With snow coming down in the mountains from California to Colorado, resorts are prepping to open for the season. Up to 10 inches fell in Utah's Wasatch Range Snowbird and Alta last night of new snow, parts of Wyoming got a half-foot, and the Colorado Rockies received a light dusting with one to two inches.
Typically, Colorado's Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin—two of the highest resorts in the country, both with base elevations approaching 11,000 feet—duke it out to see opens first, with Loveland winning 16 out of the past 22 years. Both resorts have already begun snowmaking operations this year.
"It's a fun race, says Leigh Hierholzer, director of marketing and sales for Arapahoe Basin. "If they win, it's awesome. If we win, great. When you're kicking off the Colorado ski season, everybody wins.
A-Basin has only had snowmaking for four year, but hopes to finally oust Loveland with the addition of two new snowmaking guns, bringing its total to 17. The A-Basin snowmaking crew will have their work cut out for them, however.
Loveland's secret to success is the 31 snowmaking guns and a snowmaking crew all the way from New Zealand.
"They're making snow year-round, Loveland marketing manager Kathryn Johnson says of the Kiwis. "They just got here this week after making snow all summer, so they don't need to be retrained. They just jump right into it.
Last year, Loveland edged out A-Basin by a week, opening on October 15.
Each mountain needs about an 18- to 20-inch base before opening. Temperature (no warmer than 28 degrees) and humidity (the lower, the better) play the biggest roles in making snow, and this week's forecast calls for sunny skies with overnight lows in the teens and twenties.
While they both plan on having at least one run open by the end of the month, don't expect any epic October days.
"People should be aware there'll only be one lift and one run, but I don't think that will really matter. After a long summer, people are craving it, Hierholzer says. "They're happy just to come out and get a couple of runs.