Q: Can you tell me which ski areas open the earliest? Would it be worth making a trip to snag some early turns or am I better off waiting?
A: I was outside today near my home in northern New Mexico in shorts and not much else, looking up at the bare mountains and wondering if I hadn't made a mistake in buying a season pass to our little local hill. You can imagine my surprise when I phoned up various ski resort associations and discovered that three areas in Colorado and one in New Hampshire are already open. Granted, it's still the pre-early season by almost any standard, but the thought of getting in a few turns now, while I'm still finishing off the Halloween treats I robbed from little kids, seems far-fetched as I sweat in the sun.
Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, and Copper Mountain were all in the running to capture the title of first resort to open-and to stay open-but Loveland landed the win when it opened on Tuesday, October 28. A-Basin opened over the Halloween weekend, and Copper Mountain officials report their lifts also started up for the season on November 1. In New Hampshire, Tenney Mountain opened October 4, but only on the weekends and Wednesdays, with a zero- to five-inch base and no lifts running. The mountain is attracting snowboarders mostly interested in doing tricks on the area's terrain park. Tickets at Tenney are $20. (603-536-4125; www.tenneymtn.com)
None of the resorts, of course, are open at anywhere near full capacity and most of the snow you'd be carving is of the manmade variety. Still, they all offer discounted tickets and the chance to see just how out of shape you've gotten during the shoulder season. Loveland seems to be the best bet for early skiing as it's the only resort with full top-to-bottom skiing. Snow reports say there's a 10- to 20-inch base. The one chair that's running will take you up about 1,000 vertical feet, where you can link three green runs to get you back to the base. Tickets are $30 for folks 15 years old and up, $15 for kids. (800-736-3754; www.skiloveland.com).
The folks at A-Basin can't be too upset as this year is still the earliest they've been able to open, thanks to a new investment in snow-making machinery. They're reporting one lift and one run are open. The Exhibition Lift takes skiers up about 780 vertical feet to the mid mountain, where they can hop on the intermediate High Noon run and slide down for about a half mile to the base. There's a 12- to 20-inch base and tickets cost $35 for adults or $25 for kids up to 14 years old. (888-272-7246; www.arapahoebasin.com).
At Copper Mountain, the Ptarmigan run, an intermediate, is open for the general skiing public, while racers are currently running laps on the Copperopolis slope. Two chairs are currently running, and for the snowboarders and tricksters out there, there are some rails set up and ready to go. The base coverage is 20-24 inches, and tickets cost $31 for adults and $20 for kids up to 13 years old. (866-841-2481; www.coppercolorado.com)
So is it worth it? If you're sleeping with your boots on-as a friend says she's now doing-then by all means a few early turns could prove to be more comfortable. Then again, most resorts will open Thanksgiving. And who knows, maybe the season pass will seem like a good idea by then.
Planning a trip of your own? [ask the AA]