For many of us, summer is but a lingering memory of warm temperatures and cool dips in the lake or ocean. While autumn brings gorgeous weather, changing leaves, and pumpkin-spiced everything, the thought of actual snow and icy temperatures is still well down the road for most of us. But now is the perfect time to plan for an early season ski trip. Most resorts will be open by the time the Christmas break rolls around (some as early as Thanksgiving). If you’re planning an early winter ski trip, check out this list of resorts with the best early season snowfall and conditions.
The Alta Ski Area in northern Utah is an excellent choice for skiers all winter, but it’s especially good early on in the season. That’s because it gets a lot of early snowfall, and most of the resort’s slopes are open by Christmas day thanks to its location in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It’s not uncommon to find several feet of fresh powder on the first day of the kiddos’ holiday break. If you’re looking for a sure-thing in terms of skiable resorts early on in the season, Alta is your best bet.
This resort in northwestern Colorado is just about as good as Alta. It gets about the same amount of early season snow coverage thanks to its position up on the state’s high plateau. It essentially sucks up every winter storm that comes through the area, dumping fresh powder on the mountains at pretty regular intervals. Plus, the snow that falls here generally stays put, unlike the steeper slopes at Jackson Hole and Snowbird.
We know—we just said that Jackson Hole doesn’t hold snow the way Steamboat does, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent early winter destination. While you may not see as much of the terrain open as our first two picks, Jackson Hole does average about 82% of its slopes being ready to go by Christmas day. That’s because the terrain here is much steeper than Alta and Steamboat, so heavy snowfall tends to slough off more regularly. But if you’re into riding more extreme slopes that’s likely what you’re looking for, making this a top pick for early season black diamond skiing.
Big Sky, Montana is another great option for early season skiing, thanks to its higher latitude. The sun stays lower and the nights are very cold, meaning any snowfall is likely to stick around for a long time. If you’re looking for that perfect “white Christmas,” with a little skiing thrown in, Big Sky is an excellent choice.
Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler gets a lot of cold, Pacific Ocean-driven storms early in the season, so almost 90% of it’s ski terrain is open come Christmas day. Plus, there are a ton of lodging options available, meaning that this could be one of the more affordable trips on the list, especially if it’s a last-minute booking.