This white stuff, you say it falls from the sky?
June 18, 2010 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Surprise vacation in early December: Is skiing even possible?

I want to plan a surprise family trip for my beloved's birthday in early December. He loved to ski when he was younger, but hasn't gone in years. I've never even seen a snow ski up close. (I'm a hothouse flower when it comes to winter. Do not care for the cold, but willing to bundle up and do my best none the less.)

It appear from cursory searches that early December may be too early for snow. Can anyone who knows anything at all about winter wonderlands clue me as to when it actually snows enough to enjoy snow sports, or which part of the country I should gaze towards for family friend early season ski resorts?
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
I know people who ski in October. So no, December is not too early.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:32 PM on June 18, 2010

roomthreeseventeen: "I know people who ski in October. So no, December is not too early."

Where are they skiing?
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2010

Most ski resorts will make snow, so even if nature has not cooperated skiing will be possible. Colorado, Utah, California (to name a few states) all have big ski resorts that do this. Do you have a preferred destination or any other constraints that would help narrow your search?
posted by handful of rain at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2010

You can ski in the Tahoe area in December, but it might be cutting it close.

The bigger question is WHERE do you want to ski? How far do you want to travel? Colorado? Nevada? Utah? Wyoming?

Once you figure out a general area, Google major ski resorts in that area, and then go to the individual resorts' webpages to find out when they open for the fall.

From personal experience, I believe Heavenly at Tahoe usually opens right before Thanksgiving, but in the past that's been pushed back when Mother Nature has not cooperated.
posted by devinemissk at 12:52 PM on June 18, 2010

One of my coworkers, who lives in Colorado, says is snowed a bit on Saturday. So, no, I don't think you'll have trouble finding snow in December!
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:57 PM on June 18, 2010

I'm solely an East Coast skier, so western places may be different. But my experience is that while there may be snow and some runs may be open, conditions get better as the season progresses. And their websites tend to make conditions sound better than they are ("2 lifts and 9 runs open!!!"), so you are taking some risks by booking early. If you can't move the date, make sure you do it somewhere that has a high probabilty of good coverage that early.
posted by Sukey Says at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2010

yes you can ski in colorado and new mexico in early december. Nearly all resorts will be open in some form or fashion. They may only be 20% open, but still open. Sometimes resorts even have discount weekends around then. HOwever, they have discounts because they may or may not have snow. If i were planning a ski vacation for early december, i would make sure i planned in an area where there are other things to do in case there are only a few runs open. You can still ski those few runs but find something else to do if you bore of what is open.

wolf creek in southern colorado gets lots of snow per year and many times before thanksgiving.
posted by domino at 1:23 PM on June 18, 2010

Most resorts in Canada are open before Christmas. But we have snow year round, eh!
posted by Premeditated Symmetry Breaking at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2010

For good early (or late, for that matter) season skiing, there are no guarantees. However, you would be best served picking a high altitude, relatively northerly resort to improve your chances of having something to ski on. For my money, I'd go to Salt Lake City, because you can get cheap but nice accomodations in Sandy and be 20 minutes from 4 different resorts in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, and an hour drive from Park City and Deer Valley. This way you have lots of options in case one resort has had a particularly good snowmaking season or if a storm hits better on one side of the mountains or the other.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:39 PM on June 18, 2010

Snow's tough in early december. I live in colorado and most resorts open in the middle of november, but that means there are only about 3 or 4 runs open, which is kind of miserable because everyone and their mother is really excited about skiing so lines/snow is awful.

I would suggest waiting until late season (usually february and beyond) if you can.
posted by TheBones at 1:50 PM on June 18, 2010

All resorts in colorado open sometime in November.
posted by TheBones at 1:50 PM on June 18, 2010

This should be no problem in most of the Pacific Northwest or Rocky Mountain regions.
Mt. Bachelor in central Oregon and Schweitzer in the Idaho panhandle are both good, and both well into their high seasons by early December.
I'd guess pretty much everything in Colorado/Wyoming/Montana/Utah will be, too, but I don't have personal experience there.
posted by willpie at 1:59 PM on June 18, 2010

I would recommend something in the higher altitude Colorado/Wyoming/Montana/Utah Rocky Mountains region.

My personal recommendations would be Park City/Deer Valley, Utah, and Big Sky, Montana.

I would not recommend anything in the Pacific Northwest, unless you want to know what it feels like to get rained on while skiing, or learn why some call the snow conditions "white mud".

Unfortunately, December skiing can vary, and it all depends on what the weather does during the Fall to build up what skiiers call a "base", which means the underlying base of snow. A good base built in the early season can make for great skiing later on. A poor base in the early season can have a negative effect later on.
posted by Fleebnork at 2:11 PM on June 18, 2010

Timberline in Oregon offers summer skiing on the glacier, so you'd be sure to have something, even if it might not be ideal.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:25 PM on June 18, 2010

In the past few years, the resorts in Tahoe have only been sporadically open in early December. Even when open, they're not a lot of fun - the man-made snow isn't particularly soft, and there are only a few runs open which become rapidly clogged with people (who should be on a different, closed run). I'd go somewhere else, especially for a surprise party.
posted by meowzilla at 2:31 PM on June 18, 2010

As Jacquilynne says, there's year-round skiing on the Palmer Glacier at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon. They even ski there in August and September.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:48 PM on June 18, 2010

So it sort of sounds as though the consensus is that I'd be better going later in the season; as snow that early is iffy, and when it does happen, the slopes are slammed.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:56 PM on June 18, 2010

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