For Skiers and snowboarders in the Wasatch Mountains, the snow brought by last week’s storms was but an amuse bouche. Though many got in a few backcountry runs, it was just enough to whet their appetites.
Their central Utah brethren, meanwhile, are about to be delivered the main course.
On Monday, Brian Head Resort, located near Cedar City announced it would be opening for the season this Friday. The Nov. 4 date is believed to be the earliest opener in Brian Head history and the among the top five earliest ever for the state.
Park City Resort opened on Oct. 26 for the 1996-97 season, long before its 2015 merged with The Canyons to become Park City Mountain Resort. According to a Deseret News article, that was the second-earliest opener in the ski area’s history. Meanwhile, Brighton Resort, which usually claims the state’s bragging rights as the first to open, opened the 2004-05 season on Oct. 29. It opened Nov. 4 for the 2009 season.
Brian Head’s previous earliest opener, according to general manager Marilyn Butler, who said she looked back through 22 years of data, was Nov. 10. That was during the 2000-01 season.
“We usually pride ourselves on getting open by Thanksgiving,” Butler said, “and this year we were fortunate to open Nov. 4.”
Only three North American ski areas are currently open, all of them in Colorado: Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park and Keystone.
The early opening stands in stark contrast to last season, when most Utah resorts had to push back their openers at least a week because of warm temperatures and lack of natural snow
Butler said the resort received 17 inches of snow from last week’s storm, which also blanketed the Wasatch Mountains. Another 23 inches is expected to fall at the resort — which has the state’s highest base elevation at 9,600 feet — between Wednesday and Friday, Butler said. That combined with snowmaking efforts have resort operators confident there will be enough coverage to allow at least one lift to get up and running.
Brian Head will run its Navajo Express, a high-speed detachable quad, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday both this weekend and next. More lift carriers have been added to that lift this season, Butler said, noting it should get people to the top of the mountain faster.
Daily operations will begin Nov. 18, Butler said. That’s the day Brian Head originally pegged as its opening date. Park City Mountain Resort, Solitude and Alta also have announced plans to open that day.
Or at least that’s when lifts are scheduled to start turning. The last two weekends, backcountry skiers and splitboarders eager for winter to get underway have formed a conga line skinning up to the top of Alta, which received 25 inches in the latest storm.
Update: Nov. 1, 11:50 a.m. >> This article has been updated to note that Park City Resort opened its ski season in October at least twice, including on Oct. 26, 1996.