Early ski season off to strong start

There’s good news to report from the Land of Skiing and Snowboarding: Conditions are steadily improving with more ski areas planning to open this weekend.

And there’s a good chance (I’m keeping my fingers crossed) that Thanksgiving weekend could bring some of the best skiing and snowboarding  in years.

Cold temperatures will return tonight, allowing northern New England areas to fire up their snow guns to expand terrain and open up more trails. How cold? Check out this great National Weather Service site for mountain forecasts in Vermont and New York. This is a site to bookmark and visit all winter long.

Keep in mind these early season conditions are not for beginners. Most trails open are on upper mountain/expert and intermediate terrain. Few have top-to-bottom runs open and sometimes, trails aren’t even groomed.

What’s important about these early season openings is getting you ready for the season. It’s time to have your equipment checked and tuned, get your gear together and prepare for those great times on the slopes.  It’s the ideal time to PLAN ski trips this winter. You can not only lock in good prices, but often get the kind of lodging you want at a particular resort. It’s even more important for prime vacation times like Christmas/New Years or February school vacation week.

Here’s a great link to an early season checklist from SnowSports Industry America that can help you get ready.

In her blog, Kelly Pawlak, Mount Snow’s GM, gives good insight on how a ski area makes a decision to make snow and open for the season.

In Vermont, both Killington and Okemo are now open.

Okemo posted this photo on its Facebook page showing how things looked Sunday at the Vermont resort.

In today’s report, Killington noted: “Skiing and riding will be on advanced terrain on 15 trails that ski like seven runs. Skiers and riders will be making turns from the top of the Killington Peak to the base of the North Ridge Triple. If expert skiers and riders would like to continue down the mountain from the North Ridge area, they can follow Middle Great Northern, Middle Chute and Lower Bunny Buster to return to the K-1 Lodge, but some walking will be required. Please note there is no beginner terrain available at this time.”

Over at Okemo, there’s five trails open including Buckhorn, Countdown, Drop Off, Turkey Shoot, and Upper World Cup. Look for that number to grow later in the week.

In the early season, it’s wise to study the snow conditions report before heading to a resort. Carefully, read the report and check the map. And don’t be fooled by trail counts. Often ski resorts can count one top-to-bottom as three different trails through upper, middle and lower designations. Make sure you know how much a lift ticket costs.

Stowe (which opened Saturday for season pass holders) will open for everyone on Saturday. Sugarbush is shooting for a Saturday opening.

In New Hampshire, Waterville Valley and Loon Mountain plan to have its lifts turning Saturday.

Jiminy Peak in northwestern Massachusetts opened its season last weekend. The resort had 25 percent of ticket proceeds donated to relief efforts of the American Red Cross for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Jiminy will reopen later this week.

Closer to home, Mohawk Mountain has a targeted opening date of Nov. 23 … the day after Thanksgiving.

Ski Sundown in New Hartford tweeted today: “shooting for thanksgiving weekend . Think cold.”

Indeed! That’s exactly what we need.

Jim Shay