Skiers and snowboarders can get a jump start on the winter season with some early-bird options to the north or south.
Whistler Mountain Resort in British Columbia will open Saturday – 13 days earlier than expected – with five lifts shuttling passengers up the hill from the Whistler Village Gondola or Creekside Gondola from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“Early-season snowfall combined with our snowmaking team converting over 60 million gallons of water into snow the past few weeks, has allowed us to get things started early again this season,” Doug MacFarlane, a Whistler-Blackcomb Resort manager said in a news release.
As with any early opening, those hitting the hillsides should be aware or exposed rocks and other hazards, and stay on the marked trails.
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Other Whistler lifts in operation are Emerald Express, Big Red Express and the Franz Chairlift. All five lifts allow skiers and boarders to access about 1,800 feet of terrain. Runs opening include Ego Bowl, Upper Whiskey Jack, Upper Franz, Papoose, Orange Peel and Pony Trail.
Washington residents can take advantage of the early bird EDGE Card daily lift tickets, which are available online for $69 Canadian, and are valid until Nov. 25. Go to www.whistlerblackcomb.com/save.
Blackcomb Mountain Resort also plans to open their doors Nov. 28.
In Central British Columbia, the Big White Resort will open this weekend with the Plaza Quad Chair operating from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Lara’s Gondola shuttling passengers from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The village and alpine snow base is 19 inches with a total snow fall of 39 inches. Silver Star Resort plans to open Nov. 28.
In Oregon, Timberline Resort is open on weekends only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Locally, the advancing colder weather system Thursday through Saturday is expected to drop fresh snow throughout the Cascade region.
Forecasters are saying up to 21 inches or more is expected to fall at Mount Baker and 17 inches at Stevens Pass.
This comes on the heels of an early-October one-day operation at Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass resorts, but since then hopes melted away quickly as Washington hit a dry spell.
Last year, Stevens, Crystal and Mount Baker all had early openings a week before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Gwyn Howatt, the Mount Baker Ski Area operations manager hopes the heavy snow forecast this weekend could help open her area by Nov. 20 or sooner.
Stevens Pass has bookmarked an opening date of Nov. 22, and reported 9 inches at its base and 19 inches on top with a total season snowfall of 35 inches. Crystal Mountain Resort had a 2-inch base and 12 inches on top.
The Summit at Snoqualmie had rain or snow mixed Thursday, and expected that changing over to snow by Friday and Saturday with 10 to 18 inches of possible accumulation.
There are options elsewhere around the western United States.
In Colorado, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has four lifts in operation; Breckenridge has five lifts; Copper Mountain has four lifts; Keystone has five lifts; Winter Park has three lifts; Wolf Creek has six lifts; and Loveland has three lifts.
In California, Boreal Mountain Resort has one lift shuttling passengers up the hill; and Mammoth Mountain has two lifts.
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