First snow has already started settling on the high-mountain resorts out West—a great sign for winter-starved powder hounds everywhere. So why wait for the official start of winter, when you can start skiing months earlier? There are plenty of early-bird resorts that turn on the lifts as far forward as mid-October, due to their advanced snowmaking machines or high elevation.
Here are six of North America’s best resorts for early season skiing and snowboarding:
Mammoth Mountain (California, USA)
Projected Opening: November 7
This resort's season typically starts in November and runs until June. Since it’s the tallest ski resort in California—peaking at 11,053 feet in the eastern Sierras—and one of the country’s top mountain resorts, with 3,100 vertical feet and more than 3,500 skiable acres, it’s a safe bet you’ll have a delightfully snowy time. Time to start winter early.
Arapahoe Basin (Colorado, USA)
Projected Opening: October
Known for its extended season, A-Basin’s high elevation (above timberline) and mostly north- to northeast-facing slopes make the resort a great option for early-season skiers. With a vertical rise of 2,270 feet, an average snowfall of 350 inches and 109 runs to choose from, you can’t go wrong. Though its 2013-14 opening date is still undetermined, it's already gotten a few inches of snow, and you can expect to hit the slopes as early as mid-October.
Lake Louise (Alberta, Canada)
Projected Opening: November 8
With 4,200 skiable acres, Lake Louise is one of the most expansive ski resorts in North America and one of Canada’s first resorts to open for skiing each season. Even when the snow gods aren't smiliing on this high-mountain Canadian Rockies resort, one of the country's largest snowmaking systems pumps out plenty of the manmade stuff for your skiing and riding pleasure.
Sunday River (Maine, USA)
Projected Opening: November
For East Coasters, Sunday River is one of the best places to hit the slopes in November. Known for its impeccable snowmaking program, this resort has opened as early as Halloween in past years. And there's nothing to lose with the resort's unique snow guarantee, which allows you to turn in your lift ticket and come back another day if you're not impressed with the on-hill conditions.
Alta (Utah, USA)
Projected Opening: November 22
Perched at 10,550 feet in the Wasatch Mountains, this skier-only resort gets buried by Utah's legendary powder starting in November. The average annual snowfall reaches 560 inches, plus the resort has snowmaking capabilities for extra assurance. Sold yet? We are.
Grand Targhee (Wyoming, USA)
Projected Opening: November 22
Unlike most other ski resorts, this laidback Wyoming mountain doesn't need to make its early season snow. Located on the snowy western side of the Tetons, it gets a good layer of light, natural powder snow beginning in November. What's more, the lack of lift lines and acres of ski-wherever-you-want terrain will make you love this locals-only winter wonderland. Don’t miss out on Peaked Mountain’s 2,180 foot vertical drop and 602 pristine acres that are reserved exclusively for snowcat adventures.