The poet once wrote that April is the cruelest month. But to a skier or snowboarder, that distinction must go to October, the month that teases us most cruelly with hints of the winter to come.
Meteorological patterns are starting to shift, bringing in winter-like weather from off the Gulf of Alaska and other parts of the North Pacific to the western third of North America. Not long after the autumnal equinox significant snowfall was experienced in the Northern and Central Rockies, the Cascades and the Sierra.
Along with the falling leaves temperatures, especially over night, are beginning to tumble, and many ski resorts are thinking about firing up their snow guns — if they haven’t gotten them going already (Arizona Snowbowl was the first to do so in the United States this autumn, pumping out man-made snow on the night of Sept. 24).
The Race to First
While most resorts are content to start spinning their lifts around Thanksgiving or the first part of December, a select few, benefitting from being in the right place at the right time, make it a point of opening before Hallowe’en on an annual basis.
Two of them, Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin, are in a race to be the first to open their lifts for the coming winter. Both resorts, which are on opposite sides of Colorado’s Loveland Pass, have had around a foot or snow of natural snow and are augmenting that with man-made stuff.
A-Basin announced late Tuesday that it will open on Friday, with one lift (Black Mountain Express) spinning. Over at Loveland, a resort spokesperson said, “We’re making snow; we’re getting closer. We may make a decision in the next couple of days.”
Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe, which has the highest base elevation in the Lake Tahoe basin, is targeting Oct. 27 as its opening day. Another resort that’s planning on a late-October opening is Vermont’s Killington, which has done so for the past several years and is usually the first resort to open in the East.
Early November Openings
Elsewhere, Colorado’s Wolf Creek has pencilled in Nov. 3 for its opening day, while Mammoth, in California’s Eastern Sierra, is shooting for a Nov. 9. A trio of Colorado resorts within the same general area — Breckenridge, Copper and Keystone — are looking at Nov. 10 to start spinning their lifts.
And over in Utah’s Wasatch Range, which got a nice dusting of snow the other days, Brighton has said it will open “as soon as possible.”
Ah, yes. There’s the smell of ski season in the air.