At 5 p.m. on Friday, November 15, Crystal Mountain general manager John Kircher didn’t know if the resort would open for skiing the next morning. He called in ski patrollers based on a stormy forecast, but there was barely enough snow for them to hammer in bamboo poles for safety fences.
The next morning, Kircher and his ski patroller wife Kim woke at 3 a.m. The wind was blowing 65 mph at the top—too windy for the lifts to run. Despondent, John didn’t even put his ski gear on. But Kim figured it couldn’t hurt. She suited up and they walked to the base. There, the wind had died down and they could load the gondola. And at the summit, she stepped out into six inches of fresh snow. Kim set out into the dark, headlamp blazing, to test conditions. “Twenty turns later I didn’t want to stop, but I had to let them know,” she says. “So I yelled back up to John, ‘It’s good. It’s really good!’”
Calls were made. Social media updated. By 7:30 a line started to form for first chair at 9 a.m. A total of 12 inches fell during Crystal’s opening weekend, which brings the summit base to 27 inches. And when it snows in Washington State, Mt. Baker Ski Area is rarely left out. They reported 30 inches over the weekend and plan to open Thursday, November 21.
To the north, Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb managed to open two weeks ahead of schedule, thanks to the cold temperatures. Blackcomb Mountain is slated to open on November 28. And in Utah, Friday saw the first of two consecutive storms move through the upper Cottonwood canyons bordering Salt Lake City, adding two or three inches of snow. Saturday dropped another foot on the Wasatch. Snowbird opens November 20, and Alta on November 22.
Back East, Jay Peak locals have had plenty to ski in the backcountry with impressive numbers for November. The resort is piling up powder and expecting to be open this weekend, resuming normal seasonal operations starting November 29. Elsewhere in Vermont, Sugarbush is opening this Friday exclusively for their passholders, then to the general public on Saturday. Even in North Carolina temperatures have been prime for snowmaking. Sugar Mountain in the Appalachian mountains of Western North Carolina opened on November 13.
And so it begins. The big winner so far? Colorado enjoyed a stormy weekend, with double-digit totals at most of the state’s resorts. Winter Park received the largest weekend deposit of 22 inches. Conditions at Aspen Mountain weren’t too bad either. “It was hammering snow. Free-refills on opening day is pretty awesome,” said spokesperson Meredith McKee. Aspen reopens for daily operations next weekend, along with Snowmass. —Matt Hart