Early-season snowfall, especially along the southern tier of the Rockies, has coupled with snowmaking temperatures to get a quartet of high-country ski and snowboard mountains to start spinning their lifts.
Utah's southernmost resort Brian Head kicked off the Beehive State's winter season the first weekend in November. For its second-earliest opening on record, the resort's upgraded Navajo Express -- more four-seat chairs on the cable -- handles the load for the first couple of weekends before daily operations begin on Nov. 18.
Snowmaking got a production upgrade this summer, as owners Mountain Capital Partners (MCP) continue to put money into its latest acquisition. Kids 12 and under ski and ride for free, all the time and at all eight MCP resorts, with the Kids Power Pass.
In southern Colorado, powder-king Wolf Creek wants its folks to move more easier around its 1,600 acres. To do so, the day-trip resort has installed RFID gates at six of its 10 lifts so that tickets can be read in the skier's parka pocket.
The Alberta chair has long been the best way to get to Wolf Creek's most prolific powder stashes, but it took a couple of lift rides to get to. This season, there's a traverse from the lower parking lot to the Alberta chair base with an RFID printer so that skiers and riders can set up for a powder day without going to the main ticket office or riding another chair.
Northward, Winter Park moved up its opening date to Oct. 31 -- its earliest opening ever. Experts and powderhounds will be happy as mountain managers have opened two areas of steeps. At the far end of the Vasquez Cirque, a section known as "Jelly Roll" for its rolly-polly terrain is now accessible. And, over on Mary Jane far side, more room for steep-and-deep as avalanche-controlled chutes on "Powder Field" will increase access between Trestle and double-diamond The Chutes.
And farther up the Continental Divide, Loveland loyalists began skiing and riding on Nov. 4, and will soon hop on an expanded Chair 6 to get more quickly into the blues, greens and terrain parks on the south flank of the 1,800-acre mountain.
With opening dates on the horizon, crews at many resorts in the West have been testing snow guns -- and looking longingly to the skies -- in hopes of putting down a base of snow in October.
Most ski and snowboard resorts have announced their anticipated opening days, although persistent warm weather in some regions may have something to say about that. A frequent check of resort websites is recommended.
However, hints of winter whiff the air and the high-country leaves are turning, so it's time to haul skis and snowboards out of storage and get them ready for the season.
The informal race to be the first to open in the nation falls upon the highest-elevation mountains along the spine of the Colorado Rockies. Traditionally, it's been Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Loveland that vie for the title, but Wolf Creek surreptitiously snuck in last season by firing up its chairlifts on Oct. 16.
This year -- if official dates are to be believed -- Keystone will lead the pack by opening on Oct. 21, followed by Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 22, and Loveland and Wolf Creek on Oct. 29.
In California, 7,700-foot-high Boreal on Donner Pass is optimistic to begin on Oct. 28, while Mammoth Mountain plans to be in second place with an Nov. 11 opening. Tahoe's Heavenly has penciled in Nov. 18 for its first chairs.
Despite having middle-of-the-pack summit elevation, Lookout Pass (5,650 feet) on the border of Idaho and Montana has pushed its first day all the way up to Nov. 6 -- a full two weeks ahead of its previous earliest opening. Schweitzer, Sun Valley and Tamarack all plan to follow later in the month.
Skiers and riders in Washington will have to wait until December for Stevens Pass (Dec. 2) and 49 Degrees North (Dec. 3), while Oregonians will have to bide their time until Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline (Dec. 11). Mt. Bachelor expects to follow close behind on Dec. 12.
In New Mexico, Sipapu has had a lock on first-to-open in recent seasons. For 2022-2023, the family resort tucked into the Sangre de Cristos has tabbed Nov. 18 to begin spinning its lifts.
The seasonal gears have shifted, and Utah's 14 winter resorts are in full-on summer mode with everything from disc golf to mountain biking to riding atop a tramway car in the offing.
Resorts' emphasis on summertime activities continues to grow in the Beehive State, as locals and visitors more and more look to the mountains for exercise and enjoyment. Most mountains keep restaurants open during the offseason. In addition, concerts, workshops, themed festivals and competitions can be found on all around the mountains. And wildflower viewing is always worth the ride into the hills.
