This Utah ski resort is opening earlier than expected

Solitude becomes the latest to announce earlier-than-expected start while Brian Head officially gets the season rolling.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lined up for first chair, Alec Eyckeler, Alex Gilbreath, Charley Bradley and Henry Poppe, from left, are handed the opening banner at Solitude Mountain Resort as their winter season finally gets underway on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Solitude announced Friday that it would open the 2022-23 season earlier than expected: on Nov. 11, 2022.

As the snow continues to fall across Utah, so do resorts’ scheduled opening dates for the ski and snowboard season.

Solitude Mountain Resort became the first Wasatch Mountain resort to bump up its opener with Friday’s announcement its lifts would officially start turning next Friday, Nov. 11. Its slopes have received 45 inches of snow since mid-October, including an estimated 8-12 inches in the past couple of days.

“It’s so exciting being able to kick off the season early with the help of these storms,” Amber Broadaway, Solitude’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “All this natural snow, supplemented by our snowmaking efforts, is setting up a perfect base for us to enjoy all winter long as we strive for Utah’s longest ski season.

“Looking at the forecast, this continued snowfall will be vital as we open the mountain.”

It will be the Big Cottonwood Canyon ski and snowboard area’s earliest opening since 2013.

Solitude had been one of four resorts in the state to initially peg Nov. 18 as its start date. Another of those, Brian Head Resort near Cedar City, blew that estimation out of the water when it officially opened Utah’s ski season Friday.

The other two in that group are Alta Ski Area and Park City Mountain Resort.

Alta General Manager Mike Maughan said he doesn’t expect lifts to begin running early at the Little Cottonwood Canyon ski area. That hasn’t deterred skiers and splitboarders, though. He estimated about 100 backcountry travelers were on the mountain Thursday morning, enjoying the fresh snow via their own power.

PCMR is also staying on track for now. It received the biggest bounty from this week’s storm, accumulating 14 inches. It has received 41 inches total and also has seen cold enough temperatures to make snow. That stands in contrast to last season, when PCMR and other resorts had to push their opening dates back a week or more because of warm weather and a gap in snowfall.

“We are at the same point in snowmaking as we were on November 25 last year,” PCMR spokesperson Sara Huey said in an email. “So fully three weeks ahead! And one week ahead of where we were in 2020.”

With Solitude’s announcement, all eyes are on its Big Cottonwood neighbor, Brighton. Brighton typically strives to be the first Utah resort to open the season. Though that distinction belongs to Brian Head this year, it is expected that Brighton will still try to be the first among those in the Wasatch. It has received 37 inches of snow this fall, including a foot from this week’s storm.

Best of all for all the resorts, forecasts are calling for even more snow — a lot of it — this weekend and into next week.

The forecasting site OpenSnow.com predicts seven ski areas will receive at least two feet of snow in the next one to five days. That includes 28 inches at Beaver Mountain near the Utah-Idaho border, 29 inches in Park City, 31 at Solitude and 32 at Powder Mountain. Three resorts could top three feet of snow in that span: Brighton (36), Snowbird (39) and Alta (41).

The following week’s forecast is nearly as tantalizing. It calls for between 8-22 inches at most resorts.

“All the ingredients are there for a lot of potential snowfall,” OpenSnow Utah forecaster Evan Thayer said. He emphasized, “There’s uncertainty, but a lot of potential.”

“This will for sure allow Solitude to open early,” he said, “and hopefully we can get an on-time or early opening for other resorts as well.”