canada (and OVERALL WINNER)

Sunshine Village

Sunshine Village - Earliest Opening in 30 Years

Sunshine Village – Earliest Opening in 30 Years – Image courtesy from Sunshine Village

As of November 2nd, Sunshine Village is 192% above average translating to their earliest opening in over 30 years!  In fact, they’ve gotten so much snow that they are opening with four lifts and the gondola.  Here’s the list –

  • Wawa
  • Strawberry
  • Jackrabbit
  • Wolverine
  • 8-passenger gondola

Holding a current all-natural snow base of over 69 cm (27 in), Sunshine Village could be a good option for anyone looking to fly to a destination resort. And as a bonus to the snow, the town of Banff is right next door and there’s a TON to do there when you’re off the slopes.

Pacific Northwest

Mt. Baker

The Mt Baker wilderness opening up

The Mt Baker wilderness opening up

Mt. Baker typically receives heavy maritime snow which translates to a great-type-of-snow-that-fills-in quite nicely.  This also means that they only need 18-30 inches to open up for the season.  But, the best part by far about Baker is that when they do open, it typically means you can ride nearly the entire mountain which is opposite of almost all of the other mountains on the list.  Keep your eyes peeled on the weather forecast for Glacier, WA and look for snow levels below 3,500 feet.  If snow happens, it might be time to book a flight for the Pac Northwest and get some pow turns in.

California

Mammoth

Fresh Snowfall over Mammoth Mountain - Image Courtesy Mammoth Mountain

Fresh Snowfall over Mammoth Mountain – Image Courtesy Mammoth Mountain

October has been VERY wet but not as cold as we all had hoped.  If you want to put in some work, there are a few turns available at the higher elevations, but the weather pattern for the next few weeks is leaving Lake Tahoe & Mammoth high and dry.  This means we will need to lean on Mammoth’s snowmaking and the fact that their base is one of the highest in the region at 8,909 feet.  As any local knows, we only need one major snowstorm dumping a few feet of snow and we could be in business.  Fingers crossed and let’s hope for a pattern change soon to colder storms.

Colorado

Arapahoe Basin

Arapahoe Basin -2016-17 Opening Day Image taken by: Dave Camara/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Arapahoe Basin – 2016-17 Opening Day Image taken by: Dave Camara/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Typically Wolf Creek Ski area is a good option for early season, but due to the unseasonably warm weather, it’s better to hedge your bets and head to Arapahoe Basin.  With one of the longest seasons in North America you know that they are a great option for early AND late season.  As of November 2nd, they are still the only resort in the state open but Loveland is targeting to open in the next week.  In addition, with a huge concentration of ski resorts in the Front Range of the Rockies like Keystone and Breckenridge, the area in general is a good option as they all push to open up as much terrain as possible for early season starts.

East

Killington

Snowmaking in October - Image taken by Will Humber

Snowmaking in October – Image taken by Will Humber

Have you ever seen a man-made snowstorm?  When the “Beast” turns on their snowmaking system, they can pump 720,000 gallons of water through 240 snowguns and cover 80 acres of terrain with a FOOT of snow!!!  This allows Killington to offer what is the longest skiing season in eastern North America.  If that wasn’t enough, they’ve already received 18 inches of snowfall and it’s only the first week of November.  They are poised to definitely have an epic Thanksgiving especially if a few more storms show up.

Utah

Solitude

Similar to California, Utah’s weather pattern seems pretty bleak on any natural snowfall for the month of November.  Like all things weather related, this can change quickly, but until then, it’s all about snowmaking for this part of the country.  Even though Snowbasin has an impressive network containing 540 snowguns, 15 miles of pipeline and is 100% computer automated, their base is much lower than Solitude’s.  Also, Solitude has a bunch of other ski resorts near it that even if they’re only able to open up a few runs, you can easily go check out Brighton and the Park City resorts as well.

Midwest

Ski Brule

Image taken by Brad Bergeron

Image taken by Brad Bergeron

Mt. Bohemia might be the “King” of the Midwest for the steep & deep, but Ski Brule is all about having the longest season in the Midwest.  With a record-early opening of October 24th and then typically a late April closing, they push to be the first resort open and last to close.  It helps that Ski Brule’s system allows them to make enough snow to open a trail within 24 hours of ideal snowmaking.  The target opening date for them is November 11th, but like all snowmaking, they need cold weather so keep your eyes peeled.

These are just some of the best bets for skiing or snowboarding at each region.

Ski season is too short as it is so extend that season by getting on the slopes at one of these resorts by Thanksgiving

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