|SNOW-BLINDED BY THE LIGHT: Sun setting on the first days of this year's ski season (PhotoDisc.)|
If youre the type to cast your eye to the skis the moment the leaves start to change, yearning for the first signs of falling snow, you know the value of a pre-season ski trip. It means sharing a mountain with a handful of equally-inspired locals (and pretty much no one else), carving out first bragging rights, and banking some serious savings as the season gets into gear.
For those of you without easy vehicular access to the nearest snow-covered mountain, however, arranging the perfect pre-season trip can be a dodgy, book-and-pray, fingers-crossed affair. To aid in your efforts, weve honed in on some of North Americas best pre-season ski resorts, package deals, and opening-day festivals, where altitude is high, lift tickets are cheap, slopes are crowd-free, and ample snowmaking facilities assure that as the mercury drops, youll find a downy-white, mid-November fall line.
Snowbird Ski Resort, Utah
For once, market-speak hyperbole is accurate: The "greatest snow on earth" really does fall in Utah, and Snowbird is the best pre-season place to get drunk on all that Champaign powder. Located in snow-abundant Little Cottonwood Canyon, this resort is only a 35-minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport, making it convenient for a quick weekend escape from virtually anywhere. In addition to enjoying typically great early-season conditions, visitors can also take advantage of a lodging deal, which includes chair-only lift tickets (read: no tram) for each day. Thanks to the addition of the Peruvian Express chair and Peruvian Tunnel last season, local skiers and riders have found it unnecessary to ride the tram, making the chair-only pass a hassle-free bargain.
The Early Bird Stay-and-Ski package is valid November 16 through December 20, affording diehards an inexpensive way to ski for the entire first month of the season. Rates start at $119 per person, per day, based on double occupancy for a north studio at The Inn. Rates at the Lodge at Snowbird start at $129 per person, per day, based on double occupancy for a standard bedroom. Rates at the Cliff Lodge and Spa start at $149 per person, per day, based on double occupancy for a canyon-view bedroom. A three-day minimum stay is required. (www.snowbird.com; 800.232.9541)
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication