Top Slopes For Early-Season Skiing, Coast To Coast

If you start dreaming about stepping into your ski boots before you’ve finished raking autumn leaves, the wait for your nearest ski area to open can feel endless. Fortunately, there’s no need to wait.

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Top Slopes
Top Slopes For Early-Season Skiing, Coast To Coast

If you start dreaming about stepping into your ski boots before you’ve finished raking autumn leaves, the wait for your nearest ski area to open can feel endless. 

Fortunately, there’s no need to wait. These early-season ski destinations are awash in snow before many places in the U.S. have seen a single flake.

Loveland Ski Area

Loveland, near Denver, often opens in October. This year was no exception. The snow report reveals why. As of early November, 40 inches of snow had already fallen on Loveland. The ski area gets an average of 422 inches of snowfall each year. 

Whether you’re an off-piste expert or new to the sport, Loveland has a unique experience for you. Advanced skiers can go beyond the chair lifts with snowcat skiing along the Continental Divide. Loveland Valley, one of Loveland’s two base areas, is geared to beginners. 

If you’re looking to take a break during a day on the slopes, you can stop into one of Loveland’s four unique and free-to-use mountain cabins for a little R&R. One of the most inviting cabins is the “Ginny Lee.” All cabins offer wood-burning stoves and propane grills so that skiers can cook on-mountain meals. Two of them have restrooms, and three even have electricity.

While Loveland is a ski area rather than a resort, there are plenty of lodging options nearby. The surrounding communities of Georgetown, Idaho Springs and Summit County all offer multiple hotel and B&Bs. 

Timberline Lodge & Ski Area

Located on 11,249-foot Mount Hood in Oregon, Timberline’s ski area hosts skiers through Memorial Day. Sometimes it even opens for a summer season as well.

As of early November, the area had received 46 inches of snow this season—enough that Timberline opened for a single day on October 20. During the heaviest years in the last decade, Timberline has seen 75, 55 and 42 inches of base snow by December 1. While the opening date has yet to be set, history suggests it could happen any day. 

Timberline Lodge and luxury condos make for excellent getaways any time of year. So do its multiple restaurants, among them the well-regarded Cascade Dining Room. 

Keystone Resort And Breckenridge Ski Resort

Historic October snowfalls blanketed the Rockies this year. So the neighboring Vail Resorts-owned Colorado destinations Keystone and Breckenridge opened in the early days of November. 

Since these two resorts are just over 16 miles apart, you split a ski vacation between them, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Keystone promotes itself as a family-friendly getaway with kid-focused programming. Breckenridge gives kids a warm welcome, but positions itself as a particularly good place for high-energy adult skiers.

Both of these resorts include plenty of upscale lodging and restaurants and offer great ways to spend your off-mountain time. Keystone’s fitness and yoga classes will keep you in top, flexible shape. Breckenridge is home to some first-rate après ski spots.

Alta Ski Area

High in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains you’ll find a no-nonsense ski experience that caters to purists. That means no snowboards—but lots of snow, much of it the light, dry powder Utah is known for.

How much snow? In early November, Alta had already gotten 40 inches of snow and had a base of 18 inches. That’s pretty much the norm. Alta had 30.5 inches of snowfall last October and 63.5 inches last November. Annually, it gets an average of 547 inches of snow, which works out to about a foot for every five days of the ski season.  

Like Loveland, Alta prides itself on being a ski area more than a resort. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find plenty of appealing lodges, condos and vacation homes at the base of the mountain. 

This year, Alta’s opening day is scheduled for November 29, weather permitting. 

Sunday River Resort

East Coast skiers who want to get a jump on the fun would be wise to head to Newry, Maine. That’s where they’ll find Sunday River, which opened for the 2019-2020 ski season in early November. The early start is no surprise. Between October snowfalls and Sunday River’s 192 snow cannons, this resort is well-positioned to open as early in the season as possible. 

Sunday River offers visitors several lodging options. These include the Grand Summit Hotel and the resort’s premier Jordan Hotel, which includes the luxurious Jordan Spa. For some off-the-slopes fun, the nearby mountain village of Bethel offers shops and dining. 

Think you don’t have time to squeeze an early-season ski getaway into your busy work schedule? Sunday River’s forthcoming SkiWork coworking space could change your calculations. The venue will offer skiers rentable space where they can get work done between runs. 

With these ski areas and resorts now or soon to open, the long wait for skiers is finally over. All that’s left for you to do is pack.

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