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Warm Temps and Lack of Snow Force Resorts to Delay Openings

An unusually warm month of November is forcing resorts across the West to push back their opening day. Here's what to expect.

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Temperatures in the low- to mid-30s overnight and over 45 degrees in the daytime are to blame for a delayed start to the ski season in Park City. Park City Mountain, which was scheduled to open this Friday, Nov. 19, announced it was pushing back its opening date. As of press time, Solitude Resort, also scheduled for Friday, is still planning to kick off the season.

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“While we’re as excited as ever to kick off the season, recent warm temps are delaying our opening day,” the resort posted on Facebook on November 12. “Our snowmakers are working hard around the clock and are making snow at every opportunity. We’re committed to providing the best early-season experience possible and will open with a high-quality snow surface as soon as conditions allow.”

Park City Powder
Park City in deeper times: powder off the Super Condor lift. Photo: Park City Resort

Park City Mountain has the lowest base altitude of all of the Utah resorts, at 6,800 feet. Alta Ski Area, 40 miles from Park City in Little Cottonwood Canyon, sits considerably higher at 8,528 feet. Alta is scheduled to open on Saturday, Nov. 20. The resort says that if temperatures this week allow for more snow to be made at the base, they will open as scheduled. Optimal snowmaking temperatures are around 28 degrees Fahrenheit at night, when most artificial snow is blown.

Interestingly, last month was among the snowiest Octobers on record according to OpenSnow.com, so opening delays are squarely the result of a warmer-than-anticipated November. Looking at OpenSnow’s forecast for the Utah resorts this week, there is some good news, with the coldest temperatures in recent weeks arriving tonight, offering good snowmaking opportunities across the state. There’s also a small storm predicted to hit Saturday into Sunday, which will likely be enough, combined with snowmaking, to get resort openings back on track.

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Similar to Utah, October was an unusually snowy month in California’s Sierra Nevadas, with Palisades Tahoe and Boreal both opening nearly a month ahead of schedule. It was Boreal’s earliest opening in the last 10 years. In the eastern Sierras, Mammoth Mountain also opened early, to the tune of two weeks, thanks to two feet of fresh snow in late October.

Since then, warm temperatures and little snowfall have derailed other resorts, with Heavenly Mountain and Northstar Resort both announcing delays to their scheduled November 19 openings. Neither resort has shared new opening dates yet.

“Our snowmaking efforts at Heavenly are up and running, but we also need a little bit of help with some cooler temps,” the resort posted to its Facebook page on Monday. Both ski areas are still opening up their villages and gondolas for sightseeing on Friday, however.

Mammoth Early Opening 2021
Mammoth opened two weeks ahead of schedule on October 27 thanks to a fall storm. Photo: Christian Pondella

Things are looking up for Tahoe, with a cold front coming in early this week with some precipitation moving in on Thursday and overnight temperatures in the 20s, which will allow the resorts to make that much-needed snow. Given that, we expect to hear updated opening dates for Heavenly and Northstar by early next week.

In Colorado, resorts had been opening on schedule until today’s announcements by Steamboat Resort and Telluride Ski Resort that they are both pushing back their respective Nov. 20 and Nov. 25 opening dates.

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“Due to recent and forecasted warm weather, the Ski Resort opening is delayed,” Telluride Ski Resort posted on Facebook. “The snowmaking team is taking advantage of every opportunity to make snow and the goal is to open as soon as possible.” The new targeted date is Dec. 3. Steamboat is aiming for Nov. 27.

Steamboat, which usually sees about 20 inches of snow by mid-November, has only recorded 8.4 inches. So, skiers: It’s time to turn those pajamas inside out, throw ice cubes in the toilet, run your cash through the car wash, summon Ullr, or do whatever it takes to get the white stuff flying. 

Check the resorts’ Facebook pages for the most updated opening day info.