First Turns: Keystone, CO
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Beta: Keystone has always had one of the most extensive snowmaking systems in the country, making it a perennial early opener. Traditionally, the half-dozen or so runs skiable in November are mellow and crammed on weekends. But this summer, the resort underwent a multimillion-dollar snowmaking upgrade, including the installation of state-of-the-art York snow guns. They can blow 33 percent more snow and cover terrain with a surface that’s closer to the real thing. Upshot: more top-to-bottom coverage on better snow in the early season.
Opening Dates: Last year it was November 8; this year, opening is slated for the 14th.
Early-Season Snow: Keystone averages five feet of early-season snow. Over the course of last year, it made snow on a whopping 956 acres-51 percent of the area’s total acreage. This year, with the new system, coverage is promised to be better all around.
Terrain: As always, the G-rated runs-Spring Dipper, Schoolmarm-around the base areas open first. This year, the steeper terrain of North Peak should open by early December.
Biggest Early Season: The big storms that hit Summit County early in the ’83 season are legendary. Keystone doesn’t have records for back then, but in November and December of that year, A-Basin, just six miles up the road from Keystone, got pummeled by 238 inches (nearly 20 feet).
Deals: Through November 25, a room at Keystone’s plush Soda Ridge Studio Condos and an adventure passport, good for activities like ice-skating, snowshoeing, and ski-tuning clinics, cost $47 (per person, double occupancy; keystoneresort.com).
Plan B: Perfect your slap shot at a hockey clinic, included with your passport.
Nightlife: Play Foos and swill Pabst at the Goat. Or hop the gondola to the Alpenglow Stube, on top of North Peak. It’s one of the highest (11,444 feet) and one of the best (according to Zagat’s) restaurants in Colorado.
Info: keystone.com, 877-625-1556