(Image: Heavenly ready to open this weekend, CREDIT Vail Resorts Inc)
Two of the three Californian ski resorts owned by Vail Resorts have announced plans to open nearly a week earlier than scheduled thanks to healthy snowfalls.
Heavenly and Northstar have announced the resorts will open six days early, kicking-off winter 2015-16 on Saturday, Nov. 14th.
They’ll join already open Californian ski areas that include Boreal, Mt Rose, Alpine Meadows , Mammoth and Mountain High. Squaw Valley also plans to open on the 14th. With at least eight areas open, California will have more ski resorts open than any other region or province.
There’s no word yet on Vail Resorts’ other California ski area, Kirkwood, although it is reported to have received nearly 50cm of snow in recent storms too. Resort officials have yet to determine if they will open Kirkwood prior to its planned Nov. 21 opening day.
Vail are crediting the much publicised El Niño effect for the early snow. Some forecasters expect this weather system to bring in a record breaking season in California, ending four years of drought and declining skier numbers.
“We’ve already received about three feet of snow overall this season which, combined with around-the-clock operation from the West Coast’s two largest snowmaking systems, has created a great early-season base and the best snow surface conditions at Lake Tahoe,” said Pete Sonntag, Tahoe region vice president and chief operating officer.
This is the earliest the resorts have opened since 2012, and the first time opening six days ahead of schedule since at least 2009.
Heavenly plans to operate the Gondola, Tamarack Express and Dipper Express, accessing Upper California Trail and Orion’s which, at over a mile long, will be the longest run available in the Tahoe basin. Northstar will open top-to-bottom, spinning the Big Springs Gondola, Vista Express, Arrow Express and Comstock Express accessing West Ridge, Luggi’s, Skid, Pinball, Lumberjack and Lower Main Street. Northstar will also operate a surface lift near the Big Easy Chair to offer children’s ski and snowboard lessons.
Elsewhere in North America there have been healthy snowfalls across the West of the country since the start of November. Particularly deeply buried have been Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Revelstoke in BC, receiving 1m – 1.5m respectively in the last week or so, but neither plans to open before the end of the month according to most recent reports.