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Whistler Blackcomb - ©Mitch Winton/Coast Mountain Photography

A young skier shoots out the gondola building doors in excitement for first run of the year at Whistler Blackcomb.

Copyright: Mitch Winton/Coast Mountain Photography

Join the Black Friday shopping frenzy, or head up skiing? For skiers and snowboarders, shopping shoots to the back burner when ski resort openings launch a Pavlovian response that makes skiers drool for first turns.

Last weekend, major ski resorts from British Columbia to Utah launched winter operations. While warm, wet weather delays the traditional Thanksgiving opening for a few resorts, others are primed to load first chairs over the long holiday weekend.

Ski resorts in Utah christened the winter season with powder. While Brighton Ski Resort turned on Utah’s first lift Nov. 18, by last weekend skiers and riders got deluged with snow—more than three feet in some locations. Alta Ski Area, Brian Head Resort, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, and Park City Mountain Resort flipped lifts into action.

“We had about 40 inches over the weekend that made for a good start,” Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, sums up opening weekend. “Snow coming that hard and fast makes it a little exciting.”

Canyons and Snowbasin Resorts will join the open ski areas this week. “It should be really good skiing over Thanksgiving weekend,” adds Rafferty.

Opening day at Whistler in November 2014. - ©Mitch Winton/Coast Mountain Photography

Opening day at Whistler in November 2014.

Copyright: Mitch Winton/Coast Mountain Photography

The Pacific Northwest saw several resorts launch operation this past weekend, including British Columbia’s Sun Peaks Resort and Whistler Blackcomb. At Sun Peaks, skiers are now lapping Sunburst Express and Elevation Chairlift on Mt. Tod. At Whistler, a plunge to below normal temperatures allowed snowmaking crews to blow more than 60 million gallons of water into snow. Mixed with natural snow, Whistler Mountain opened last weekend. Blackcomb Mountain opens Nov. 27 along with the PEAK-2-PEAK Gondola.

Loading the chair on opening day at Mt. Bachelor in Nov. 2014. - ©Mt. Bachelor Resort

Loading the chair on opening day at Mt. Bachelor in Nov. 2014.

Copyright: Mt. Bachelor Resort

In Oregon, Mt. Bachelor loaded skiers on Sunshine Accelerator for opening day last week. Pine Marten and Skyliner lifts will add to the schedule this week. “Conditions are good for this time of year,” says Tom Lomax, mountain manager for Bachelor. “There is nearly three feet of new snow on the upper mountain, and we’re looking forward to opening more lifts and terrain in time for the Thanksgiving weekend.”

Opening day at Northstar California Resort in Nov. 2014. - ©Northstar California Resort

Opening day at Northstar California Resort in Nov. 2014.

Copyright: Northstar California Resort

In California, skiers and riders have been flying down Mammoth Mountain since Nov. 13, while two Tahoe resorts launched the season this past weekend. Northstar California Resort opened with machine-made snow under sunny skies. “It was a beautiful day filled with excitement and smiling faces—a great indicator of things to come this season,” says Beth Howard, vice president and general manager for Northstar.

On the south end of Lake Tahoe, skiers and riders hit Heavenly Mountain Resort. “We had a delayed opening last year due to wind, so the calm winds and sunny skies this time around were welcome by all,” says Liesl Kenney, public relations coordinator for Heavenly.

In the Northern Rockies, Alberta resorts and Wyoming’s Grand Targhee are already running lifts. “Opening day was great, and conditions are only getting better,” says Jennie White, spokesperson for Grand Targhee. “Since opening day we have received another 18 inches of snow, and it looks like we have a good storm over us right now!” As of Nov. 25, Targhee has piled up 65-78” of snow.

Snow comes down at Jackson Hole. - ©Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Snow comes down at Jackson Hole.

Copyright: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Elsewhere in the Northern Rockies, three resorts prepare to open Thanksgiving Day.

Idaho’s Sun Valley is slated to open with more early-season terrain than in previous years. Skiers will have 14 runs to ride on Bald and Dollar Mountains, including top-to-bottom runs on Baldy.

Montana’s Big Sky Resort took advantage of a several-week snap of frigid temperatures to run snow guns round-the-clock. With a storm piling up natural snow currently, the resort may be able to fire up more than the scheduled Ramcharger and Explorer Chairlifts this weekend.

Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has already collected more than 70" of natural snow this season—and snowstorms this week are adding to the volume. On opening day, skiers will get 2,000 feet of vertical and by Saturday, 3,000 feet.

Time to join other Black Friday dropouts. Dig out the boards, and go skiing. 




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