A few resorts are open seven days a week, but most open up only for several days around the weekend during the warm offseason. Four Utah resorts won't run chairlifts this summer; instead, Brighton, Cherry Peak and Beaver Mountain highlight hiking and biking trails as mountain getaways, and Alta again focuses on environmental projects.
Snowbird caught the headlines with its rooftop tram ride this summer. One of the two cars on Utah's only tramway will have limited space on top, and floor-to-ceiling windows inside. The base area will be busy, with slides and coaster and all manner of climbing challenges.
Powder Mountain opens a new downhill MTB park served by the Hidden Express chair. To limit crowds, day tickets will cap at 250, and only 500 summer season passes will be sold.
Park City Mountain debuts a new golf course at Canyons Village. Many of the fairways run on winter ski trails, and the course elevation rises and falls throughout. Three lifts bring MTBers to mountain tracks.
A new beginner MTB track is in the works at Solitude, which now is open Thursday-Sunday. Also debuting are climbing wall, bungee trampoline and mini-disc golf.
On the southern terminus of the Wasatch, Sundance brings beginner-flow and intermediate level MTB tracks online. And, of course, the resort's renowned high and long ziplines are due to attract the adventurous crowd.
At Snowbasin, there are 26 miles of hiking and biking trails off the Needles Gondola -- dogs always welcome. And, the northern Utah resort welcomes the return of the live Brews, Blues & Barbecue summer music series.
And, classical music aficionados will once again get to listen to the Utah Symphony's concert series under the evening skies at Deer Valley.
In southern Utah, the focus is on the hardiest athletes, with Eagle Point's Crusher in the Tushars and Tushar Mountain Runs in July, and Brian Head's Women's Epic Race and Brian Shredder downhill MTB race in June.
The Southwest Rockies' multi-mountain ski and snowboard season pass is on sale, as the Power Pass focuses on its seven winter resorts -- and a year-round mountain biking destination in Texas.
If standing in lift lines is getting you down, turn on your night light and go skiing and riding at half of Utah's 14 resorts.
New trails, new lodging, and plenty of on-mountain upgrades mark the start of the 2021-22 ski and snowboard season for the seven resorts on the Power Pass.
For Utahns and summer visitors, all that's going on during August in the mountains demands that itineraries include a trip into the Wasatch.
Despite Covid restrictions, the ski and snowboard resorts of Utah had a boffo summer season last year with hiking, biking, scenic lift rides and other social-distanced activities. But one key attraction was missing: Music.
A late-season, last-minute excursion to the Utah mountains -- either by Utahns or still-eager skiers and riders from afar -- is out there for those with an unrelenting skiing jones.
The network of Mountain Southwest resorts under the Power Pass season ticket continues to grow, and ownership has built a reputation for putting out money for upgrades.
The seven-mountain Power Pass consortium is streamlining what it takes to get on the hill with a new reloadable card and pick-a-day midweek season pass.
The first tier of pricing is out for next season's Power Pass, and the Southwest Rockies regional season ticket has enticements to buy early, a new limited-ticket pass, plus accommodations due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus.
All 14 ski and snowboard mountains within the state boundaries of Utah hit the "Go" switch before Christmas holidays, and visitors should expect new stuff on the mountains, at the ticket window, and in the lodge.
Making plans for a trip to Utah this summer? Be sure to set aside time to check out all the warm-weather offerings from the state's ski and snowboard resorts.
For most Western resorts, the season is over, but lots of snow in the mountains -- even late into April -- means plenty of water in the rivers for rafting and blankets of colorful wild flowers covering the high alpine meadow for hikers and bikers.
A number of double-digit snowfalls coursed across Colorado in early November, giving four resorts in Colorado and one in Utah a chance to open early.
The days have lengthened, the sun is higher in the sky and the wildflowers are out, as Utah’s winter resorts put on their summer best and welcome the offseason.
Pristine conditions to continue for Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. (Mt. Bachelor/Facebook)
It’s surely feeling and looking like winter across the West and Midwest as we wrap up the month. The East begins cooling off with snowmaking temps and better chances for new snowfall.
Banking into a berm at Snowbird. (Snowbird/Facebook)
Summertime means getting the mountain bike into the hills where it belongs – and Utah resorts stand ready with lifts running to get bikers to the top.