What Are the Best Early Season Ski Destinations?
Some ski resorts are already spinning lifts. Here’s where to ski and ride at the beginning of the winter.
Sunday River, Maine, and Killington, Vermont, are already open for the winter season. A good omen for this winter? Perhaps. Or just an excuse to go shred before Halloween. Here are the best and most reliably snowy places to ski and ride early in the season.
On Sunday, October 18, Killington, Vermont, took this year’s prize as the first resort to open for the season. Offering 600 vertical feet of riding on two groomed runs in the North Ridge zone, Killington confirmed its reputation as a solid choice for early season riding.
Sunday River, Maine
Sunday River opened on October 19, the resort’s third earliest opening in their 56-year history, thanks to the work of 150 snowmaking machines and just-right cold temperatures. They offered top-to-bottom skiing on one lift—not bad for day one. The ski area will be open just weekends from now until mid-November, when they’ll open full time for the season.
In the race to open first, Loveland is often the winner. This year, they’ll have to take a backseat to the East Coast, but they won’t be far behind. Cold temperatures enabled the high-elevation ski area on the Continental Divide to start blowing snow last week. They require an 18-inch base with top-to-bottom skiing before they can open, and early-season storms tend to blow in thick and deep here.
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado
With a base elevation of 10,780 feet, Arapahoe Basin is one of the highest elevation ski areas in the country, and its snow quality shows it. A-Basin and Loveland tend to go head to head each fall to see which can open first. Thanks to frosty temperatures, early-season storms, and a prime high-alpine location, this spot is a solid choice from November to June.
Hunter Mountain, New York
Hunter Mountain was an early pioneer of snowmaking machines—they were the first ski area in the country to install snowguns on all trails in 1980. They’re still advancing snowmaking technology today, with low-energy, fully automated machines that can make enough snow to cover the entire mountain in just two days. Last year, they opened in mid November and with any luck, they’ll do the same this year.
Mammoth Mountain, California
If you want to ski before Thanksgiving, Mammoth Mountain is usually a safe bet, thanks to its colossal snowmaking system, early-season storms, and summit elevation of 11,053 feet, the highest in California. Plus, with this winter’s strong El Niño prediction, southwest resorts like Mammoth are primed to get nailed with deep snow. The mountain just reported a couple of inches of snow and opening day is scheduled for November 11.
Mt. Hood, Oregon
Timberline on Mt. Hood has the longest operating season of any resort in the U.S.—the place is open practically all year round, with summer skiing on the glacier atop Oregon’s tallest volcano. Their winter operations often begin as early as October.
When the Wasatch Mountains get hit with pre-season storms, Snowbird is the place to be. They often start running lifts before any of the other Utah resorts and Snowbird typically boasts the longest operating season in the state. They just got a recent dusting of snow and opening day is slated for mid-November.