Yes, it’s true: Fall has finally begun. Yet, while most of us are looking for last year’s sweater and coupons for spiced lattes, some of our favorite mountains have hit fast forward and are already thinking snow.
In recent years, the race for first turns has led ski resorts to up their snowmaking game, pushing to open earlier and earlier. It’s a trend that has shown no signs of slowing up any time soon, with some starting up the snow guns as early as late August. While there are a lot of negative trends sweeping the ski world in recent years (sky-rocketing lift ticket prices, corporations buying your local ski hill, and lack of natural snow), this is one pattern that we can definitely get behind.
So, who is getting the bullwheel spinning earliest this season? For anyone with a ski or snowboard itch that needs scratching, here are the resorts kicking off their seasons early this year. Ready, set – mark your calendar.
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado
Projected Opening: Oct. 20
For years, Arapahoe Basin has been the king of early openings. With its elevation topping out at 13,050 feet and some of the highest lift-accessed skiing in North America, A-Basin gets cold quick, and takes full advantage.
Blowing snow as early as September, the resort often has a few trails and a terrain park ready for its nearly-routine October opening. Boasting 2,350 vertical feet of skiing and $79 day tickets just over an hour from Denver, A-Basin is a good bet any time of year, but why not get started early?
Loveland Ski Area, Colorado
Projected Opening: Oct. 20
Not to be outdone by its neighbor, Loveland says it will be a race to the start this ski season, projecting another Oct. 20 opening.
Another high-altitude gem within easy striking distance of Denver (53 miles, to be exact), Loveland enjoys 2,210 feet of vertical and 400 inches of snow annually. This year, Loveland adds a new high-speed lift to kick its early season operation into gear. Early season rates include a $65 day ticket, while regular season jumps to $79.
Mount Rose Ski Tahoe, Nevada
Projected Opening: Oct. 26
Despite all of the big-name resorts lining Lake Tahoe, it will be the lesser known, Nevada-side resort Mount Rose that will beat everyone to the snow punch this year. This season, 17 new snowmaking towers will blanket early season slopes (part of the resort’s $2 million push to improve facilities for 2018-2019), getting skiers on the hill as early as Oct. 26.
In addition to its 360-degree views, Mount Rose is home to steep skiing just miles from Reno, making it one of the most accessible resort in the area. Unfortunately, it still comes with a Tahoe price tag, with day ticket prices tickling $135.
Wolf Creek, Colorado
Projected Opening: Nov. 2
Boasting 430 annual inches of snow a year, Wolf Creek gets things going in a hurry this year, planning to spin lifts as early as Nov. 2. The Southern Colorado resort has a more laidback vibe than its northern neighbors, but that doesn’t mean that Wolf Creek skimps on its skiing and riding.
Though its 1,600 acres of skiing and riding are sprinkled between cliffs, steep trees and open powder fields, Wolf Creek multiplies its options with its hike-to terrain. It’s not as easy to get to as other resorts on the list, but the four-hour drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico is rewarded with one of the cheapest lift tickets in Colorado (a day ticket costs just $72).
Mount Norquay, Banff, Canada
Projected Opening: Nov. 2
The only Canadian entry on our list, Mount Norquay is located in picturesque Banff. The smallest of the Banff’s Big 3 resorts, it is the only mountain in the area that offers night skiing, as well as a plethora of well-maintained groomers and bump runs.
Skiers and riders come for the 1,650 vertical feet of skiing and riding, but stay for some of the best views in North America. When the bullwheel starts spinning in early November, expect to pay close to $50, depending on conditions (the mountain operates on a small sliding scale with day tickets).
Projected Opening: Nov. 7
The “Beast of the East” doesn’t like the off season. In fact, Killington is almost always the first to open and last to close on the East Coast, keeping its downtime to a bare minimum.
With early season tickets around $60 (mid-season is about $120), the Vermont classic always lays down a solid blanket of white for opening day, and usually has a small terrain park set up from the get-go. As the season hits full swing, expect 3,050 vertical feet of skiing across 1,500 acres as well as the East’s first natural terrain park.
Mammoth Mountain, California
Projected Opening: Nov. 8
The highest resort in California is also its earliest opening, (getting things started as early as November 8 this season). As one of the last resorts to close in North America, Mammoth enjoys abnormally long seasons. The mountain relies on the man-made stuff to get things underway, but enjoys abundant snowfall across 3,500 acres.
Mammoth is also a freeride Mecca, offering nine terrain parks and pipes that open early and stay open until the end of the season. A regular day ticket at the resort will run you $139.
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