Graphic: How much terrain was open at each ski resort, every Saturday, during the 2018-2019 season.
In general order of which ski areas open most of their terrain the fastest…
“Pre-season” versus “Core Season” are on different timetables between different ski resorts. In Breckenridge’s Official Impact Statement regarding the proposal to the U.S. Forest Service to expand to Peak 6, Breckenridge defined their pre-season to be from opening day to December 18th, and December 19th until closing day to be their “core season”.
That statement would certainly be consistent with last season’s snowfall, and by December 18th, Breckenridge had 86% of their terrain open.
But other ski areas (especially Wolf Creek) were sporting mid-season conditions as early as October for last ski season. My own experience in mid-November at Breckenridge was no different than any other ski season’s February.
The difference, however, was that pre-season had greater value:
1) Hotels were much cheaper. I was typically getting a two-star hotel in Frisco for around $85.
2) No lift lines
3) No crowds skiing, and on powder days, nothing was getting tracked out and first tracks all day.
4) Restaurants were not crowded, easy to grab a table
5) Close-in parking at all ski resorts
6) I-70 was not a parking lot
7) There was a more intimate feel on the mountain. More people talked with each other, like family.
Planning your ski trips to be in the right place, at the right time, of the ski season:
Let’s suppose that you wanted to ski the most challenging terrain (that is typically the last ski runs to open for the season) at 21 ski resorts, and wanted to time your trips to get the most bang for you buck – the most open, the best place to be each Saturday, throughout the season – and still get to ski each ski resort at least once, when the most runs are open.
Because there are more than 21 Saturdays in a ski season, then some ski resorts were chosen multiple times.
Below is a color-coded graphic that shows the % of terrain open at each ski resort on every Saturday. The circled numbers are the places that (if I could know the weather in-advance) that I would have chosen to be the best place to ski each week.
Notice how Taos and Telluride do not get all of their runs open until much later, than Summit County ski resorts.
Granted, this is for one ski season’s data, the 2018-2019 season. However, there are general patterns that will be consistent. You are never going to see any ski resort (except Wolf Creek on a fluke in 2011) 100% open in October.
This can give folks a very general idea when to make that trip to Canada, Utah, Tahoe, Summit & Eagle Counties, Aspen/Snowmass, and the Southern Ski Resorts.
This also can shed some light on pre-season skiing: where is likely going to be the better places to ski. For example, December 1st, would not have been the time to ski Whistler-Blackcomb – but one month later would have been a completely different story.
This graphic provides an idea how long each ski resort’s pre-season was and how much it varied, in the 2018-2019 ski season.