The ski seasons slow start continues and inconsistency has been the theme so far in this young winter across North America.
There’s been just enough snow and cold to get some ski areas’ lifts spinning, while others wait for their window to make enough snow for a good product. Several areas have had to push back their planned opening dates.
While it’s a been a fairly slow start, it’s early yet, and the weather appears to be turning favorable for a flurry of openings. Here’s a somewhat selective look across North America.
In Alberta, five ski areas have opened with various operating schedules. Marmot Basin opened daily starting Thursday, Nov. 16. It currently has four lower-mountain trails open served by two chairlifts and a conveyor, and about three inches of fresh snow with a reported base depth of 11 inches. Nakiska opened Nov. 4 and 5 for a “preview weekend” on upper mountain terrain, then Nov. 9-14 for a second preview, and offered top-to-bottom skiing and riding Nov. 18 and 19. The current snow report says to “stay tuned” for what’s next.
In British Columbia, Sun Peaks is currently the only open ski area in the province. It had five trails and four lifts open with an 8-10-inch base as of Tuesday, Nov. 21.
Whistler Blackcomb plans to open Nov. 23 with around 14 trails served by 11 lifts between the two mountains, including the Peak 2 Peak gondola. Some downloading will be required off certain lifts.
Big White had planned to open Nov. 23, but the resort said, “Mother Nature is truly in charge at this time of year. Despite our optimism for an Opening Day on Nov. 23, the snow hasn’t piled up enough for safe fun on the slopes.” Big White has set a tentative opening date of Nov. 30. Powder King had planned to open Nov. 25, but also pushed its tentative opening back to Nov. 30 due to lack of snow.
Ski areas in eastern Canada are still waiting for an extended stretch of winter weather to help get the season started. Sommet Saint Sauveur is still the only resort open in the region, holding onto one trail.
Elsewhere in Quebec, Mont Tremblant plans to open Nov. 23 with five trails served by three lifts. Mont-Sainte-Anne is hoping for a Nov. 25 opening, but said Tuesday morning that “significant amounts of snow remain to be produced this week” in order to open, and it planned to provide an update sometime today.
Mont Ste Marie hoping to open on Saturday, depending on snowmaking production. Stoneham is aiming for Friday, according to Snocountry.com.
In Ontario, Searchmont plans to open Nov. 23 with five trails served by two lifts and $30 lift tickets Friday-Sunday. It doesn’t appear that any other Ontario ski area will open this weekend.
While several ski areas in the West have opened for the season, much of the accessible terrain is on manmade snow, and it’s limited. Meager natural snowfall so far has slowed openings and terrain expansion for resorts that have already opened. Reported base depths at most areas are in the 18-20 inch range.
The Pacific Northwest has yet to open for the season due to unusually lean early-season snowfall and mild temps. Schweitzer in Idaho pushed back its opening a day, to Nov. 25, “due to limited early season snowfall and challenging snowmaking conditions, coupled with recent temperature fluctuations.”
“While we may be facing unique challenges this season, the spirit of anticipation and excitement is stronger than ever at Schweitzer,” said Schweitzer president and CEO Tom Chasse.
Mountain Capital Partners, which owns and/or operates 10 North American ski areas, mostly in the Southwest, has four of its ski areas open for the season: Sipapu, N.M. (Nov. 17), Arizona Snowbowl, Ariz. (Nov. 17), Purgatory, Colo. (Nov. 18), and Brian Head, Utah, which opened Nov. 17 after delaying its originally scheduled opening of Nov. 10. Brian Head was the first Utah ski area to open in 2022-23 when it spun lifts Nov. 4, the earliest opening in its history, according to MCP spokesperson Stacey Glaser.
Telluride Ski Area in Colorado originally planned to open on Thanksgiving, but has delayed day-one to early December due to warm weather in the forecast.
Also in Colorado, Steamboat opened today with the Christie Peak Express serving about 25 acres of terrain and 1,000 feet of vertical. Crested Butte and Beaver Creek also opened today with limited terrain: two trails at Beaver Creek, six at Crested Butte.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyo., will open on Friday. The resort has seen 65 inches of snow so far this season—a big number compared to most other areas in the West.
Ski Santa Fe, N.M., plans to open on Thursday with four lifts and terrain for all abilities.
In California, a handful of ski areas have opened for the season with limited terrain, led by Mammoth Mountain, which is reporting 17 open trails and experienced a record setting opening.
— Jerry of the Day (@jerryoftheday) November 14, 2023
The first measurable snowfall came Tuesday night for much of the Northeast, with many areas from New York to Maine picking up anywhere from a couple inches in southern Vermont to 8 inches at Wildcat, N.H. About 10 ski areas are currently open in the region, and trail counts are expanding thanks to some recent cold nights, with a few planning to kick things off in the next couple of days.
Stratton, Vt., opened today with 4 inches of fresh snow on top of nine open trails served by two chairlifts and a conveyor. The gondola had a delayed start due to icing. Nearby Mount Snow opens Nov. 23.
Loon, N.H., opened today with “most terrain in New Hampshire.” One lift is serving seven trails and 38 acres with 5 inches of fresh. Wildcat also opened today, with five trails from the mid-mountain down served by three lifts.
Wachusett plans to be the first ski area in Massachusetts to open when it spins lifts Nov. 24 with four trails.
In New York, Whiteface is also planning to open on Friday with top-to-bottom skiing and riding for the second year in a row—and the second time ever—according to marketing and sales manager Lauren Garfield. “Whiteface will be open with the most vertical east of the Rockies,” she said. “Our plan is nine trails and two lifts and we hope to open the Cloudsplitter Gondola on Saturday.”
After a couple of early openings, Midwestern ski areas are back to the waiting game.
Wild Mountain, Minn., opened Oct. 30 for 14 days, 13 of those top-to-bottom, but suspended operations after Nov. 12. It will reopen when conditions allow.
Trollhaugen, Wis., opened Nov. 2-5 and had to suspend operations due to mild weather. Snowmakers were back out there overnight into this morning.
Lutsen Mountains, Minn., sees the weather soon shifting to prime snowmaking conditions, but not early enough. “With revised projections, we are now a day short from getting enough snow laid down to open this week,” the resort said on social media. “Friday, December 1, is now our official opening date.” The same plan is in place for sister resort Snowriver in Michigan.
Ski Brule, Mich., will open with one trail on Thanksgiving Day, but warned guests that the trail—named Log Jam—”will be intensively used by 190 Thanksgiving Race Camp attendees.” Since Log Jam will be so congested with racers, the resort suggested guests who are not part of the race camp may want to postpone their visit.
Andes Tower Hills, Minn., plans to open Nov. 25 and 26. Others, including Cascade Mountain, Wis. (Dec. 2); Devil’s Head, Wis. (Dec. 2); and Giants Ridge, Minn. (TBD), among others, have pushed back their originally scheduled Thanksgiving weekend opening dates.
We are experiencing an El Niño climatic phenomenon this season, anything is possible.
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