Each year, there’s an unofficial race to see which ski resort will be the first one in the United States to start turning its lifts up and down the mountain.
Wolf Creek Ski Area, Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area are often in the running to be the first to get those chairs heading up the slopes. Location, weather and snow-making capabilities are often what dictates who can pull it off the fastest.
While the race is concluding a little later than it has in some recent years, we now have our winner for the first ski resort to open for the 2023-2024 ski season.
The technical winner is Ski Ward Ski Area — a 220-foot vertical ski resort less than an hour outside of Boston in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. However, this one-day opening on Oct. 22 didn’t give skiers and riders the real mountain feel as it included just a short (and narrow) run with 100% man-made snow.
So we’ll also include the first larger resort opening with chairlift service: Arapahoe Basin, also known as A-Basin, in Colorado. With the first turns taking place Sunday, ski season is officially here.
However, if you are prepping for your first ski trip, you may want to wait a little longer as the early season is not a beginner-friendly time to ski, with generally very limited terrain available. On A-Basin’s opening day, despite a foot of fresh powder, only the Black Mountain Express lift and the High Noon run were operating.
Fortunately, many other resorts out west also saw over a foot of snow over the weekend, which will significantly help these mountains continue to build their base and move toward opening day.
As of now, there are a few projected opening dates over the next week, but nothing official. With the combination of some natural snow and snow-making in full effect, there’s a good chance we will see lifts turning at Keystone, Winter Park Resort, Wolf Creek and Loveland Ski Area in the near future. And when Keystone opens, it usually opens with the over-3-mile, beginner-friendly Schoolmarm run in play. You’ll want to pay attention to the social media pages for these and other resorts to get a real-time feed of the first tracks of the season.
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On the East Coast, you’ll have to wait a few more weeks before ski resorts are really open. Some are looking to open mid-November — such as Killington Resort, Sunday River Resort, Sugarloaf and Mount Snow — while others won’t be open until December. And similar to what we saw with A-Basin, terrain will likely be extremely limited at first.
For those that are able to get an early start on the season, make sure to lock in your season pass now.
Some passes will go off sale shortly, and daypasses can cost between $100 and $200 per day — or more. The Epic Pass will give you a head start at Keystone, Vail, Breckenridge and Heavenly; the Ikon Pass will come in handy at Winter Park Resort, Brighton, Mammoth and A-Basin. The Mountain Collective will also snag you two days at A-Basin, among many other ski resorts.
And if you’re planning a family ski trip, it’s also not too late to get some discounted ski days if you have a child between third and sixth grade.
Through many “ski passport” programs, you can get a limited number of ski days at participating mountains within the respective state. This includes programs in Colorado (third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade), Utah (fourth, fifth and sixth grade), Idaho (fifth and sixth grade), the Northwest Rockies (fifth grade), Minnesota (fourth grade), New York (third and fourth grade), Vermont (fifth grade) and New Hampshire (fourth and fifth grade). For most passport passes, residency within the specific state is not needed, so kids throughout the U.S. can ski at a significant discount.
With the ski season starting, you’ll want to dust off your skis or boards and make a game plan for the winter. With all the ways you can use your points and book that ski-friendly hotel, you can be on the mountain in no time.
And as long as the Old Farmer’s Almanac is correct, a snowy winter should be here in no time. Our fingers are crossed for a great upcoming ski season and that many more resorts see opening day sooner rather than later.