Last year’s early snows might have been historic in northwest Wyoming, but this year isn’t bad either.
Grand Targhee Resort opened more than a week ago with almost 2 feet of snow on its base. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opened Saturday with a similar amount.
While skiers in most of the rest of the state will need to wait at least a couple more weeks to start heading down the slopes, their chances of an above normal winter are, well, 50-50. More accurately, there’s a third a chance Wyoming will experience above normal snowfall, a third a chance it will be average and a third a chance it will be below normal, said Chris Jones, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton.
But skiers and snowboarders tend to be optimists, so you may as well plan on a snowy winter.
The western U.S. is predicted to be under a weak, El Nino system, Jones said, which typically brings drier conditions and warmer temperatures to the northern half of the region. But he emphasized it will be a weak El Nino.
“In that pattern, we wouldn’t typically see a big set up for a storm where we see large amounts of snow, but a lot of systems with 3-to 6-inches in the mountains, so we might see more of that 3-to 6, 4-to 8 or 3-to 5-inches, without seeing the large dump,” he said. “It might be the quick shots of snow to add up to the base.”
Individual resorts are ready. Grand Targhee Resort in Alta plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary throughout the year. The ski area started as a way for locals to make money during the off season and add to the local economy. It grew into a skiing powerhouse that spends each winter nestled under feet of snow.
“We’re still a privately owned business, within the ski industry now there’s a lot of other resorts that are being brought under other big corporations,” said Jennie White, the resort’s director of marketing. “It’s pretty amazing to be a privately held resort and to hit our 50th mark.”
Pine Creek Resort, a locally-owned hill halfway between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Jackson hopes to open before Christmas to capture the skiers and snowboarders making their way back and forth between the two larger ski destinations, said it’s operator, Paul Etcheverry.
Etcheverry has run the area for the last 41 years under a cooperative agreement with the county.
“Last year, the early season wasn’t good, but we finished strong at the end of the season and sold a lot of season passes for the next year,” he said. “So we feel pretty good about it. We made a lot of improvements and are hoping it will be a good year.”
Hogadon hopes to open by Dec. 2, snow and cold dependent, and Snowy Range Ski Area plans to open Friday. What the rest of the winter brings is likely anyone’s guess.
“We might be dealing with a winter where the ins and outs change week to week, and you do very well,” Jones said. “This might be one of those years.”
Grand Targhee Resort
The resort opened Nov. 16 with almost 2 feet of snow on the base and celebrations planned for the 50th anniversary of the hill and the 30th anniversary of allowing snowboards.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Daily ticket: $90 adult, $65 seniors, $37 juniors 6-12, children under 5 free with a paying adult. More during holidays.
Info: 800-827-4433, www.grandtarghee.com
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Opened Saturday. Aside from epic early snow, the resort is also offering a host of ski and stay packages including free skiing and rentals for kids under 14 when you book a condo or home rental for four or more nights. The resort will also premier its new Solitude Station. The station is billed as providing “an enhanced Mountain Sports School experience for children 7 years and older and adult lessons for all ability levels.”
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Daily ticket: Adult, $94 at the window, $85 online; Seniors 65 and up, $76 at the window, $69 online; children 14 and under, $58 at the window, $53 online.
Info: 888-333-7766, www.jacksonhole.com
Meadowlark Ski Lodge
Opening date at Meadowlark Ski Lodge in the Bighorn Mountains depends on the weather, but snow is piling and the owners are preparing. Plan to check the resort’s Facebook page for a formal announcement.
Hours: Fri-Sunday 9:30-4 p.m. and Christmas holiday open every day from Dec. 21 – Jan. 1
Daily tickets: Adult, $48. Youth 13-17, $40. Child, 6-12, $30. Five and under is free.
Info: 307-278-6061, www.lodgesofthebighorns.com, Meadowlark Ski Lodge on Facebook.
Hogadon Ski Area
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Casper’s local hill needs either snow or cold, preferably both, to make its Dec. 8 target opening date. Anyone planning a party can book the new lodge for holiday celebrations or weddings, said manager Chris Smith.
Hours: Friday. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
Daily tickets: Senior more than 70 years old, free. Adult 65-69 and active military $36. Adult, $48. Youth 13-18, $40. Child, $30. Five and under are free.
Info: 307-235-8499, www.hogadon.net
Pine Creek Ski Resort
Ski more than 1,400 vertical feet of mountain at this small resort in southwest Wyoming. It has more than 30 runs and varying levels of difficulty. The resort was recently listed as one of the top best kept secret ski resorts in the country by Flight Network. Have a quad lift and will have a magic carpet this year. The operator hopes to open by Dec. 22.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday through Sunday and holidays. Open during the week when ski schools are there.
Daily ticket: Adults $45; Child $40
Info: 307-279-3201, www.pinecreekskiresort.com
Snow King Mountain
Plan to ski, tube, slide or otherwise enjoy Wyoming’s fist ski area beginning Dec. 1.
Daily tickets: Adults $59. Juniors 6-14 and seniors over 65, $49. Kids 5 and under are free.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Info: 307-201-5464, www.snowkingmountain.com
Snowy Range Ski Area
Nestled in the trees above Centennial in southeast Wyoming, the Snowy Range Ski Area is set to open Friday. Expect dozens of trails, four chair lifts and more than 1,000 feet in elevation and season ticket packages that partner with other western resorts for deals.
Daily tickets: Adult, $49; Teen 13-17, $42; Child 5-12, $38; and student or active military, $42. Seniors 70 and up and children 4 and under, free
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Info: 307-745-5750, www.snowyrangeski.com
Learn how to ski and snowboard or hone your skills at one of Sleeping Giant’s many clinics throughout the winter. The area will likely open Dec. 14, weather dependent.
Daily tickets: Adult, $42. Junior, $30. Child, $20. Fifth graders ski free.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday
Info: 307-587-3125, www.skisg.com
Cross County Ski Trails
Contact your local Nordic ski areas for information about expanding trail systems. Alpine areas are also offering more Nordic options with ski rentals and groomed trails.
Wyoming’s major cross country ski centers include Casper Mountain (307-259-0958, www.natrona.net/238/Trails-Center); Pahaska Tepee Resort near Cody email@example.com, www.nordicskiclub.com); in the Bighorn National Forest near Sheridan (www.blackmountainnordic.com), on Pole Mountain near Laramie (www.medicinebownordic.org); and at the Beaver Creek Nordic Area south of Lander (www.landernordic.org). Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks also offer hundreds of cross country trails (www.nps/gov).
Wyoming offers more than 2,500 snowmobile trails that wind through nearly every corner of the state. Visit the Wyoming State Trails website for updated information about groomed trails once the snow really falls: http://wyotrails.state.wy.us/Snow/Conditions/Conditions.asp