Deer Valley Resort moves up opening day of ski season for first time in decades

Alta, Snowbasin, Snowbird and Woodward Park City firing up lifts Friday; Powder Mountain announces opening date

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People hit the slopes at Deer Valley on Friday, Dec. 12, 2019. Deer Valley plans to open earlier than scheduled this season, just the second time in the resort's 41-year history that it has moved its opening date and started the ski season in November. It was set to open Dec. 4 but will now start lifts turning Nov. 29 for passholders and Nov. 30 for the general public.

The snow in Utah is so good right now, even Deer Valley Resort had to get in on the action.

Only once in its 41-year history has the posh Park City ski area opened early. Typically, it stays on schedule, preferring to give its customers a highly trained staff and meticulously groomed runs rather than risk those to enter the race to be the first Utah resort to open.

This year, though, Deer Valley is breaking with tradition. After receiving nearly 60 inches of snow in the last three weeks, it announced Wednesday that it plans to open Nov. 29 — almost a week ahead of its projected opening date of Dec. 3.

“VERY rare,” was how resort spokesperson Emily Summers referred to the opening in an email to the Tribune.

“We’ve never been the resort to enter the ‘race’ to be the first to open,” she said. “We always base our opening on being able to provide a quality on-mountain experience that lives up to our reputation for great snow conditions due to our grooming and snowmaking capabilities.”

But if all those things are in place, why not throw open the gates?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The afternoon sun backlights the snow and ice as skiers and snowboarders enjoy opening day at Solitude Mountain Resort on Thursday Nov. 10, 2022.

While Deer Valley has been working with its staff for a couple of weeks now, it’s Mother Nature that has done most of the heavy lifting. As of last week, Utah is at 433% of its snowpack for this time of year, according to Ski Utah President and CEO Nathan Rafferty. Plus, temperatures have been low enough and winds calm enough to allow for snowmaking.

“We are off to a fantastic start to the ski season,” Rafferty said. “We couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

Deer Valley still won’t win the race to open first. That honor went to Utah’s southernmost resort, Brian Head Resort, which began its operations Nov. 4. That ranks among the top five earliest ski season openers in state history.

Brighton and Solitude followed suit last week, with Solitude opening a week ahead of schedule. And Park City Mountain joined in the mix Wednesday, two days before the date it pegged to begin the 2022-23 season.

This will be an exciting weekend for skiers and snowboarders across the state with four resorts opening Friday: Alta, Snowbasin, Snowbird and Woodward Park City.

Woodward made its announcement Tuesday, noting it would have seven tubing lanes and a surface-lift-serviced jib park available. Night skiing will begin Saturday at the Parleys Summit snow park.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers revel in a little bit of Alta history as they ride the Albion two-person ski lift on its final day of operation on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Installed in 1962, the lift will be torn down in addition to the Sunnyside lift that services the same area to make room for a new six-person high-speed lift next season.

Snowbasin will be celebrating the earliest start to the season in its 80-year-plus history. It will have Needles Gondola, Middle Bowl Express, Littlecat Express and its Wildcat tow lift running.

Snowbird, which boasts a 67-inch base, will allow skiing and riding in Gad Valley and Peruvian Gulch.

Almost all the offerings at Alta will be in intermediate and advanced terrain since installation of the new Sunnyside lift has been delayed by supply chain issues. It will have its Collins, Wildcat and Sugarloaf lifts turning Friday and expects to add Supreme to the mix Saturday.

Powder Mountain recently announced Dec. 8 as its opening date and nearby Nordic Valley is set for Dec. 9. Sundance is also slated to begin operations Dec. 9, though a spokesperson said that date might get moved forward. Eagle Mountain is eyeing Dec. 16. Meanwhile, two of the state’s smallest ski and snowboard mountains — Beaver Mountain and Cherry Peak — are all taking a wait-and-see approach. Both, however, anticipate being open by mid-December.

Summers said Deer Valley hadn’t opened in November in more than three decades. The only other time it opened early was within a few years of its 1981 construction.

“The start of ski season always brings a lot of energy and anticipation and it’s even better when Mother Nature delivers ideal conditions right away,” Deer Valley President and COO Todd Bennett said in a press release. “We are thrilled to have the snow for one of our earliest openings ever while still providing the exceptional on-mountain experience Deer Valley is known for.”

Deer Valley will only be open to resort season passholders on its first day of operation. Snowbasin also will only be open to passholders on Day 1, though that includes those with the Ikon Pass and Ikon Base Plus Pass. Every day after that, they will be open to the general public.

Correction: Nov. 22, 1:15 p.m. >> This article has been changed to reflect that the name of the Deer Valley spokesperson is Emily Summers.

2022-23 Utah Ski Season Opening Dates

Updated Nov. 17, 2022

Alta — OPEN

Beaver Mountain — TBD

Brian Head — OPEN

Brighton — OPEN

Cherry Peak — TBD

Deer Valley — Nov. 29

Eagle Point — Dec. 16

Nordic Valley — Dec. 9

Park City Mountain — OPEN

Powder Mountain — Dec. 8

Snowbasin — Nov. 18

Snowbird — Nov. 18

Solitude — OPEN

Sundance — Dec. 9

Woodward Park City — OPEN

— Julie Jag