If you can’t wait for North America’s ski season to start, you’ll want to read this! Not all snowy regions are created equal and some ski resorts open earlier and have better early season conditions thanks to strong October and November storm tracks, higher elevations and superior snow-making systems.

Related: NOAA Long Term Winter Forecast 20-21 | 55% Chance of La Nina

Of course there’s no way to forecast where the most snow will fall, but if you book your early season ski trip at one of these five North American resorts, odds are you’ll find great coverage and possibly some powder!

Where is the best skiing in December?

1) Keystone, Colorado

This Rockies resort typically competes with Arapahoe Basin and Loveland to be the first to open in Colorado each October. Although it’s currently projected to open 11/6/2020, Keystone usually try to move up their opening date, weather permitting. Keystone also benefits from state of the art snow making, playful terrain parks, and a lively base-village, which typically host plenty of early season entertainment.

Keystone's opening day, Keystone opening day 2020, Keystone opening day 2014, Keystone early season, Keystone El Nino
Keystone’s opening day last season was a snowy affair. pc: Vail Resorts/Keystone

Where to stay: Located in the middle of Keystone’s base village and less than 250 yards from the lifts, River Run Condominiums place skiers and snowboarders in the middle of all the Keystone early season action.

2) Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff, Alberta

Located high in the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise is an early season storm magnet. Plus, their mountain operations team knows how to prep the slopes to perfection as they usually host World Cup races in late November/early December. Both Banff and Lake Louise are relatively quiet early in the season and there is often plenty of room of the slopes to spread out and get your first turns of the year in.

Lake Louise opening 2020, Lake Louise early season, Lake Louise World Cup 2014, Lake Louise La Nina
Lake Louise has prime conditions early than most thanks to World Cup alpine racing events and a snow-friendly climate. pc: Lake Louise Ski Resort

Where to stay: The 4.5-star Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is an iconic symbol of the Lake Louise area, and provides guests with an incredible experience including world-class onsite dining, a luxury spa and an Adventure Concierge to plan all of your excursions.

3) Mammoth Mountain, California

With the highest summit elevation in California, Mammoth Mountain is often the first ski resort in the Sierra to open to the public. During normal snow years, Mammoth is a reliable bet for great early-season ski trips, and if the lingering affects of El Niño continue, Mammoth can reap the rewards in feet, not inches.

Mammoth early season, Mammoth El Nino, Mammoth opening dates
With the possibility of an El Nino winter still likely, Mammoth’s early season conditions should be prime. pc: Mammoth Mountain

Where to stay: The ski in ski out Juniper Springs Resort was recently named Conde Nast Travelers top 50 ski resort properties and offers guests relaxing amenities like an outdoor hot tub and swimming pool.

4) Alta, Utah

When storms barrel down Little Cottonwood Canyon, they settle over Alta and stay a while, dumping their powdery payload on these mythical slopes. Recent ski seasons have started with deep bases, so if this year mimics the last few, skiers will be finding fresh tracks well in advance of the resort’s November opening. Alta is currently projected to open 11/25/20.

Alta opening 2020, Alta opening day 20/21 Alta early season
A classic skier’s lodge, Alta’s Peruvian is the perfect place to kick off the season and really get into the skiing mood.

Where to stay: Located at the base of the resort, the Peruvian Lodge provides simple, comfortable and an inviting atmosphere.

5) Sunday River, Maine

Savvy East Coast skiers know about Sunday River’s legendary snow-making and they’ll be schussing Locke Mountain’s pristine corduroy starting sometimes as early as the beginning of November. Look to Sunday River for easy access from Boston, MA and Portland, ME.

Sunday River early season, Sunday River opening dates, Sunday River El Nino
It was looking quite soft at Sunday River on Nov. 20, 2013. pc: Sunday River

Where to stay: The slopeside Grand Summit Resort is perfect for Sunday River vacationers looking for convenience, amenities—like a pool, outdoor hot and spa—and reasonably priced rates.

We tapped Mountain Travel Expert Monique Iannuzzi to provide some early-season vacation tips.

Monique Iannuzzi

Mountain Travel Expert Since 2010

800-610-8911 x3046

“Keystone typically has great early season snow. If the storms don’t come all at once, the resort has fantastic snowmaking and grooming.”


Are you eager to get on the slopes for the 2020 ski season? Get a free quote today and be matched with one of Ski.com’s 65+ Mountain Travel Experts. Nobody understands why you crave time in the mountains more than we do and nobody knows how to guide you there better.