Early season skiing is always a toss-up. Some winters start cold and snowy while others are high and dry. This fall has been odd to say the least. October was the stuff of legends. It sparked hope in every skier and snowboarder that we were off to an early ski season start. Then November showed up. A proverbial sauna for the mountains in North America. It’s been so warm and dry that ski resorts up and down the Rockies and Western US have been forced to postpone their openings.
This early season has been a rollercoaster for opening days. Wolf Creek got their usual early snowfall to allow them to open in October. The perennial snowmaking giants of Keystone, A-Basin, and Loveland got started before Halloween. Unfortunately, any ski resort that waited to start up their guns or Mother Nature to provide a boost have been penalized. Beaver Creek won’t open for Thanksgiving. Instead of opening the weekend of the 19th as originally planned, Steamboat has pushed their opening a full week back to November 27th. And in southern Colorado, Telluride notified everyone on Facebook the new opening date is December 3rd.
When it comes to early season riding, Mt. Bachelor is one of the best bets to ride on fresh snow. Across more than two decades, by December 1st the base depth has only been less than 40 inches six times and less than 40 inches by January 1st only 3 times. Unfortunately, for the 2021-22 season this will be number seven. In fact, it’s so bad that they’re pushing the opening date to December 3rd.
Another “Mr. Reliable” for early season skiing in Wyoming is having a tough start too. Grand Targhee Resort announced a few days ago that they weren’t going to open on the 19th. As of today, opening day is still yet to determined. Despite the delay, they’re the ONLY ski resort in North America to always be 100% open for Christmas skiing in December.
The Golden State is always known for feast or famine storm cycles. When it snows… it comes in feet, but when it doesn’t, it’s brutally dry. October’s snowfall was even bigger than Colorado’s. Mammoth was able to have top-to-bottom skiing before Halloween. Even Palisades Tahoe got into the action with one of the earliest opening days on record. Sadly, this was followed by a VERY dry November forcing Palisades Tahoe to shutter their lifts. On top of that, the tranquil weather has created inversions not allowing ski resorts to make snow. This has forced both Heavenly & Northstar to postpone their opening dates and most likely not even open for Thanksgiving. Luckily, it’s not all bad news in Cali. Mammoth has been able to stay open with more than a quarter of its terrain available to ride.
Out of the mountain ranges in the Western US that have been hit by the heat wave, Utah’s Wasatch is doing the best. Even so, many of the resorts have still been forced to push back their opening days. Normally by November 19th, nearly a third of the state’s resorts would be open. As of today, none anticipate being opened before the 23rd. There is a silver lining though. Many of these resorts are only pushing their opening dates to the 24th as they have great coverage up high along with solid forecasted snowmaking weather. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
The king of snow. Powder Mecca. Deep in the Pacific Northwest you’ll find Mt. Baker, the world record holder of snowfall. Their annual average is over 647 inches per year. If you’ve been watching the pros’ FB feeds that call this place home, they got hammered with snow in October. Like other parts of the country, they felt the heat wave too except via an onslaught of heavy rain that reduced the snowpack. But as anyone who has visited this hallowed place, they only need one more storm to get going.
Although winter has had a slow start out West, the weather forecasts seem to be trending in the right direction. All the weather models are hinting that storms should begin to arrive the first week of December. Keep those snow dances going.