From British Columbia to Arizona – and most everywhere in between – you can hear the yips and yelps as the 2015-2016 western skiing and snowboarding season begins with a bang.
"It's great to have some good news to report," Mountain High's John McCauley told SnoCountry.com. "We just got back from the trade shows, and they were the busiest they've been in years." Mountain High sits above Los Angeles, Calif.
Nearly 20 resorts have already turned on their lifts, many ahead of their scheduled opening date and with double-digit bases. A slew of openings are set soon in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and more as the holiday season approaches.
Another significant storm system of the season has already begun to roll across the southern tier of the Sierra and Rockies this week, promising more than a foot in New Mexico's Taos Ski Valley and Colorado's Wolf Creek. Already building natural snow base ahead of opening day are mid-Colorado favorites Aspen, Snowmass and Winter Park. Sipapu is once again the first in New Mexico to open.
“It’s exciting to see the storms rolling in over these past few weeks and we are looking forward to the season,” Homewood’s Lisa Nigon told us.
Memories of bare ground and early closings fade quickly in California and the Northwest when actual powder days can be proclaimed at such an early date. Early storms coursed over the Cascades and Sierra, and you could almost hear the collective exhale as West Coast skiers and riders may be able to put the last four years of sub-par snowfall out of their minds.
“Having the highest base area elevation in Tahoe has definitely been beneficial over the past week for those who have been itching to get back on their skis or snowboards,” Mt. Rose’s Mike Pierce said.
Facebook pages, blogs and Twitter abound with photos of freshies, wide smiles, and reports of a great opening days. Skiers and riders are furiously clicking on mountain Webcams to be assured that snow does, in fact, still fall from the sky and El Niño is truly a reality.
“Can you smell it? Winter is just around the corner,” crowed the Heavenly blog.
“These early openings would be a big deal in any season, but given the challenges of the last few years, this early season snow and surprise openings have special meaning up here,” Liesl Kenney of Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows told us. “The turnout for opening day surprised us all, and people stayed to rip well into the afternoon. The vibe is pretty unreal—experiencing this much natural snow, plus the low temperatures for great snowmaking, feels like a big reward for sticking with it through some pretty lean snow years.”
Many Utah and Idaho resorts are set to open as Thanksgiving approaches, beginning with Brighton Thursday (11/18) – a tad earlier than expected.
The Pacific Ocean phenomenon known as El Niño has already converted a whole bunch of believers by delivering moisture-laden storms to the mountains of the West. NOAA has tabbed this season’s El Niño as the strongest in 18 years.
“My main takeaway from these forecasts is to expect more precipitation in the south and less in the interior of the North American Rockies and into the Northwest,” said OpenSnow.com’s Joel Gratz. “That generalization is useful because it would point you toward Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico as the US regions that will most likely see above-average precipitation.”
Photos: Top -- Squaw Valley rolls out the white carpet for the season (Squaw Valley/Facebook); Right -- Wolf Creek welcomes another fresh storm (Wolf Creek/Facebook); Below -- Winter Park base is getting taller by the minute (Winter Park/Facebook)