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Friday, November 16, 2012
Utah ski areas open for the season

Pro skier Rachael Burks (far right) got first chair at Snowbird on Thursday.

When a Lake Effect storm unloads on Utah's Wasatch Range, it has a way of quickly erasing the hesitations of a long dry spell. Take, for instance, a 50-inch storm that pounded Utah last weekend, enabling Snowbird to bump up their opening day to Thursday, Nov. 15 from the original opening weekend plan.

To celebrate the start of a new season, a crew of skiers and riders, including pros Rachael Burks, Dash Longe, Todd Ligare, Shannan Yates, Eric Fabbri and Ryan Hudson, gathered at Snowbird on Wednesday night for a slopeside slumber party in a yurt at the base of Gadzoom lift.

Pulls of whiskey and a small, gas-powered fire packed just enough heat to warm fingers and toast marshmallows. "Patience is a virtue," said Fabbri over a mouthful of s'mores.

Marcus Caston on opening day at Snowbird.

After a frigid night of sleep, the crew woke to a few passholders filling in the lift line as early as 7 a.m. Except for Burks, who slept under the chairlift to guarantee first chair, we waited our turn for 10th chair status.

Up top, trails opened to a blend of high-speed groomers and soft powder turns. "There's some fun pockets of pow right now," said Ligare, who noted that it will still take a few more storms to fill in Snowbird's bigger lines. "It's good to ski with a light touch. It really helps down the road."

Elsewhere in Utah, Alta, Solitude, Brighton, and Brian Head are also open for the winter season.

Around the country, resorts are opening earlier than planned thanks to November storms. In Colorado, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and Keystone are all open, and Vail, Winter Park, and Wolf Creek open on Friday. In California, Mammoth opened last weekend and Squaw Valley and Kirkwood open for the season on Friday, days ahead of their planned opening day. On the East Coast, Vermont's Killington and Okemo and New Hampshire's Bretton Woods are currently open, among others.