By Christina VanGinkel
Snowboard season is almost here. Each fall, it seems like it is a million days away, then before I know it I hear my son talking about the local mountain making snow to build up its base for the real snow that will be falling before too long. In our neck of the woods, which happens to be the very most northern part of Wisconsin and the beautiful Upper Michigan, the projected week for the opening of almost every mountain around us is the week of Thanksgiving. This is just the projected date though, and it often does not happen until the week or even two weeks later, (though occasionally before) all depending on how well the weather cooperates. In addition, when they do open, they often only open for a day or two, then close to groom for a few days, sometimes only staying open on the weekends themselves the first few weeks. Yet we heard last week that in a few spots around Colorado, a few runs and lifts were already open for business. This is a good example of the different schedules for skiing or snowboarding that you can find in different areas of the country.
Depending on where you live, these differences in time frames for opening runs, means that you might be able to plan a weekend getaway within driving distance, or it might mean a flight cross country. Of course, if you are willing, you can fly to somewhere at almost any time of the year and find snow worthy of skiing or snowboarding on, but the average person looking for a few days on the slopes cannot afford trips such as those that will get you to the majority of those hot spots.
So what is a traveler to do at this time of year that would like to get away for some early slope time? The best thing to do is actually get on the phone and call up the resort you are interested in visiting to see what their schedule is as far as runs and lifts that they have open. Some areas, such as those out west, can give you concrete information for the current and upcoming schedule for the next few weeks, while others, such as many that you will find across the Midwest, can only provide you with information relevant for the immediate future. As an example, a couple of years ago, the mountain closest to our home was open over the week of Thanksgiving, but then had to close the first week of December due to rain! The season did not get off to a steady start that year until the week of Christmas.
If you plan to visit an area where such occurrences are more common than some might imagine, avoid booking airline tickets in advance unless you can change the travel dates without too much of a hassle and overly excessive charges. You should also have a personal schedule that can be changed around, and lodging that understands that you might be cancelling at the last minute and needing to rebook a week or two later for the same reasons.
If you are just dying to get on the slopes and you do not have the ability to change your travel dates on the whim of the weather, picking a resort that is already well established with snow even early in the season is going to be your safest bet. This will hold true even if the overall cost is a bit higher than a similar resort in an area of the country where the weather likes to remind everyone that Mother Nature does what she wants to when she feels like it. The benefits though, are that many of these same resorts offer early bird specials to customers for some of these very reasons, so bargains on lift tickets, lodging, and even nighttime entertainment can be found.
If playing games with travel dates is just not your idea of fun at all, then you might want to hold off all together on such a vacation and travel later in the season. Do keep in mind that discounted prices can be a great reason to take that ski or snowboard vacation now and not in the throes of winter a couple of months from now though.