Early-Season Considerations for Eastern Skiers

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With natural snowfall in the 200-inch range and high rain incidence in November, Eastern ski areas are less likely to reach full operation of terrain as the areas in the top 18. However, we should not overlook the impact of snowmaking, which covers about three fourths of eastern trail mileage. A few areas have a trail or two open in October for marketing visibility, and there can be a meaningful variety of terrain for all abilities open by mid November at areas with the highest-capacity snowmaking systems.

Killington and Sunday River are the traditional early season snowmaking leaders, closely followed by Okemo and Hunter Mountain. If there is natural snow in New England, Jay Peak and Smugglers' Notch will usually have the most. Stowe and Sugarbush have above-average natural snowfall with substantial snowmaking support. A more remote natural snow pocket is Le Massif in Quebec, which overlooks the unfrozen part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Eastern skiers must assess the tradeoff between the certainty of limited skiing close to home versus the good -- but by no means certain -- chance of full operation at a Western resort. Skiers with limited resources should utilize the Eastern snowmaking frequently in November and December, and rarely take a more expensive trip west before New Year's.

Click on the related links below (and above right) for more of the Early-Season Ski Vacation Planner.