The 2011-12 ski season started a few weeks ago, but for some locals, Thanksgiving weekend marked the first day on the slopes.
Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton as well as Park City Mountain Resort were the first to open, welcoming skiers and snowboarders to head up, enjoy the outdoors and make some turns.
“It’s early season conditions and not everything’s open but it’s just good to be back up on the mountain. The snow conditions were a lot better than I thought they’d be,” said Sue Anderson, a local skier.
Terrain parks at Brighton, including Majestic and My-O-My, are open and crews are changing up features regularly. Snowbasin is also ahead of the game and boasts nearly a dozen features ready to ride.
The Canyons, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin opened throughout the weekend and Deer Valley will open December 3, followed by Sundance on December 9.
The long holiday weekend began with snow depths at each resort totaling between 24 and 30 inches. Black Friday was windy and gray but the resorts had good turnouts.
Cold temperatures have helped with the season opening, as many of the resorts have been able to make a lot of snow for their groomed runs.
Snowbird received more snow Friday and opened the tram for the first time this season with expert-only runs available.
“This is a family tradition and a way that we can all come out and do something together during the holiday,” local skier Eric Jordan said.
The economy is tough and disposable income is often tight with the holidays around the corner. However, all the resorts offer discounts for locals, multi-day purchases and season passes or coupon books. Some resorts even give students a break on pricing if they are enrolled full time.
Alta offers discount season passes for college students and their spouses for $599 each, down from the regular seasons pass price of $1099.
Deer Valley offers a 10-coupon book that can be shared by two locals with proof of Utah residency. The coupons for adults brings the day rate to ski Deer Valley’s perfectly groomed runs down to $54 a day.
College students can take advantage of Park City Mountain Resort’s offers of reduced pricing on season passes that can be combined with options to add parking and night skiing.
Snowbird gives college students a season pass deal of $699 for tram and chairs and $569 for chairs only. Students must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours to qualify.
If rental gear is an issue, there are plenty of places on the mountain and throughout the valley to rent boards and skis from. All the resorts offer rentals and make it an easy one-stop outing which allows skiers and boarders to avoid hauling equipment up and down the canyons.
Looking for deals at rental shops in the valley can save money. Many allow lift tickets to be purchased at the same rates or mild discounts to save time standing in line at the mountain.
With various resorts offering open boundaries or gated areas to the backcountry, each year more and more people venture out to the side-country. This refers to lift access skiing combined with backcountry travel. The activity requires special training and gear in order to be safer. Anyone can purchase or rent the equipment but learning how to use and be proficient as well as good knowledge in snow science and travel is essential.
The Utah Avalanche Center (utahavalanchecenter.org) reports daily on backcountry conditions and helps educate people. They offer many free awareness talks and clinics as well as certifications.
Before heading up to the slopes, check out skiutah.com and utahavalanchecenter.org for snow reports, openings, closings and current conditions for the Utah area.