Northern Utah’s persistent mild weather could complicate ski areas’ planning openers in the coming days, but Brighton Resort says it has blown enough snow to open Tuesday, thus claiming the prize of being the region’s first resort to welcome skiers onto its slopes this season.
Just below Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude Mountain Resort announced Monday it was delaying its opening from Nov. 23 to Nov. 29 — the day after Thanksgiving — aligning its planned opening with two of its more famous neighbors, Alta and Snowbird, in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
“Get your fill of turkey on Thanksgiving, and join us for a white Friday,” Solitude tweeted Monday. Nearly two months into the fall, Little and Big Cottonwood canyons are showing a lot of terrain that is not white despite enjoying snow-delivering storms in October.
Alta and Snowbird ski resorts are still reporting their openers for Nov. 29, although Alta attaches the caveat “conditions permitting.” Snow is in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.
In a flurry of news releases Monday afternoon, other Utah resorts were jockeying to win bragging rights for being first to open.
Brighton announced it would open Tuesday with two lower-mountain lifts, running more lifts as snow coverage improves.
“In spite of less-than-ideal preseason conditions, Brighton was able to make enough snow to provide adequate coverage around our base area, including Majestic and Explorer lifts,” said Jared Winkler, Brighton’s director of marketing.
Park City Mountain, meanwhile, is shooting to open Friday with a celebration at its Mountain Village starting at 9 a.m. with complimentary hot chocolate and doughnuts. Snowbasin opens Nov. 27 if conditions allow, while Deer Valley doesn’t open for skiing until Dec. 7.
By moving its ski opening back nearly a week, Solitude may be situated to make a better first impression this season should weather cooperate.
Ski areas require temperatures below 20 degrees to make their own snow, but highs in the Cottonwoods have spiked above freezing most days recently, making it difficult to blow enough snow to cover runs.
“Based on the current forecast, we expect that our new opening date will provide the best mountain experience for our guests," Solitude President Kim Mayhew said, “and we look forward to welcoming them to our snowy slopes later this month.”
While Solitude won’t be the first Utah resort to open for the 2019-20 ski season, it will make ski-industry history another way. Solitude will be the first to charge its guests for parking. The controversial move is part of the resort’s larger program to reduce vehicular traffic in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Vehicles carrying one or two skiers will be charged $20, but only $10 if there are three occupants and just $5 if there are four or more.
The aim is to encourage car pooling and transit ridership, not make money, according to Mayhew. Solitude skiers holding Ikon passes can ride the Utah Transit Authority canyon buses for free.
Other Utah openings are Dec. 6 for Sundance and Dec. 20 for Eagle Point, while the remaining ski areas have yet to set dates.