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Sunday, November 11, 2012
Mammoth opens to powder conditions

Parties and powder. Resort openings don't get much better than that.

An early season storm hit California's mountains last week, greeting revelers headed to Mammoth Mountain for the resort's opening weekend with 12-24 inches of fresh snow.

Among those happy skiers and snowboarders were locals Chris Benchetler and Greg Bretz, both of whom snuck off to get some early season schwacks in when not getting loose in the Unbound Main Park.

To the north, the same storm dumped similar amounts at the resorts around Lake Tahoe. Boreal opened Saturday with a reported 16-22 inches of new snow. Meanwhile, nearby Squaw Valley received two feet at 8,200 feet, priming their stellar terrain for what should be an exceptional opener right before Thanksgiving on Nov. 21.

In Colorado, the storm blanketed the unique, expert-only Silverton Mountain with enough snow to turn on its single lift on Saturday, providing a select few skiers and snowboarders some early season pow turns, even though the resort won't officially open until Dec. 1.

While Keystone and Loveland were the first to open in the country in mid-October, with the traditional toothpaste strips of white, Colorado's snow season will be in full swing as most resorts prepare to open before Thanksgiving. All open resorts (Keystone, Loveland, A-Basin, Copper and Breckenridge) are reporting 18-inch bases and two to five open lifts.

On the East Coast, the snow that swept in and buried the Appalachian mountains, giving some resorts in North Carolina and West Virginia their earliest openings ever, didn't quite make it as far north as Maine and Vermont. Temperatures have been cold enough to blow snow, though. Killington and Okemo are open with reported 24-inch bases, and many resorts in the Northeast are preparing to be ready for business by Thanksgiving weekend.

Consistent early snowfall in the West could be indicative of a deep season coming for California resorts. Consider 2010 when Kirkwood Mountain, south of Lake Tahoe, received 125 inches before Thanksgiving in a season that ended with an amazing 748 inches in the final tally. With weather experts forecasting a wild, El Niņo winter, which traditionally means deep snow in the Sierra, let's keep our fingers crossed.