Beta: Alta sits at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, a granite trap for some of the biggest storms on record. And this geological storm catcher is key: What little snow is made here lands on groomed runs and the resort is committed to opening only when there's enough terrain for experts and neophytes alike. At day's end, regardless of how many core shots their tele skis have suffered, the natives throw down their home-made caps and duct-taped shades for a brew at Goldminer's Daughter.
Opening Dates: In the past seven years, Alta has opened between November 10 and December 9, depending on the snowpack. Usually it's mid November.
Early-Season Snow: Alta typically opens with a 40-inch base, most of it natural. Only 50 of its 2,200 acres are covered by manmade, and the guns are holstered before Christmas.
Terrain: Start with a 2,000-foot thigh-burner down Alta's main groomers. Then brave the High Traverse (often hairball in November) to reach glades like Eagle's Nest, 1,200 vertical of hidden tree chutes, or High Rustler, 1,000 feet of bumps.
Biggest Early Season: By the third week of November 2001, the mountain was still bare. But it started snowing on Thanksgiving morning, and by Sunday Alta had racked up 100 inches. It took three days to complete avy control work.
Deals: Stay at the Peruvian Lodge, a sweaty Gore-Tex kind of place. Three nights' lodging, three days of lifts, and all meals cost $506 (per person, double occupancy; 800-453-8488, altaperuvian.com).
Plan B: Drive 30 minutes to Salt Lake's Nascart indoor speedway, where you can race serious go-karts on more than 2,000 feet of track at speeds over 40 miles per hour. It's $27 for a 40-lap race (nascart.net, 801-973-4735).
Nightlife: Nightlife? Here it's après-life (read: a pitcher of Superior Ale at Goldminer's Daughter). If you must go clubbing, drive 45 minutes to Salt Lake.
Info: alta.com, 801-359-1078