Two words: La Nina. It’s a weather pattern, which simply put, dumps a ton of snow on North America – particularly in the north west and northern California. Last year it led to record snowfalls in many resorts — Mammoth saw 16.8 metres — while Fernie in British Columbia racked up 11 metres. If La Nina is back this year, and the signs are pointing to just that with colder-than-normal temperatures and heavy precipitation, then it’s time to pick your resort.
Despite its relatively low altitude — the resort sits at 675 metres with the highest lift rising to 2,284 metres — Whistler, B.C., had a great season last year thanks to La Nina with 15.6 metres of snow falling.
Already the resort has seen remarkable snowfall with skiers riding the Blackcomb glacier as early as Oct. 6. Whistler is due to open on Nov. 24 and the resort is currently offering savings of up to 36 per cent on accommodation and lift pass packages if you book before Nov. 15. If it could get through the snow, that early bird could catch a great worm (whistlerblackcomb.com).
Keystone, Colo., will be throwing open its pistes on Nov. 4 with early-season skiers reaping the benefits of sophisticated snowmaking, sheltered tree runs and a superb snowpark without the crowds.
The resort shares the Epic pass with nearby Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Vail and A-Basin so good snow is not hard to find (www.keystone.com).
Grand Targhee, Wyo. saw 14.8 metres fall last season and its dry powder is the stuff of legends. The resort is so confident you will love it, it even offers a refund on your liftpass should your skiing be less than satisfactory (grandtarghee.com).
Alta, Utah has a base elevation of 2,600 metres, making skiing a definite possibility come Christmas, or before — it plans to open on Nov. 18 (alta.com).
If La Nina doesn’t materialize you need a resort with good snowmaking, like Northstar-at-Tahoe, Calif. (northstarattahoe.com). Not only has the resort increased its skiable terrain by 10 per cent this season, but 50 per cent of it is covered by snowmaking facilities, so powder turns are guaranteed.